Oil Pulling Is All the Rage On TikTok — Here's How It Affects Your Teeth

Experts explain oil pulling for teeth, its benefits, and possible side effects.

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No matter what corner of TikTok you're scrolling (be it #BeautyTok, #CleanTok, #NutritionTok, etc.), the app is a gold mine for new tips, hacks, and products you never realized you needed. One of the latest topics to pique the curiosity of the masses? Oil pulling. It's an oral hygiene practice that involves swishing oil in your mouth for whiter teeth and healthier mouth and gums, and the hashtag #oilpulling has racked up over 43 million views on the app. (

With all things on the internet, though, you can't always assume what you see is an objective truth. Find out what experts have to say about whether oil pulling has actual benefits, where it originated, and whether it really works.

What is oil pulling?

While you may have only heard about it recently, oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic tradition. "Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic health sciences derived from India dating back 5,000 years," says Naomi Edwards, an Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of Hillabrant Holistics. "Oil pulling is an ancient self-care ritual that is the practice of swishing oil in the mouth. The oil does its magic by pulling toxins (such as the bacteria that can cause bad breath or plaque) up and out from the mouth." (

In Ayurveda, the practice is done using coconut or sesame oil, reports an article in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine. Research has shown that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties making it a natural antiseptic. Additionally, research suggests sesame oil has anti-fungal properties against Candida albicans, a yeast that can contribute to oral thrush, a type of oral yeast infection.

As for how to oil pull, you take two to three teaspoons of oil and gently swish it back and forth in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. However, two to three minutes is effective to reap the benefits, according to Edwards. When finished, spit out the oil into a trash bin — do not swallow or spit into your drain as the oil will clog it — and then rinse your mouth with water and clean your tongue gently with either a toothbrush or a tongue scraper. Then, follow up with your daily oral hygiene routine, such as brushing and flossing.

What are the benefits of oil pulling?

Oil pulling is meant to be a preventive practice that helps remove bacteria and in turn reduce gingivitis (a form of gum disease), bad breath, and plaque on teeth, which can result in a whiter-looking smile, explains Edwards. "Our mouths host many species of bacteria which populate on the teeth, tongue, soft tissue of the cheeks, and our tonsils," adds Edwards. "When left uncared for, blockages and imbalances begin to arise."

In one study published in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, patients with plaque-induced gingivitis were split into three groups: one that practiced toothbrushing alone, another that added sesame oil pulling to their routine, and a third that added coconut oil pulling to their routine. The coconut oil group had the greatest reduction in the severity of their gingivitis. Another study published in the Journal of International Society of Preventative and Community Dentistry found that oil pulling with coconut oil was as effective as a prescription mouthwash called chlorhexidine in reducing a type of bacteria believed to cause tooth decay. (

Are there potential oil pulling side effects?

There are no major coconut oil pulling dangers you need to worry about if you decide to give it a try. You may experience a sore jaw or headache if you aren't used to the swishing motion from oil pulling, explains Jeffrey Sulitzer, D.M.D, a chief clinical officer at SmileDirectClub. Additionally, if you swallow the oil, it can trigger nausea or an upset stomach. (

So, should you try oil pulling?

Despite the positive reported benefits of oil pulling, the American Dental Association (ADA) does not consider oil pulling to be a reliable dental hygiene practice or a replacement for brushing and flossing.

Sulitzer agrees since not enough studies have been done to support the benefits he says. "The most significant danger of oil pulling is if the practice is used in place of daily oral health practices," he says. "Therefore, instead of oil pulling, it is advisable to stick to the basics of brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, and visiting the dentist for routine cleanings."

Bottom line? It's best to chat with a dentist before incorporating new practices into your oral routine. That said, if you want to give it a shot because TikTokers told you to (it's a very convincing app), just make sure you're not abandoning other traditional daily practices for oral hygiene. There's nothing more effective than good ol' toothpaste and floss.

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