Will oil pulling really make your mouth healthier?

Remember flossing and brushing/Credit: BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
Don’t forget flossing and brushing. Credit: BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Everybody is talking about it, and soon everybody will probably be doing it: Oil pulling is the latest trend to hit the health stratosphere. But what is it, and does it work?

Basically, oil pulling, or oil swishing, is using oil as a kind of mouthwash. It could be olive, sesame or coconut oil — it doesn’t really matter. You need to keep it in your mouth for 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes!) and then the miracles will start happening, supposedly: It’s said to benefit your oral hygiene, whiten your teeth and, according to some sources, also help you fight several diseases.

Sound too good to be true? It probably is. There’s no actual evidence to prove the benefits of oil pulling. One study hints that it will be good for your mouth’s health, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the oil that does the trick. Rinsing your mouth with water might have the same effect.

We talked to dentist Dr. Jeffrey Rappaport from Lavaan Dental Spa about oil pulling to find out the truth about this trend.

The benefits

“An oil-based rinse will remove plaque and dental debris from underneath your gums using a more chemical process, versus a mechanical process you’re getting out of flossing or brushing. As far as whitening, I will not believe that it will have any effect on the teeth.”

The oil

“I would not recommend going into your cabinet and finding whatever type of oil you have there and rinsing it around your mouth, but I know that there are approved oil-based rinses in other countries in Europe. They are actually making their way over to the United States. There’s one called Olioactiv. It utilizes the [oil-pulling] technology. The oil base will pull the debris and the plaque out from underneath your gums. The best thing that I can say about this technology is that it’s a great supplement. The gold standard is always going to be flossing every day, brushing every day and getting your regular three-month cleaning and examination.”

The research

“I don’t know if there’s actually much research behind it. But I know that with these oil-based rinses, there’s a lot of studies behind them showing that the rinses have decreased the amount of new bacteria in the mouth — but again, used as a supplement. I think there’s a misconception that you can just do this, but it only works as a good supplement to traditional care. If you want to get the benefits of a oil-based rinse, use an ADA-approved oil based rinse. I cannot recommend going into your cabinet and using some coconut oil to rinse your mouth. I just don’t think that the long-term studies are there.”



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