A friend recently recommended me a process called 'oil pulling' for my teeth as I am struggling with my dental health at the moment. The process involves using a tablespoon of some kind of vegetable oil (like coconut oil) and swilling it around in your mouth for 20 minutes without swallowing. This supposedly acts as an anti bacterial and pulls toxins out of the body and helps with dental hygiene.

Are there any studies demonstrating or refuting its validity? Any help would be much appreciated.


This is a classical pseudoscientific claim: It is supposed to help against everything, including AIDS, Diabetes, Bronchitis, Cancer and so on. See for example this table I found online:

enter image description here

First, there is no real mechanism, and it is rather implausible to have an universal cure-all drug for all these completely unrelated diseases. There seems to be some weak evidence for the dental hygiene claims, but as the first reference writes, study groups where too small, not effectively blinded, so there is no final clue if this is true:

Oil pulling’s positive effects are based entirely on anecdote and not at all on clinical research – because there’s been very little. Pubmed lists six clinical studies related to oil pulling, all performed in India, and their quality and results seem all over the map. Some do indicate mild improvement in gum health, comparable to mouthwash use. But they’re not well blinded, use very small sample sizes and involve oil pulling only as part of a proper oral hygiene regimen. So it’s impossible to tell what’s causing said improvement.

What clearly does not happen is the detoxification, as this is a pseudoscientific myth itself. Our detoxification is done pretty efficiently by liver and kidney, so there is no need to remove whatever toxin by a treatment.

See references 1-3 (especially 1) for background on the "oil pulling" and reference 4 for the detoxification.


  1. Oil Pulling: Miracle Treatment or Woo Mouthwash?
  2. Oil Pulling Your Leg
  3. Is Oil Pulling Effective for Curing Medical Ailments?
  4. Fashionably toxic
| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ In the scientific world, if there is an absence of good studies does this act as evidence against its validity? I would like to see a professional study done which forever refutes these kind of things so we know with surety that they are ineffective.That would put an end to 90% of alternative medicine. $\endgroup$ – Charlie Jun 9 '17 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Charlie Believers never took care of facts. There are a lot of valid studies showing hemeopathy has no effect beyond placebo, still this idea is around. And you cannot proof the non-existance of a fact - so you can see if you find an effect or if your trials fail to show an effect. This is what happens to pseudomedicine over and over - but the believers still don'T care. $\endgroup$ – Chris Jun 9 '17 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ What do you think of the Wim Hof Method (if you've heard of it)? There have been some great studies on that so far and you wouldn't believe how that has quickly gained validity. I practice it myself and it is really powerful. $\endgroup$ – Charlie Jun 9 '17 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ He gained quite some cold endurance - but the rest (active and willingfull control of the immune system) are pseudoscientific claims without any proof. You can read here about it. Controlling your breath and doing some sort of yoga is fine, but this will not make you immune to diseases. $\endgroup$ – Chris Jun 9 '17 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ Not true pal. He's worked with many reputable universities to prove his methods. I'll link them in. I can even explain how it work due to focused hyperventilation. Pseudoscience became science in Wim's case. $\endgroup$ – Charlie Jun 9 '17 at 12:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.