Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

What is oil pulling? The real facts behind this oral hygiene trend

man doing oral care
Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

New tools and methods for oral hygiene are always circulating — from cordless water flossers to electric toothbrushes. The latest popular habit, oil pulling, is an ancient Ayurvedic medical practice resurfacing recently as a modern health trend. The name “oil pulling” almost sounds painful, yet this oral hygiene habit isn’t quite what you think. Below, we’ll explain what you need to know about oil pulling for teeth, if it works, and if it’s safe to add to your routine.

a man in a blue sweatshirt brushing his teeth
Ron Lach / Pexels

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is a process that is similar to using mouthwash, yet it uses an oil to switch around the mouth instead of a standard mouthwash. The “pulling” part of the name refers to the process of pulling the oil around the teeth and mouth. While this was once considered an Indian folk remedy, many studies have validated the effectiveness of oil pulling and its many benefits. By using a liquid oil to swish around your mouth, excess bacteria in the mouth are pulled free.

Although oil pulling can be done with any type of oil, coconut oil is most commonly used. Coconut oil makes for a great oil for oil pulling because it is entirely natural and has a pleasant taste. The high amounts of lauric acid in coconut oil are also effective at helping to kill bacteria. Some people use olive oil or sesame oil for oil pulling, too.

Mouthwash is also effective at killing germs in the mouth. However, oil pulling has become more popular as a natural/holistic method. Many mainstream mouthwash products contain harmful chemicals or ingredients.

mouth and teeth
Enis Yavuz

Benefits and drawbacks of oil pulling

The most common reason to try oil pulling is to help improve oral health by reducing the harmful bacteria in the mouth. A research study that explored oil-pulling benefits found that it was effective at reducing the total oral bacteria count and reducing plaque. Harmful types of bacteria found in the mouth are responsible for many unwanted problems like tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and other common oral problems.  Those who struggle with chronic bad breath or oral inflammation may benefit from oil pulling as well. Other studies have found that oil pulling can effectively improve gum health and may help improve gingivitis.

a man brushing his teeth in the bathroom
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Common misconceptions of what it can and can’t do

Oil pulling can safely be added to your routine, but it’s important to break down a few misconceptions first. Oil pulling for teeth is not intended to replace regular brushing or flossing. In addition, it is not a cure for oral diseases such as TMJ/TMD or gum inflammation. Although it can help improve the health of your mouth and possibly improve symptoms, it is not a cure.

It is also a common misconception that oil pulling can be used as a form of teeth whitening. You may notice a whiter smile after oil pulling as it removes bacteria that can cause staining, however, oil pulling is not a researched teeth whitening method. In addition, oil pulling only needs to be done for up to three minutes to effectively work at reducing bacteria. It is a misconception that oil pulling must be done for upwards of ten minutes.

man smiling with teeth
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What dentists say about oil-pulling

While there are some studies indicating the effectiveness of oil pulling, most dentists aren’t on board yet. The American Dental Association does not recommend oil pulling as a dental hygiene practice. This is due to the lack of supporting scientific evidence surrounding oil pulling. While this doesn’t mean you can’t start oil pulling, it is worth discussing it with your dentist first.

Many dentists are hesitant to recommend oil pulling due to the potential side effects as well. While side effects are minor, some people may experience jaw pain or a headache from the rigorous motion of oil pulling. The oil, if accidentally swallowed, could also cause stomach upset.

coconut oil in a bowl
Towfiqu barbhuiya / Pexels

Starting oil pulling

Most people oil pull in the morning before brushing their teeth. To oil pull, you can start by using about one tablespoon of coconut oil and swishing it around your mouth. Start with a small amount of time (one to two minutes) and gradually increase as you become more comfortable with the motion. Once you spit out, you can continue to brush your teeth as normal. Learning how to oil pull can take some time and patience.

If you suffer from frequent cavities or bad breath, coconut oil pulling might be worth incorporating into your oral wellness routine. However, more research is needed in the realm of oil pulling to draw more conclusions about its benefits.

Emily Caldwell
Emily is a freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She holds a B.S…
If you’re looking for the best men’s cologne, try these recent drops
Smell your best with these great fragrances
A person spraying cologne on themselves.

You only get one chance to make a great first impression. That is why we dress nicely. That is why we groom ourselves expertly. And that is why you need to have a great cologne. You never know who you are going to meet, and you don't want to be caught in anything other than your best. You may be forgiven if your hair is a little long when you are on the trail. You may be forgiven for having a five o'clock shadow on Saturday afternoon. And you may not be punished for wearing jeans and a T-shirt at the movie theater. However, you will always be judged for not smelling good. That is why you need to invest in the best men's colognes.

Having a pleasant fragrance is more than smelling pleasant for those around you. It also attracts people to you and shows that you care about your hygiene. People will respond better and remember you fondly if your smell lingers. It is the most powerful scent tied to memory, so make sure you are remembered in 2024 with these top picks for colognes for men. We didn't go with all the big boys in the men's cologne industry. You will see one name that nearly everyone knows. But, we stuck more with the ones that you all should know. There is no Dior, no Polo, and no Gucci on this list. We didn't go for names. We went for quality fragrances and picks that will keep you remembered long after you leave.
Fulton & Roark Cloudland

Read more
The mistakes you shouldn’t make (but probably do) when you buy men’s cologne
Smell great with confidence by avoiding these mistakes
mens cologne on black satin

Every man should have a grooming routine that involves some key elements. They should clean their skin, deodorize it, and moisturize it. One of the last steps to any good grooming routine is to apply the right kind of cologne to finish off their morning and prepare for their day. Of course, buying the right cologne is the first step and can sometimes get overwhelming. It is also easy to overcomplicate it. Here at The Manual, we make it our business to take the overcomplicated and simplify it so you can keep the world running.

First things first: cologne is a deep world of chemistry, style, and knowledge, so this isn't going to make you an expert by the time you are finished reading. However, this is a jumping-off point for things to remember and keep in mind when you are shopping. Here are the top five mistakes to avoid when you are buying men's cologne.
Don't be fooled by fancy bottles

Read more
The best Stitch Fix competitors and alternatives
There's more to clothing subscriptions than Stitch Fix, check out these options
A Bespoke box in the middle of a black table, surrounded by various items.

Stitch Fix got in early on the menswear subscription box game. The company set the standard for an industry that has grown significantly over the past few years by providing a streamlined and convenient way to discover your personal style or, if you already know what you’re looking for, to keep your wardrobe up to date. Within fashion and grooming alone, there are subscription boxes geared toward every niche and need imaginable. So many in fact, that it can be a challenge to sift through them all to find exactly what you’re looking for.

That’s why we did the sifting for you and narrowed it down to the best options in each category. They all offer a flexible range of pricing and as much commitment as you’re comfortable with. You can find any combination of services and packages to fit your budget and needs. Whether you’re looking to rebuild your entire wardrobe, explore self-care products, or just need new made-to-measure dress shirts on a regular basis, these Stitch Fix competitors have you covered.

Read more