Oil Pulling TikTok Trend: Is It Safe and Effective?

Even though it has been around for centuries, oil pulling has taken social media by storm, with almost 550 million views on TikTok. It's no wonder people are bringing new life to this ancient practice. Our mouth is the portal to our whole body, and people spend countless hours searching for ways to improve their oral health. This age-old Ayurvedic practice is believed to potentially help with a range of oral health issues, from curing bad breath and whitening teeth to preventing cavities and gum disease. In this article, we will explore the potential health benefits of oil pulling and see if it lives up to the hype.

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is the act of putting oil into the mouth and swishing it around for a set amount of time before spitting it out. This practice has been around for over a thousand years. It was first documented in the ancient Indian traditional medicine called Ayurveda, which is based on holistic healing.


While it is not a new concept, TikTok creators are posting before-and-after videos of their self-proclaimed oil-pulling results, sharing tips/hacks, and boasting about unproven claims. Many of these potential health benefits sound good. The videos even make the results seem convincing. It truly becomes hard to know what is true or not. But the truth is, most of the potential health benefits are not based on comprehensive scientific evidence.

How is oil pulling performed?

Oil pulling involves using a small amount of edible oil like sesame, coconut, olive, or sunflower oil, simply starting by swishing it around the mouth anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Some people even try to gargle with the oil before spitting it into a cup or the trashcan. Then, it is followed by rinsing the mouth or brushing the teeth to remove the remnants of oil.

Most suggest repeating this process a few times a week. However, there are no standard guidelines for this process. These are mere suggestions that have evolved over time from people trying to determine what works best for them.

Is oil pulling safe?

Oil pulling has been around for a long time. People who practice oil pulling report experiencing little to no adverse effects. Also, most oils used are common, edible varieties that are often used in the diet. A small study involving 60 participants showed that oil-pulling can be safe with little risk of adverse effects.

But, just because it may not cause harm doesn't mean you should try it. You should always consult a medical or dental professional who is familiar with your current health status before adding this to your daily routine.

Do dentists recommend oil pulling?


The American Dental Association does not recommend oil pulling. There is simply limited scientific evidence to validate the potential health benefits associated with oil pulling. The ADA continues to recommend brushing the teeth two times each day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and flossing as part of any oral hygiene routine.

Even though it has been around for a long time, oil pulling has not gained support in the dental community. Many general dental practitioners do not currently recommend oil pulling. According to registered dental hygienist and oral health consultant, Mollye Cobb, oil pulling is not something she would ever recommend to her patients.

There just does not seem to be enough benefits for me to recommend it. Even if it does offer a small benefit, who wants to swish oil around in their mouth. There are far better practices that have proven benefits to help improve oral health.

Mollye Cobb

Science behind oil pulling

The scientific evidence supporting oil pulling is very limited. A few studies suggest it may help reduce the levels of certain harmful bacteria from around the teeth and gums by activating salivary enzymes. However, the exact mechanisms are not completely understood, and more comprehensive scientific research is needed. Oil pulling is not a replacement for proper oral care. Most credible studies suggest oil pulling should always occur with proper brushing and flossing to reduce pathogenic oral bacteria.

Research has shown that adequate plaque and bacteria control in the mouth can help support overall health in these three ways:

  1. Prevention of tooth decay and gum disease. Proper oral care will remove food particles left after eating and prevent multiplication of harmful microorganisms.
  2. Cardiovascular and respiratory health support. Our blood flows through every part of the body. If there is an oral infection, like periodontitis, pathogenic bacteria may cause inflammation or, in some cases, can be carried to the lungs, heart, and other organs, which may increase the risk of certain diseases of these organ systems.
  3. Addressing inflammation. Oral inflammation may play a role in systemic inflammatory diseases that affect the whole body. Reducing oral inflammation with proper oral care may have a positive effect on other systemic diseases.

In addition, here are some of the systemic diseases oral bacteria has been linked to:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Sjogren's disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Systemic fibrosis
  • Multiple types of cancer

Therefore, it is crucial to focus on proper oral hygiene. Also, sticking with scientifically proven techniques is always best. Why risk your health on a trend that may not live up to the hype?


