Oil Pulling Benefits for Plaque & Gingivitis

Oil Pulling Benefits for Plaque & Gingivitis
4.7 (93.91%) 46 votes

Oil pulling is put to the test head-to-head against chlorhexidine mouthwash for oral and dental health measures.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

What are the potential risks and benefits of the “ancient practice” of oil pulling, in which oil is swished or pulled between the teeth for like 15 minutes, and then spit out? There are wild, unsubstantiated claims online, and even in the medical literature. I can believe it’s “good exercise” for your tongue and cheek muscles, but “heal[ing]…all organs simultaneously”? That statement seems a bit of a tongue-in-cheek exercise right there!

Respondents in the British Medical Journal expressed surprise reading that swishing some oil around in the mouth could “effectively treat [diseases like] meningitis [and heart/kidney/hormone] disorders.” Oh, did I mention “cancer, AIDS, etc.”?

Look, it may help in some way, but for things to enter into evidence-based medicine, we actually need a little something called evidence, “without being distracted by illusory effects ascribed…by their advocates,” especially when another set of respondents shared their experience of a case of “severe inflammatory” gingivitis that worsened after oil pulling. She stopped, and it got better. They were thinking maybe some of the oil got like stuck under her gums. Regardless, maybe people should hold off until we actually have some evidence.

Thankfully, there’s a Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford that recently compiled all the controlled trials. Why is it so important there’s a control group? Because maybe the reported declines in gingivitis and plaques with oil pulling are just because, in the study, they had dentists looking over their shoulders, with constant check-ups. So, maybe the study subjects just upped their brushing-and-flossing game.

This is the kind of study we need. No changes before and after in the control group, but a drop in plaque and gingivitis scores in the oil-pulling group. That’s more like it. Okay, so there does seem to be an effect.

But, what do those numbers mean? When you test a new drug, it’s not enough to show it works better than nothing—better than a sugar pill. What you ideally want to know is does the new drug work better than the current best drug out there, for the same condition? Otherwise, what’s the point of a new therapy? That’s why drug companies are often forced to use so-called active controls; comparing their drug not just compared to nothing, a placebo, but head-to-head against the leading drug. Here, oil pulling is compared to doing nothing. How about oil pulling compared to chlorhexidine, an antiseptic chemical used in medicated mouthwash, which is considered to be “a gold standard” in the fight against plaque, cavities, and gingivitis?

So, here we go. Ladies and gentlemen—in one corner, we have oil pulling. In the other, chlorhexidine, measuring their ability to lower the number of cavity-producing bacteria on people’s teeth. And…chlorhexidine worked faster, a significant drop within just 24 hours, whereas, it took a week for the oil pulling to really start working. But, by two weeks, the oil pulling may end up just as efficacious as the gold standard. In fact, they appeared to work so similarly that skeptical me is critically thinking, “Wait a second, maybe it’s just the physical act of swishing that disrupts the plaque?” It would have been cool if they included a third group that just swished with water. A,nd they did! And, swishing with water had…no effect.

Now, it wasn’t exactly fair; they had the oil-pulling group swishing for 10 minutes, whereas the other two groups only swished for one. So, for all we know, swishing with water for 10 minutes might be as good as the oil.

And, one could look at this and argue that chlorhexidine actually worked 10 times better, since it got the same effect swishing for one-tenth the time. But, chlorhexidine has side-effects—potentially serious side-effects—like painful desquamation, meaning peeling of the mucous membranes in your mouth, as well as discoloration of the teeth or tongue.

So, “oil…has certain benefits over commercially available mouthrinses.” It’s “non-chemical, non-alcoholic, low cost, and non-staining, yet the effectiveness…[is] unclear.” But wait, oil pulling has been shown to significantly drop the number of cavity-causing bacteria on the teeth.

