The effect of oil pulling with coconut oil to improve dental hygiene and oral health: A systematic review

Heliyon. 2020 Aug 27;6(8):e04789. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04789. eCollection 2020 Aug.


Objectives: Coconut oil is a cheap and accessible oil for many people around the world. There are numerous advocates for the practice of oil pulling to prevent common oral diseases. Therefore determining the effectiveness of oil pulling with coconut oil could potentially have monumental benefits. This review aimed to assess the effect of oil pulling with coconut oil in improving oral health and dental hygiene.

Data: We included randomized controlled trials comparing the effect of oil pulling with coconut oil on improving oral health and dental hygiene.No meta-analysis was performed due to the clinical heterogeneity and differences in the reporting of data among the included studies.

Sources: Six electronic databases were screened: PubMed, Medline, EMBASE, AMED, CENTRAL and CINAHL.

Study selection: Electronic searches yielded 42 eligible studies, of which four RCTs including 182 participants were included. The studies lasted between 7 and 14 days. Significant differences were demonstrated for a reduction in salivary bacterial colony count (p = 0.03) and plaque index score (p=<0.001). One study also demonstrated a significant difference in staining compared to using Chlorhexidine (p = 0.0002). However, data was insufficient for conclusive findings, the quality of studies was mixed and risk of bias was high.

Conclusion: The limited evidence suggests that oil pulling with coconut oil may have a beneficial effect on improving oral health and dental hygiene. Future clinical trials are of merit considering the universal availability of the intervention. Prospective research should have a robust design with rigorous execution to provide a higher quality of evidence.

Clinical significance: Oil pulling with coconut oil could be used as a adjunct to normal preventative regimes to improve oral health and dental hygiene although further studies are needed to determine the level of effectiveness.

Keywords: Alternative medicine; Ayurvedic medicine; Coconut oil; Dental hygiene; Dental surgery; Dentistry; Oil pulling; Oral health; Oral medicine; Periodontics.