Fact Check: Oil Pulling Is NOT Remedy For Root Canal Infections, Cavities

Fact Check

  • by: Kaiyah Clarke

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Oil Pulling Is NOT Remedy For Root Canal Infections, Cavities No Cure-All

Does oil pulling -- gargling with oil -- serve as a remedy for root canal infections and cavities? No, that's not true: Numerous credible oral health organizations and medical professionals have stated that while there may be benefits to the ancient technique, the science behind what this method offers to remedy oral health issues has yet to be explored in depth. Also, the studies done thus far on oil pulling do not prove the claims made in a recent social media post.

The claim appeared in a post on TikTok (archived here) on January 27, 2023. The caption opened:

Replying to @me.wendyi @maggieroseadvocate has so much great info on thid as well. Ifnyounwant to heal that root canal or cavity there are options to try. Oil pulling and Calcium Bentonite Clay. These helpcto pull toxins and pathogens out and help remineralize your teeth. This is not medical advice. #rootcanal #cavity #teeth #biology #naturalremedies #holistichealth #reminerlizeteeth

This is what the post looked like at the time of the writing of this fact check:

oil pulling image.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Feb 20 14:45:13 2023 UTC)

At 1:02 in the video, social media user @tabrestored reiterated from the caption that the practice she described is "not medical advice."

As defined in this 2017 Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine article, "Oil pulling is a traditional folk remedy practiced in ancient India." The procedure of oil pulling primarily regards an oral health routine:

In oil pulling, a tablespoon full of oil is swished around the mouth in the early morning before breakfast and in (sic) empty stomach for about 20 min. In case of children greater than five years of age, a teaspoon of oil is used. The oil is 'pulled' and forced in between all the teeth by swishing it all around the mouth. At the end of this activity if the procedure is done correctly, the viscous oil will become milky white and thinner. Then it is spit out and mouth is thoroughly washed with clean warm saline water or tap water and teeth are cleaned with fingers or routine tooth brushing is performed.9 If the jaw aches, then the procedure can be done just for 5-10 min. The oil should not be spit into the sink as the oil can cause clogging of the pipes. Instead, the oil should be spit into a trashcan or on a paper towel.

Multiple Independent Experts Debunk "Oil Pulling"

The American Dental Association (ADA) web page on Oil Pulling does not recommend this practice, saying:

... there are no reliable scientific studies to show that oil pulling reduces cavities, whitens teeth or improves oral health and well-being.

In a February 21, 2023 email, ADA National Spokesperson, Dr. Ada Cooper provided Lead Stories with an updated response to the validity of this claim:

Currently, there are no reliable scientific studies to show that oil pulling improves oral health. Based on the lack of scientific evidence, the American Dental Association (ADA) does not recommend oil pulling as a dental hygiene practice or a dental treatment modality to treat infections in the nerve of tooth infections, tooth decay or other dental disease.

A September 14, 2022, Cleveland Clinic article stated that there are benefits concerning the prevention of plaque and bacteria and the preservation of gum health, but there is no research to support any other health claims.

In this August 25, 2022, YouTube video titled, "Does Oil Pulling COCONUT OIL Even Work?" Whitney DiFoggio, a registered dental hygienist, stated that adding oil pulling to a person's oral health routine doesn't hurt. However, it's no cure-all method and can irritate a person's jaw with regular use.

A December 5, 2022, Healthline article titled, "Oil Pulling With Coconut Oil Can Transform Your Dental Health," by Dr. Jennifer Archibald, a board-certified Ontario (Canada) dentist addressing this method, concluded that it "may reduce your risk of bad breath, cavities, and gingivitis," but that other health claims associated with it are not supported by science.

In a February 23, 2023 email, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesperson told Lead Stories that this method and the oil products associated with it have not been approved by their organization for the treatment of oral health issues:

Oil products have not been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness as any dental treatment. The agency is not aware of adequate and well-controlled clinical trials supporting this treatment.

A United Kingdom National Health Service web page on root canal treatment stated that a person could only safely get this particular oral health issue fixed via a procedure only a dentist can perform with a patient under anesthesia. The patient may have to get antibiotics following the treatment as well.

The Mayo Clinic web page on "Cavities/tooth decay" didn't include oil pulling as a form of treatment and stated that a cavity or tooth decay might have to be treated via a root canal.

Lead Stories has previously fact-checked a claim about root canals. That story can be read here.


  • 2023-02-23T23:53:23Z 2023-02-23T23:53:23Z
    Updated to add comment from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • 2023-02-22T23:01:44Z 2023-02-22T23:01:44Z
    Updated to add assessment from ADA spokesperson, Dr. Ada Cooper.

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  Kaiyah Clarke

Kaiyah Clarke is a fact-checker at Lead Stories. She is a graduate of Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Journalism. When she is not fact-checking or researching counter-narratives in society, she is often found reading a book on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Read more about or contact Kaiyah Clarke

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