Yeah, but does that translate out into fewer actual cavities? That’s what we really care about, but it hasn’t been studied. They did pair up oil pulling versus chlorhexidine against plaque and gingivitis, and did find they were both able to help to a similar degree. And, plaque-induced gingivitis is a reasonable predictor of future dental health, thereby explaining the Oxford Center’s conclusion that “oil pulling may [indeed] have beneficial effects on [oral and] dental health.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Icongeek, Alessandro Suraci, Alina Oleynik and Hopkins from The Noun Project.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

What are the potential risks and benefits of the “ancient practice” of oil pulling, in which oil is swished or pulled between the teeth for like 15 minutes, and then spit out? There are wild, unsubstantiated claims online, and even in the medical literature. I can believe it’s “good exercise” for your tongue and cheek muscles, but “heal[ing]…all organs simultaneously”? That statement seems a bit of a tongue-in-cheek exercise right there!

Respondents in the British Medical Journal expressed surprise reading that swishing some oil around in the mouth could “effectively treat [diseases like] meningitis [and heart/kidney/hormone] disorders.” Oh, did I mention “cancer, AIDS, etc.”?

Look, it may help in some way, but for things to enter into evidence-based medicine, we actually need a little something called evidence, “without being distracted by illusory effects ascribed…by their advocates,” especially when another set of respondents shared their experience of a case of “severe inflammatory” gingivitis that worsened after oil pulling. She stopped, and it got better. They were thinking maybe some of the oil got like stuck under her gums. Regardless, maybe people should hold off until we actually have some evidence.

Thankfully, there’s a Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford that recently compiled all the controlled trials. Why is it so important there’s a control group? Because maybe the reported declines in gingivitis and plaques with oil pulling are just because, in the study, they had dentists looking over their shoulders, with constant check-ups. So, maybe the study subjects just upped their brushing-and-flossing game.

This is the kind of study we need. No changes before and after in the control group, but a drop in plaque and gingivitis scores in the oil-pulling group. That’s more like it. Okay, so there does seem to be an effect.

But, what do those numbers mean? When you test a new drug, it’s not enough to show it works better than nothing—better than a sugar pill. What you ideally want to know is does the new drug work better than the current best drug out there, for the same condition? Otherwise, what’s the point of a new therapy? That’s why drug companies are often forced to use so-called active controls; comparing their drug not just compared to nothing, a placebo, but head-to-head against the leading drug. Here, oil pulling is compared to doing nothing. How about oil pulling compared to chlorhexidine, an antiseptic chemical used in medicated mouthwash, which is considered to be “a gold standard” in the fight against plaque, cavities, and gingivitis?

So, here we go. Ladies and gentlemen—in one corner, we have oil pulling. In the other, chlorhexidine, measuring their ability to lower the number of cavity-producing bacteria on people’s teeth. And…chlorhexidine worked faster, a significant drop within just 24 hours, whereas, it took a week for the oil pulling to really start working. But, by two weeks, the oil pulling may end up just as efficacious as the gold standard. In fact, they appeared to work so similarly that skeptical me is critically thinking, “Wait a second, maybe it’s just the physical act of swishing that disrupts the plaque?” It would have been cool if they included a third group that just swished with water. A,nd they did! And, swishing with water had…no effect.

Now, it wasn’t exactly fair; they had the oil-pulling group swishing for 10 minutes, whereas the other two groups only swished for one. So, for all we know, swishing with water for 10 minutes might be as good as the oil.

And, one could look at this and argue that chlorhexidine actually worked 10 times better, since it got the same effect swishing for one-tenth the time. But, chlorhexidine has side-effects—potentially serious side-effects—like painful desquamation, meaning peeling of the mucous membranes in your mouth, as well as discoloration of the teeth or tongue.

So, “oil…has certain benefits over commercially available mouthrinses.” It’s “non-chemical, non-alcoholic, low cost, and non-staining, yet the effectiveness…[is] unclear.” But wait, oil pulling has been shown to significantly drop the number of cavity-causing bacteria on the teeth.

