The ABCs of Oil Pulling: What Is It, and Should You Try It?

Over the last few months, we've been hearing nonstop about the latest detox phenomenon called oil pulling, the act of swishing oil around your mouth. The trend recently went viral on TikTok, and the hashtag #oilpulling has over 148 million views and counting. Users on the platform claim that the practice has helped whiten their teeth and even eliminated cavities. While we're always game to test a new TikTok beauty hack, we haven't forgotten about a few older trends that didn't pan out, like using calamine lotion as makeup primer or hemorrhoid cream for under-eye bags. Curious to find out whether or not the claims were actually true, we tapped experts to answer all of our burning questions about the new fad. Keep scrolling to find out what oil pulling actually is, what the potential benefits are, and whether or not it actually works.

What Is Oil Pulling?

"Oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic practice which has a person swish coconut or olive oil around their mouth and spit it out, similar to how you would with mouthwash," Sundeep Patel, cosmetic dentist and clinical lead for SmileStraight tells POPSUGAR. Marina Gonchar, DMD and founder of Skin to Smile, adds, "it's is a pop culture phenomenon that has taken off in the last few years promising to replace oral care and possibly prevent and reverse cavities."

What Are the Benefits of Oil Pulling

"Oil pulling claims to reduce bad oral bacteria which in turn can prevent and reverse gingival inflammation and prevent possible tooth decay," Dr. Gonchar says. "Reduction of bad oral bacteria is great for overall dental and general health."

David Frank, DMD, and owner of Walden Dental, adds, "There are anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties in coconut oil, while sesame oil contains anti-fungal properties."

verall the process is about removing the toxins from the mouth before they can travel to other parts of the body, and we found one study to back up this up claim.

How Do You Oil Pull?

If you want to try oil pulling for yourself at home, start by taking a tablespoon of oil such as coconut oil, sesame oil, or olive oil, and swish it around in your mouth for 10-15 minutes. Dr. Gochnar notes that you should take careful consideration not to swallow the oil, and you should thoroughly rinse your mouth afterward with water.

What Are Some Potential Risks of Oil Pulling?

While Dr. Gonchar says that oil pulling has very few peripheral risks, swallowing large amounts of oil can cause an upset stomach, and vigorous swishing can cause facial muscle fatigue. Dr. Patel also notes that some people who have tried the oil pulling practice have complained of tooth sensitivity.

What Can You Do Instead of Oil Pulling?

According to Dr. Frank, there aren't currently enough studies to support the benefits of oil pulling, and the American Dental Association does not consider oil pulling as a reliable dental hygiene practice or a replacement for routine dental hygiene. "The best way to maintain dental hygiene is to brush teeth for two minutes twice daily, floss regularly, and avoid certain foods and beverages that could cause harm to your teeth such as coffee, tea, red wine, and tobacco," Dr. Frank adds. When it comes to whitening teeth, Dr. Frank suggests sticking to products that contain hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.

Additional reporting by Renee Rodriguez