Our Doctor Opinion: Is Oil Pulling and Active Charcoal For Real?

by Dr. Erin Elliott | 04 October, 2017

Oil Pulling

Oil Pulling is an ancient Ayuryedic dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for about 20 minutes first thing in the morning. This technique has been known to draw toxins out of the body. There is controversy as to whether it is truly effective. What is does prove is that the mouth can show signs that all is not well in your bloodstream and that oral hygiene including daily brushing, flossing and regular cleanings can contribute to a better overall health. Let’s look at the science. The American Dental Association (ADA) published an article regarding the practice of oil pulling and what they found regarding the practice. There is only anecdotal evidence, the ADA points out that there is insufficient peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the use of oil pulling. What we do know is that oil is a substance in which toxins cannot live, that much is fact. Bacteria literally drown and they cannot multiply. The benefits that have been reported have been whiter teeth, cavity and gingivitis prevention, fresher morning breath, stronger teeth and gums, and reduction of inflammation. There are several testimonials saying coconut oil is best when used three to five times weekly. Olive, sesame and other oils can be used as well. Although these claims have not been scientifically proven, there aren’t many side effects and it would not injure you. The only thing you’ve lost out on is time and oil, depending on if you believe in its ability to help or not. As a dental professional the biggest disclaimer is to make sure that a person does not think that oil pulling takes the place of proper brushing and regular visits. The practice of oil pulling doesn't cure cavities. Oil pulling does not reverse or cure decay or remove tarter that contributes to periodontal disease and gingivitis. For our opinion on what we recommend to reduce plaque and keep a health mouth and smile, read what our Hygienist, Sara, had to say on the subject here.


Charcoal...Not the kind you use for your barbecue. We are talking activated charcoal. Traditional charcoal is made from coal, wood or other substances. It becomes activated when high temperatures are combined with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area. It becomes a porous material that sucks in impurities from the environment around it. Activated charcoal is used as a potent natural treatment to trap toxins and chemicals. We know that activated charcoal is safe for absorbing toxins in the gut, but there is no known research that says crushing a tablet and brushing will make teeth whiter. In fact a crushed tablet could make teeth more sensitive because of the abrasiveness. Although the results are anecdotal, many people believe in the whitening properties. There are different types of stains that a patient might have. The intrinsic color of our teeth is created by pigment bonds within our enamel scaffolding. In essence, the color our teeth are WITHIN the teeth. Then there are extrinsic stains that build up usually due to diet. Wine and coffee tend to be the most common culprits. This is the color on our teeth that build up OUTSIDE the teeth. Activated charcoal can help with the extrinsic stain but if abused the enamel can become weakened and wear down the enamel. If the enamel becomes thinner than the dentin layer that exists underneath the enamel layer becomes more apparent. The dentinal layer is yellow. While it is understandable that patients are looking for DIY whitening tricks the peroxide based whitening products that are available are still recommended. Whitening gels, strips, topical etc change the color from the inside out. They actually cleave the pigment bond within the enamel without weakening it. The whitening toothpastes and activated charcoal methods only scrub the surface and can be damaging (not to mention messy). And always remember that porcelain and restorations cannot be whitened. Happy whitening!