Oil Pulling for Natural Teeth Whitening

Coconut oil and other oils are natural teeth whiteners. 

Credits: Lesly B Juarez at
Tammy Wu
Edited By:
Raja Sivamani , MD, MS, AP

Oil pulling was originally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a way to get rid of the bacteria in the mouth, helping to improve oral health. This traditional Indian remedy was used to treat the most common issues in the mouth such as tooth decay, bleeding gums, bad breath, and more.

The oil pulling technique involves swishing oil in the mouth for about 10-15 minutes before spitting it out. A great variety of oils can be used for oil pulling, including coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, etc. 


Oil Pulling vs. Gingivitis

Many people often struggle in fighting against gingivitis, which is caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth.  Researchers found that oil pulling with coconut oil added into the usual oral hygiene routine significantly decreased plaque formation. The oil helps to fight against plaque formation and accumulation of bacteria by creating a film on the teeth. This study also suggests that the oil reacts with saliva creating a soap-like substance that can reduce plaque adhesion. 


Oil Pulling vs. Mouthwash

The method of oil pulling is similar to that of mouthwash.  But if oil pulling, being more cost-effective, is actually more effective than mouthwash, how awesome would that be?  This is why many researchers are looking into determining who the winner is between the two.

A study was conducted comparing fluoride mouth rinse, herbal mouth rinse, and oil pulling using sesame oil. After using the techniques twice daily for 2 weeks, results showed that the fluoride and herbal mouth rinses were more effective in reducing bacterial colonization. The herbal mouth rinse contained Salvadora Persica extracts which had antimicrobial effects. More research is needed to determine if other oils, such as coconut oil with significant antimicrobial activity or even oils with herbal extracts have the same or better effect.  

Although sesame oil may have lost in terms of winning in the antimicrobial effect department, oil pulling using coconut oil was reported to not alter taste sensation nor stain the teeth. On the other hand, mouthwash containing chlorhexidine, also the most effective amongst many other types of mouthwash, can change taste sensation and yield brown stains on the teeth in the long term.

Also, if you do give oil pulling a try, be sure to spit out the oil into the garbage and not into the sink. Although you do want those good looking teeth, you definitely do not want a clogged pipe!

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