Oil pulling has become a popular dental practice in recent years, thanks to TikTok. But does the practice have any real difference to the pearly whites?

Oil pulling requires swishing a tablespoon of edible oil in the mouth for 5 to 10 minutes, or up to 20. It is based on the principle that the method "pulls" bacteria out of the mouth, promoting better dental health. Oil pulling is generally done before breakfast.

The practice is an ancient one, dating back 4,000 years in Ayurveda, according to CNET. Having roots in India, the practice was considered a type of dental care method to remove bacteria.

There is limited research exploring the benefits of oil pulling. A few small-scale studies found oil pulling with sesame oil for 15 to 20 minutes a day for at least 40 days did reduce plaque, bacteria, and gingivitis. It should be noted the studies stressed consistency along with normal dental care, including tooth brushing and flossing.

As for the American Dental Association, it does not recognize oil pulling as a dental care practice. This is mostly due to the lack of substantial research in favor of it. The research conducted in this field typically contains a small control group, around 20 to 60 people, which doesn’t inspire confidence in the results.

"There is always a new fad that comes along, like brushing with charcoal, which proved to be harmful on your enamel," Janelle Sparks, a registered dental hygienist who practices in the Bay Area, California, told CNET. "While I don't know enough about coconut oil pulling specifically, I know plaque and tartar are what cause gingivitis. Typically, plaque can only be removed by using floss between the teeth and under the gums."

"Plaque and tartar are both unable to be removed by swishing any type of liquid alone, mouthwash, or oil. If you swish with oil and also focus on brushing and flossing your teeth, you should see more positive results," the dentist added.

Simply put, there needs to be more research done in this regard for the practice to be accepted by experts.

If you're going to try oil pulling anyway, here's a guide on how to do it safely.

  • While swishing oil in the mouth, make sure to move it around so that it reaches every nook and cranny. Also, force the oil through the teeth to expel bacteria.
  • Remember to spit the oil in a trashcan to save the sink from clogging.
  • Even though edible oil is used for the practice, do not swallow the swished oil, as it may contain bad bacteria and toxins.
  • Oil pulling should not be considered a substitute for brushing your teeth and flossing. Brush twice a day and floss once.
  • Swish with your chin up for the best results.