Can Oil Pulling Whiten Your Teeth?

Posted on: 27 August 2015


Around 80 percent of Americans aged 18 to 49 want whiter teeth, and American consumers spend over $1.4 billion on over-the-counter products to help them get the gleaming smile they're looking for. Modern tooth bleaching products use special chemicals to help whiten your smile, but people have used countless natural solutions to look after their teeth for centuries. Oil pulling is an ancient Indian technique that many people believe can help boost dental health and give you whiter teeth. Learn more about how this practice works, and find out if a dentist would recommend this method of treatment.

How oil pulling works

Oil pulling has been part of Indian folklore for many centuries. Ancient Indian health practitioners would once recommend oil as a healthy solution for many ailments, with some texts claiming the technique could deal with many serious diseases, including asthma, diabetes and migraine. When it comes to dental health, many people believe that oil pulling can help prevent tooth decay, cracked lips and halitosis. Some believe also believe that oil pulling can help naturally whiten teeth.

Oil pulling is easy to master. Simply take some coconut or sunflower oil (a tablespoon is enough), and gently swish the fluid around your mouth. While experienced practitioners will swish for twenty minutes, beginners can start with just five or ten minutes. Experts recommend a gentle motion where you push and suck the oil through your teeth. If you exert too much force, you'll probably find that your jaw starts to ache.

You shouldn't swallow the oil. When you're finished, discard the oil in a trash can. Don't spit the oil down the sink, as, over time, the liquid could start to clog your pipes.

The potential benefits of oil pulling

Oil pulling is a useful way to clean your teeth and gums when brushing or flossing is too painful. For example, serious mouth ulcers can make it painful to apply any force to your mouth, but a gentle swish with oil can still help you clean your teeth and gums.

One study compared the effects of oil pulling with sesame oil against the benefits of a standard chlorhexidine mouthwash in two groups of adolescent boys with gingivitis. Both groups saw a notable reduction in plaque and oral bacteria after treatment. Swishing with oil in this way allows food particles, plaque and bacteria to stick to the oil in your mouth. As such, when you spit the oil out, you also remove these unwanted particles.

Oil pulling as a tooth whitener

Oil pulling can certainly give the impression of whiter teeth. Swishing with oil in this way can remove plaque and superficial debris that may have caused tooth discoloration. Nonetheless, there are no studies to show that oil pulling has any true tooth bleaching properties. Indeed, a dentist would probably tell you that gargling for twenty minutes with any liquid would have some whitening effects, as the activity would almost certainly remove plaque and food debris.

Tooth stains are difficult to remove. Dark foods and liquids like tea and red wine stain pores in the enamel layer of your teeth. A thin coating on the enamel can also pick up stains from these and other products. Oil pulling is unlikely to deal with these stains, and only a chemical-based bleaching agent can normally tackle this type of stain.

Other downsides to oil pulling

Some people struggle to get results from oil pulling because they don't like the taste or sensation of the oil in their mouths. Large quantities of oil can make you feel slightly nauseous, and if you decide to cut down the amount of oil you use, you could also limit the benefit of the technique. To counter this problem, some manufacturers now offer specially formulated coconut oil products that taste more appealing, but you may still find the experience unpleasant compared to brushing or flossing. Indeed, even oil pulling experts warn that you must still regularly brush and floss if you want your teeth and gums to stay healthy.

Scientific studies show that oil pulling can help boost oral health, but consumers looking for a revolutionary way to naturally whiten their teeth may need to look elsewhere. Oil pulling may have some immediate whitening effects, but for long-term satisfaction, you should still make an appointment at a cosmetic dentistry clinic.