Do You Brush Your Teeth Before or After Oil Pulling?

Reviewed on 6/3/2021
brushing teeth after oil pulling
It’s better to brush your teeth after oil pulling to remove bacteria from your mouth

You don’t have to brush your teeth before oil pulling. It’s better to brush afterwards so you can completely remove the oil and bacteria from your mouth. 

Oil pulling involves swishing an edible oil around in your mouth to remove bacteria. Associated with Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient practice with its roots in India, oil pulling not only promotes oral hygiene but also contributes to overall health.

How to do oil pulling

Ideally, oil pulling should be done in the morning on an empty stomach. You can use any edible oil, whether it’s coconut, sesame, sunflower or olive. Coconut oil is a good choice because of its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and some enjoy the flavor as well. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Focus on swishing the oil around your mouth as much as possible, forcing it in between your teeth and moving it from side to side.
  • Initially, do it for about 5 minutes and then gradually increase to 20 minutes as you get used to the feeling.
  • As you do oil pulling, your mouth will fill with saliva and air. If you feel like spitting early, spit out only a small portion of the oil in a trash bag or can. Don’t spit the oil in the sink to avoid clogging it.
  • Be careful not to swallow the oil because the toxins can get into your stomach. Clean your mouth by brushing your teeth afterward.

Does oil pulling really work?

Oil pulling has been around for thousands of years as a method of clearing the teeth before tooth brushing became a regular practice. It was adopted as a practice to help remove plaque and improve the health of the teeth, gums and tongue.

According to Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling helps clear the toxins not only from the mouth but also from the entire body. It can also keep lips moist, preventing cracking. Ayurvedic experts believe that the procedure helps clear sinuses, reduces headaches, increases appetite, improves gut health and lowers inflammation in the body.

Studies that have been done on the benefits of oil pulling include the following:

  • A 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research found that oil pulling may reduce plaque.
  • A 2008 study published in the Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry found oil pulling to be as effective as rinsing with mouthwash to maintain and improve oral health. The study observed lower levels of Streptococcus mutans in the mouth after oil pulling. Streptococcus mutans is a type of bacteria commonly found in the mouth that causes tooth decay.
  • A 2009 study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research found oil pulling to be equally effective as chlorhexidine against plaque-induced gingivitis and supported the practice as a preventive home measure for maintaining dental and oral health.
  • A 2017 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine stated that oil pulling should be encouraged as an inexpensive practice of maintaining oral hygiene besides brushing and flossing teeth.

The American Dental Association, however, does not endorse oil pulling for oral health or recommend it as a way to reduce plaque or the chance of developing cavities.

There is no conclusive evidence as to whether oil pulling is effective for preventing dental diseases. Despite the lack of research as to its scientific benefits, oil pulling is an easy and cheap method to try to boost overall health and can be safely incorporated in your daily routine 

Remember, oil pulling is not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. When used in conjunction with daily brushing and flossing, the practice may have worthwhile benefits.


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Shanbhag VKL. Oil Pulling for Maintaining Oral Hygiene - A Review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016;7(1):106-109.

Cleveland Clinic. Is Oil-Pulling Your Best Choice for Dental Health?

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