Yeah, but does that translate out into fewer actual cavities? That’s what we really care about, but it hasn’t been studied. They did pair up oil pulling versus chlorhexidine against plaque and gingivitis, and did find they were both able to help to a similar degree. And, plaque-induced gingivitis is a reasonable predictor of future dental health, thereby explaining the Oxford Center’s conclusion that “oil pulling may [indeed] have beneficial effects on [oral and] dental health.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Icons created by Icongeek, Alessandro Suraci, Alina Oleynik and Hopkins from The Noun Project.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Doctor's Note

This is the second in a four-part series on oil pulling. If you missed the first one, watch it here:  Does Oil Pulling Help With Cancer?

Stay tuned for my next video: Oil Pulling for Teeth Whitening & Bad Breath Tested.

Note: I do not recommend oil pulling. I explain why in my upcoming final video of the series: The Risks of Oil Pulling.

Here are some other tips on oral and dental health:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

64 responses to “Oil Pulling Benefits for Plaque & Gingivitis

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  1. I stopped using generic alcohol based mouthwash as a rinse in my teeth because I started to have a lot of irritation. I have been thinking of going to non alcohol preparations, but I would guess these non alcohol preparations would have chlorhexidine, which would also be irritating.




    1
      1. Might not that also affect your healthy bacteria? Just because something is natural does not mean its adequate for consumption… Just food for thought




        1
      1. Yes…but I’m usually doing some other activity simultaneously….. in the morning i do it while showering and then getting dressed …..20 minutes goes by pretty quickly… and usually for at least 15 minutes in evening..you could probably even do it during a long walk




        7
        1. Not really tempted by oil pulling. It would drive me crazy…or at least crazier than I already am.

          I use a “natural” toothpaste….no fluoride for me. I use a Sonicare toothbrush. Spray the brush with peroxide before using. Brush. Use waterpik type flush. Chew a couple of ubiquinol gel caps per day.




          1
          1. I too have no interest in oil “pulling.” (Figure I have better things to do.)

            At the suggestion of my dentist, I’ve been mixing a little hydrogen peroxide with the water in my waterpik thing. Maybe I’ll also put a little on my Sonicare toothbrush. Can you say more about the ubiquinol gel caps you chew every day? Where do you buy them? Sounds intriguing.




            0
            1. Peroxide has been tested clinically in several studies and shown to be of no benefit and a possible carcinogen. Mix 1tsp bleach in 1 cup water and put that in your waterpik. It’s all natural (your own white cells make bleach to kill bacteria in your body) and it has been tested in clinical studies and shown to reduce gingivitis.

              Dr. Ben




              0
    1. The operative words being “I think”. Anecdotal evidence does not really count for much.

      For those of you who didn’t read Doctor’s Note: “Note: I do not recommend oil pulling. I explain why in my upcoming final video of the series: The Risks of Oil Pulling.” Looking forward to it.




      1
  2. I’m curious if oil pulling has the same effect as ingesting oil.. Ingesting cooking oils decrease the motility of the arteries when doing a brachial artery tourniquet test (BART).. Does oil pulling do the same thing???
    m




    4
    1. Hi, Mitch. I would think that oil pulling would only have this effect if people swallow the oil afterwards, which is not generally recommended. Most people spit it out. However, as the video shows, oil pulling is not necessary. Prolonged rinsing with plain water is just as effective. I hope that helps!




      0
  3. What about Oil pulling with Coconut oil and CHOLESTEROL?

    Is it possible for the saturated fat from coconut oil be absorbed sublingually and raise cholesterol levels?




    3
  4. Wait, the water swishing group in that study started on day 1 with similar values (whatever those numbers mean) to what the oil group achieved after 2 weeks. Maybe there is a sort of ceiling of benefit for both water and oil around 100. Would the numbers for the oil group continue to decrease if they continued? Could the oil pulling group have done just as well if they swished with water instead? Maybe the groups could have been switched to see what happens for another 2 weeks.




    2
  5. The number of cavity-producing bacteria on our teeth depends on availability of simple sugars in the mouth. Carbohydrates tend to stick on and between the teeth, and are quickly converted to sugar. Thus avoidance of sugar and carbohydrates leads to better oral health.

