Swishing to Wellness: Oil Pulling for Oral Radiance

By: Dr. David Rice

In the quest for natural and holistic oral care, you might have come across the ancient practice of oil pulling.

This age-old technique, rooted in Ayurvedic traditions, involves swishing oil in the mouth for several minutes – as you’ll see below – several being an understatement.

Let’s delve into the details, exploring what oil pulling is, its potential benefits, and weighing the pros and cons for a balanced understanding. 

What is Oil Pulling? 

Oil pulling, known as “kavala” or “gundusha,” involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for about 15-20 minutes.

The most commonly used oils are coconut oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil.

The idea is that this prolonged swishing action helps to “pull out” toxins, bacteria, and impurities from the oral cavity. 

Pros and Cons


  • Reduction in Plaque: May help reduce plaque buildup on teeth, contributing to improved oral hygiene. 
  • Gingivitis Management: Some studies suggest a potential reduction in gingivitis, promoting healthier gums. 
  • Whiter Teeth/Stain Removal: Advocates claim that oil pulling can help remove surface stains from teeth, leading to a brighter smile. 
  • Fresh Breath/Bacteria Combat: Certain oils, like coconut oil, have natural antibacterial properties that can combat odor-causing bacteria, resulting in fresher breath. 
  • Natural Detoxification/Oral System Cleansing: Proponents suggest that oil pulling contributes to the overall detoxification of the body by eliminating harmful substances from the oral cavity.
  • Chemical-Free: Provides a natural alternative to commercial mouthwashes, avoiding exposure to chemicals. 
  • Cost-Effective: It’s an inexpensive practice that can be easily incorporated into your routine. 
  • Potential Oral Health Benefits: Studies indicate positive effects on oral health, showcasing the potential for reduced bacteria and inflammation. 
  • Easy Routine: A simple addition to your daily routine, requiring minimal equipment or preparation. 


  • Time-Consuming/Extended Duration: The recommended 15-20 minutes of swishing is largely unachievable for most patients. 
  • Lack of Scientific Consensus/Insufficient Evidence: While some studies support its benefits, the scientific community lacks a unanimous agreement on the efficacy of oil pulling. Translation, if you and I rinsed with plain water for 20 minutes we’d likely have the same benefit. 
  • Potential Discomfort/Jaw Fatigue: Prolonged swishing may lead to jaw fatigue or discomfort for some users. 


Oil pulling stands as an intriguing traditional practice with potential holistic benefits for oral health.

While user testimonials are promising, it’s crucial to approach it with a discerning eye.

Always consult with your dentist before integrating oil pulling into your oral care routine, especially if you have pre-existing dental conditions

In the pursuit of a radiant smile, remember to combine holistic practices with conventional oral hygiene methods for comprehensive dental wellness. 

Embrace the ancient wisdom of oil pulling with awareness and enjoy the potential benefits it may bring to your journey toward optimal oral health.

Keep Reading: Is Flouride Varnish Enough?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

David Rice

David Rice

Founder of the nation’s largest student and new-dentist community, igniteDDS, David R. Rice, DDS, travels the world speaking, writing, and connecting today’s top young dentists with tomorrow’s most successful dental practices. He is the editorial director of DentistryIQ and leads a team-centered restorative and implant practice in East Amherst, New York. With 27 years of practice in the books, Dr. Rice is trained at the Pankey Institute, the Dawson Academy, Spear Education, and most prolifically at the school of hard knocks.