Oral benefits of oil pulling

There are many anecdotal benefits floating around the internet on oil pulling. With a quick search, you can find videos claiming it can reverse cavities, strengthen the teeth, cure bad breath, whiten teeth in one week, reverse gum disease, and detox the body, among others.

While these may sound great, there is little scientific proof backing any of these claims. In fact, the claim of 'reversing cavities' is purely fictional.

According to studies, only the earliest form of tooth decay called incipient or white-spot lesions can be reversed or stopped before they become true cavities. This process can occur naturally from the saliva repairing the lesion or by using fluoride in toothpaste or other sources. Once the lesion breaks down the enamel, the hole or 'cavity' can only be repaired by a dental professional.

Side effects and risks of oil pulling

Although there are few reported risks associated with oil pulling, there are some reported side effects. Here are the most commonly reported adverse reactions:

  • Oil aspiration. This occurs when oil is accidentally inhaled into the lungs. Over time, the oil accumulates and may cause Lipoid pneumonia. This is a non-contagious inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pains, uncontrollable coughing, and fever. In some cases, this condition can be life-threatening, so be sure to seek medical attention if you accidentally choke or inhale the oil.
  • Tooth sensitivity. Many oil-pullers report hypersensitivity after oil pulling. While there is no research explaining this phenomenon, it may be related to the type of oil used. However, most people report sensitivity goes away once oil pulling is discontinued.
  • Upset stomach. Swallowing oil instead of spitting it into the trash can cause an upset stomach in some people. While this is usually self-limiting, it can cause nausea and vomiting. Prolonged effects can lead to more severe health issues like dehydration, dizziness, and exhaustion. If symptoms last, be sure to seek medical care.
  • Allergic reaction. The risk of an allergic reaction is rare but can happen, especially if you are sensitive to sesame seeds, coconuts, olives, or sunflowers. So, if you are sensitive or experience an allergic reaction during oil pulling, be certain to seek medical attention immediately. Itching, inflammation, and trouble breathing are important signs you should not ignore. This could become a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction that requires immediate treatment.
  • Heavy metal poisoning. This can occur from using contaminated oils. Lead, mercury, and arsenic poisoning have been associated with some Ayurvedic herbal medicine products, including oils. Therefore, if you choose to try oil pulling, be sure to choose a reputable source for purchasing oil. Choosing a high-quality, organic, and cold-pressed oil is less likely to be contaminated with heavy metals above allowed levels.

Be sure to carefully consider the benefits and risks associated with oil pulling. Always discuss it with your dental provider before adding it to your oral care routine.

Oil pulling vs. other oral health practices

A good oral care routine is key for optimal overall health. By taking care of our mouth, we can provide critical aid to the rest of our body. Oil pulling does not replace the need for proper oral care. Therefore, if you choose to add oil pulling, make sure to also include these vital steps daily in your oral care routine:

  • Brushing. The American Dental Association recommends brushing two times a day using a soft bristle toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste to help strengthen the teeth, remove plaque, and prevent gum issues.
  • Flossing using water flosser. These can be beneficial as brushing your teeth only cleans 60% of tooth surfaces in the mouth. Flossing with traditional floss or a water flosser can help you clean the remaining 40% to prevent gingivitis and more severe gum issues like periodontal disease.
  • Mouthwash. Adding mouthwash may help with bacteria control, relieve dry mouth, or strengthen the enamel to help prevent cavities. There are many different mouth rinses available. Ask your dentist for suggestions if you are having trouble deciding which one is right for your oral health.
  • Tongue scraper. Food particles and bacteria can hide on the tongue's surface. Using a tongue scraper can help reduce the plaque that accumulates on the tongue.

Don’t forget to keep your regular dental cleaning appointment every 6 months. Calculus and plaque can build up on your teeth, below the gumline, where you can’t see it. This leads to inflammation and gum disease, which can cause other systemic conditions to worsen. So don’t skip out on those dental visits.

While oil pulling may seem like a wonderful addition to any oral care routine, be sure to talk to your dentist first and consider the other risks. While oil pulling may have a small benefit of plaque reduction, there are other oral care practices that are better backed by science. And always remember, your oral and systemic health are too important to get your medical advice from TikTok or your favorite influencer. Instead, stick with scientifically proven medical and dental care. Your teeth and body will thank you.


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