    Additionally, consumption of fibrous foods helps scour bio-film from the teeth. So consider consuming a plant-based diet.




    9
      1. It would be impossible to avoid carbs altogether but it is possible to eat a low carb completely vegetarian diet. You can Google it or look at Jenkin’s famous study eg

        “The prescribed test diet was a low-carbohydrate vegan diet containing 26% of calories from carbohydrate, 31% of calories from vegetable proteins and 43% from fat (primarily vegetable oils). Carbohydrate sources on the low-carbohydrate diet featured viscous fibre-containing foods (such as oats and barley) and low-starch vegetables (emphasising okra and eggplant) for the relatively limited amount of carbohydrate allowed. The vegetable proteins were prescribed as gluten (54.8% of total protein), soy (23%), fruits and vegetables (8.7%), nuts (7.5%), and cereals (6%). Gluten was contained in the nut bread and wheat gluten (also called ‘seitan’) products. Soy protein was present in the form of burgers, deli slices, breakfast links, veggie bacon, tofu and soy milks. Nuts included almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans and pistachios. The fat sources were nuts (43.6% of total fat), vegetable oils (24.4%), soy products (18.5%), avocado (7.1%), cereals (2.7%), fruits and vegetables (2.3%), and seitan products (1.4%). Participants were able to purchase at the research centre the ‘no’ starch high protein nut bread and three of the seitan (wheat gluten) products used in the study ”
        http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/2/e003505




        1
        1. Tom – Thank you for posting this. Although I am WFPB for 10 years now, I still struggle with a slightly elevated triglyceride level (around 200 with 150 being the upper parameter) and total cholesterol and LDL right at the upper border. As a post menopausal weight appropriate woman (BMI 23) I know this is not a weight issue. I am “slower” physically than I used to be and knew I needed to tweak my diet to get better results. I can see how going low-carb WFPB would be an option but wasn’t quite sure just how to structure it. This piece of information is extremely helpful to me and I plan to implement it pronto. I’ve also been experimenting with making seitan at home (much cheaper and I can flavor it to my liking) and it is extremely easy.
          Thanks again – I always enjoy your posts.




          1
            1. Hi Liisa: Seitan is plant-based, as it’s made from wheat and does not contain any animal products. I agree that it wouldn’t be considered a “whole food”. I define whole foods as those that grow in nature and are unprocessed. Hope this helps!




              2
      2. Hi Denise: You’re correct! Carbohydrates play a significant role in a whole-food, plant-based diet. Dr. Greger recommends loading our plates with complex carbohydrates – such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tubers, legumes, etc. I’m assuming (and hoping) the commenter above is referring to refined carbohydrate sources – which would include processed foods, white bread/pasta, sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, etc. Hope this helps!




        1
    1. Sugar found in fruits vs the ones in table sugar have by no means the same effect on your dental health. Refined sugars will generally tend to “stick” more aggressively to your teeth, an thus become easy food for thoose bad bacteria!

      Just stick to plant based foods and you’ll be fine, remember tooth paste and brushes are very new to humans, and so are cavities…




      0
    1. Hi Ray, we are glad you’re enjoying the calendar, and thank you for your support! That offer is over now, but the full cookbook is available now for gifts :)




      0
  6. I had good dental hygiene and very little plaque according to my hygienist but I developed periodontal disease in the gum around one molar and it would not go away no matter what I did. It was very stubborn and I was about to make an appointment with a specialist.

    I solved my dental problem in 3 months by using a Water Pik, an ultrasonic tooth bush, Periobrite toothpaste and 2 products by Dental Herb Company 1) Under the Gums Irrigant, 2)Tooth & Gum Tonic and taking 200 mg of Ubiquinol a day. I read research that said too low levels of CoQ10 (Ubiquinol) could be the reason for gum disease. Raising the levels of CoQ10 can help solve gum disease.

