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oil pulling in dentistry

Oil pulling: Yes, no, or maybe?

July 3, 2024
Oil pulling has been around for centuries, but it’s back as a trend. How effective is this practice? What can it be used for? Is there enough evidence to support its use in dentistry? Learn more in this article.
Vicki Cheeseman, Associate Editor

Even if you’re new to dentistry, you’ve likely heard about oil pulling. Is it a craze? Maybe. Is it a natural alternative? Yes. Does it work? Depends on what you use it for.

Oil pulling dates back about 3,000–5,000 years as a medicinal therapy used in the holistic medical practice of Ayurveda in India.1 In 2014, DentistryIQ ran an article about oil pulling, and it stayed in the top clicked articles for many years. Now, oil pulling is back on the scene.

In late 2022, researchers looked at scientific articles from PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and the EMBASE database to survey the effects of oil pulling on salivary bacterial count, plaque index, and gingival index. They found that oil pulling significantly reduced salivary bacterial colony counts, but plaque and gingival indexes were not significantly different between the oil pulling group and the control group.2

In 2024, a study compared oil pulling to chlorhexidine and other mouthwashes. Researchers concluded a “probable benefit of oil pulling in improving gingival health.” Oil pulling fared better in improving modified gingival index scores when compared to non-chlorhexidine mouthwashes, but chlorhexidine was more effective in reducing plaque index scores.3

There seem to be as many questions as answers about the practice of oil pulling, but here are some recently published articles from DentistryIQ, RDH, and Dental Economics that may help you in your quest for more information.

Oil pulling literature review

Despite limited statistically significant evidence on the oral health benefits of oil pulling, studies have outlined its potential therapeutic effects and how it could be pivotal when oral hygiene resources are minimal. Annie Walters, MS, RDH, takes a deep dive into the science.

A look at the most current research

Coconut oil as an adjunct oral therapy

Two student hygienists from Pacific University School of Dental Hygiene Studies—Rose Nguyen, BSDH(c), and Lisa Ng, BSDH(c)—investigated whether there’s evidence of the benefits of coconut oil pulling. Here is their analysis of the literature.

Is there enough evidence for oil pulling?

Coconut oil to alleviate dry mouth symptoms

Reduced salivary flow can lead to a host of oral health issues. Amanda Hale, BS, RDH, recommends coconut oil pulling as an adjunct to treatment plans for patients who suffer from xerostomia. Learn more about how oil pulling can help alleviate symptoms of dry mouth.

Alleviate dry mouth

Oil pulling for disease prevention

Jacqueline Carcaramo, BSDH, RDH, says the ancient discipline of Ayurveda allows one to create daily habits that benefit physical and mental health (including oral health). In Ayurveda, oil pulling is thought to be a contributing factor in the prevention of diseases.

3 Ayurvedic rituals for health

Coconut oil and turmeric to whiten teeth?

Diana Zardouz, DDS, writes about some trends patients are trying at home to whiten their teeth—and cautions them. Among these practices are oil pulling, scrubbing teeth with acidic foods, and charcoal toothpaste with baking soda.

Don’t try this at home!

There is still uncertainty about the effectiveness of oil pulling and how it may fit into traditional dental care. Further studies are needed.


  1. Naseem M, Khiyani MF, Nauman H, Zafar MS, Shah AH, Khalil HS. Oil pulling and importance of traditional medicine in oral health maintenance. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2017;11(4):65-70.
  2. Peng TR, Chen HY, Wu TW, Ng BK. Effectiveness of oil pulling for improving oral health: a meta-analysis. Healthcare (Basel). 2022;10(10):1991. doi:10.3390/healthcare10101991
  3. Jong FJX, Ooi DJ, Teoh SL. The effect of oil pulling in comparison with chlorhexidine and other mouthwash interventions in promoting oral health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dent Hyg. 2024;22(1):78-94. doi:10.1111/idh.12725
About the Author

Vicki Cheeseman | Associate Editor

Vicki Cheeseman is an associate editor in Endeavor Business Media’s Dental Group. She edits for Dental Economics, RDH, DentistryIQ, and Perio-Implant Advisory. She has a BS in mathematics and a minor in computer science. Early on she traded numbers for words and has been happy ever since. Vicki began her career with Dental Economics in 1987 and has been fascinated with how much media production has changed through the years, yet editorial integrity remains the goal. In her spare time, you’ll find her curled up with a book—editor by day, reader always.