    My problem had been going on and off for a year and the hygienist even did a deep scaling. Nothing seemed to work until I researched the topic and chose the regime I listed above. It only took 3 months for the gum to heal. At my 6 mo check up the hygentist was surprised because she had prescribed Preidex a green solution that kills bacteria but it also turns your teeth green and I chose not to use it and opted for my natural approach first.

    I tried oil pulling and it didn’t improve my gum.




    7
    1. Thanks for this comment. I am in the same position as you, good oral hygiene, have had numerous deep cleans and nothing is getting rid of my gum disease. I have ordered some of these supplements so here is hoping they help!




      0
      1. WFPB-Hal,
        Thanks, I eat greens twice a day, lunch and dinner and they’re always organic. I love/prefer greens, all fruits & veggies at meals but I do eat small portions of chicken, no red meat (or other meats) every other day only at dinner.

        Probably taking 200 mg of Ubiquinol plus the greens in my diet helped to heal the gum.

        Here’s the research from the NIOH for anyone who may want it.

        Role of coenzyme Q10 as an antioxidant and bioenergizer in periodontal diseases

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991687/

        I also read that you can put liquid COQ10 on your gums as well.




        0
  7. 4% saline solution or a hypertonic saline has been very effective on maintaining exit sites on peritoneal dialysis catheters. I tried it on my gums and this has worked better for me than the CHG. This is only one case though. Other of my colleagues have reported it very effective on trach care, really cleans up (getting rid of bacteria and dead material) messy wounds without damaging the delicate tissues that are trying to heal. Study anyone?




    1
      1. I use salt dissolved in warm water to rinse my mouth after brushing (and flossing) if I have areas of sensitivity, twice a day, about 3 days. Seems to work, and it’s very soothing. Of course, whatever the problems were might have cleared up on their own during that time. But otherwise, I don’t use mouthwash, just brush and floss.




        1
  8. Dr. Greger, thank you so much for takling this issue, cutting through the junk science, and checking the references.

    From personal experience, I was fairly sure it had some benefits. It appears to whiten teeth too. It help remove coffee, wine, and chlorhexdine stains.

    I had done some preliminary research that indicated it was a useful tool.

    one thing I read is that sesame oil might work as well as coconut oil. Can’t remember if that was an actual study or just conjecture. Personally haven’t tried it yet. But thank you again!




    2
  9. I was vegan for 15 years and had some minor tooth problems like sensitive gums and teeth and a rare cavity. After switching to a WFPB diet (no refined sugar, no added oil), all my tooth problems went away. After being on this diet for 2 years now I can’t think of anything more disgusting than swishing oil in my mouth. Or eating it for that matter.




    8
  10. What about brushing with green tea powder and/or amla powder. You have done videos on the effectiveness of these substances and keeping down plaque. I also saw a video swishing with wheat grass and one about brushing with turmeric to whiten teeth. Is there any harm that could be caused by any of these techniques?




    3
    1. I drink a large mug of hot green tea with breakfast, and after breakfast I swish my mouth out with the cold dregs. I’ve no idea if that’s beneficial — but it makes me feel better about not wasting food by pouring the tea down the drain (I swallow it).




      3
        1. Which is a good thing for most men because too much iron is toxic. Dr. Gregor has a video on how giving blood is health promoting because it lowers iron levels.




          2
  11. How about testing “green tea pulling” ? As I recall there have been claims re. the positive effects of green tea on dental health (can’t recall if those particular claims were clinically substantiated). As a green tea swiller I wouldn’t be averse to a few more swishes per sip…




    4
  12. as a dental hygienist of 30 years I rarely recommend mouthwash at all! If you brush well and use interproximal cleaning aids , floss; brushes etc you don’t need to rinse . There is no way I would ever require chlorhexidine unless I had a serious score infection and never would I spend 40 mins of my day pulling oil .
    The bacterial plaque you need to remove daily is a thin sticky biofilm which requires gentle physical removal .. Rinsing with anything will only remove a few of the bacterial cells in the outside layer of the biofilm and not what is stuck to the teeth.




    6
    1. I guess rinsing with water right after a meal especially acidic or sugary(lets say fruits or even table sugars)should be very useful though then 30 min to 1 hour later, can brush his teeth~




      1
  13. Was the coconut oil used in the studies unrefined, non-gmo, organic? This makes a difference. After 3 dental implants over 5 years, oil pulling once a day keeps the pockets around the implants clear. I use no commercial products in my mouth.




    1
    1. We don’t know if there is a difference between unrefined, non-gmo, organic. The chemical nature of the oil would likely override any differences between these 3 varieties. I highly doubt that gmo coconut exists as it costs several million dollars to create a gmo variety of a plant. This is done for profit. If you have found a gmo coconut, please report it here. I’d be interested to learn what gene they inserted into the coconut chromosomes.

      Dental implant infection is for all intents identical to periodontitis bacterialogically. With the available evidence of reductions in plaque and gingivitis around natural teeth, it’s not surprising at all that you see a benefit around your implants as well with oil pulling.

      Dr. Ben




      0
  14. I would like to see oil pulling vs green tea “pulling” in place of chlorhexidine. Seeing as how green tea swishing is on par with chlorhexidine as stated in a previous video. This will allow for a 1:1 ratio rather than the 10:1 ratio thus producing better results.




    2
  15. Simple rinse ( not swish) with salt water at night and do oil pulling on empty stomach in the morning for better oral health. I have also seen that it clears the sinus. Try it on days when you have cold or after you just recovered form cold ( in case it is hard to do while going through cold ) to see how much it cleans your sinus




    0
  16. Xylitol and erythritol both interfere with oral bacterial adhesion to gums and teeth. Easily added to toothpaste, or dissolved in water for a mouthwash. Easy to DIY, (xylitol and erythritol are available by the lb online) and there are commercial toothpaste with these ingredients added.




    1
  17. I tried oil pulling for a short time, then stopped. About 2 years later, I suffered a horrible toothache which began at 11:00 PM Christmas day night. I took something for it which didn’t have much of an effect, & called the dentist the next morning. His recorded message said the office was closed for the entire week between Christmas & New Years & would re-open on Jan 2. I was devastated, not knowing how I could last an entire week with a possible abscessed tooth. Then I remembered the oil pulling effect of drawing bacteria out, & decided to try….I had nothing to lose. Well, the throbbing & aching eased up immediately, & was gone completely, with no other medicinal treatment, within 2 days, getting me through to the day of my appointment, roughly 9 days later. There was indeed infection found & the dentist began his work. However, I remained totally in awe of how my situation reacted to the oil pulling. My only conclusion can be that there is merit to the fact that the oil pulls out bacteria….beyond that I cannot comment in any medical or scientific manner. That was my personal experience.




    3
  18. Here’s an article discussing why broad-spectrum antibacterials, such as chlorhexidine and I bet even alcohol, could be bad to use in the mouth

    https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2017/12/01/Mouth-bacteria-may-be-key-to-blood-pressure-lowering-mechanism-expert-suggests

    The article talks about how oral bacteria may be needed to metabolize nitrates from vegetables that help lower blood pressure.

    By contrast with harsh antibacterials, oil pulling would seem to be a gentler way to improve oral hygiene




    1
  19. Well I had Gingivitis UNTIL I went totally low-fat whole-food plant-based. The inflammation reduced. It was that simple. Wish I had done that before I lost teeth to Gingivitis.




    0
  20. Although I am told I do great oral hygiene, I have just one periodontal pocket size 5. It was suggested I do gum flap surgery. Instead, I read about LANAP as an alternative to flap surgery. Has anyone tried this procedure and if so, what is your review? Due to some suggestions in previous posts, I just ordered the Under the Gums Irrigant to use with my waterpik. Also curious, does anyone have a size 5 pocket that you are leaving alone and not having surgery for it?




    0

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