Welcome to TikTok Debunked, where Yahoo Canada digs into the truth behind popular TikTok health, beauty and food trends.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Over the years, health enthusiasts have turned to TikTok to keep up with the latest health and beauty hacks — including dental advice.
One trend that turned the heads of dentist and dental hygienists on the app is oil pulling. The alleged teeth-whitening at-home hack went viral in late 2022 and into this year, and while some experts use it themselves, others remain sceptical.
Read on for everything you need to know about this social media trend, and whether or not a dentist endorses it.
The claim — and how it started
Late 2022 and this year, hundreds of videos on oil pulling went viral on TikTok, including one by user @alyannanolasco, claiming "they were not joking, oil pulling will whiten the living s—- out of your teeth."
This trend involves swishing coconut oil around in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes, spitting it out and brushing out your teeth afterwards.
The hashtag "oilpulling" received more than 268 million views on the app.
Since the the teeth-whitening "hack" went viral, hundreds of people embarked on personal challenges to try out oil pulling every day and share their results.
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy to clean teeth, originating more than 3,000 years ago in India, claiming to dissolve mouth bacteria while swishing the oil.
The method is claimed to whiten teeth, help with gingivitis, cavities and bad breath.
An expert weighs in
Yahoo Canada spoke to Canadian Dental Association (CDA) president Dr. Heather Carr to get to the bottom of the trend.
Carr said though she's not on TikTok, she is aware of the oil pulling trend but is "hesitant to recommend" it, citing a lack of research.
"I don't think there's a lot of scientific evidence to support the benefit of oil pulling," Carr claimed.
The Halifax-based dentist said there have been "some limited lab studies and a few small clinical trials" where it's been indicated oil pulling could reduce cavities and gingivitis.
But, it's still not enough to warrant a recommendation from the CDA.
"I think that due to the lack of scientific evidence, we're probably not going to recommend it as your best dental hygiene practice," she said.
I would be hesitant to recommend it.Dr. Heather Carr
A Healthline explainer on the method listed a study finding that oil pulling can reduce the number of Streptococcus mutans — a bacteria involved in plaque buildup and tooth decay. However, it also listed that teeth-whitening claims have not been scientifically confirmed.
According to Carr, a better way to keep your teeth clean is the old-fashioned way, "to brush carefully and thoroughly." The dentist recommends fluoridated toothpaste and flossing.
Oil pulling is "not something that I'm going to try," Carr said. "It is not something that I would personally recommend to my patients."
Is it debunked?
After studying the trend and learning from the experts, has Yahoo Canada debunked this dental TikTok trend? Yes and no.
Many users of the app who participated in the trend swear by it, claiming it has made their teeth whiter, less sensitive and has improved their breath. There also is some research to support that oil pulling with coconut oil may reduce gingivitis and may reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth.
However, there are also many misconceptions with health social media trends and it's important to be aware of claims that are not backed by research and science. In this case, that's the whitening benefits of oil pulling.
Also, there is no one—size-fits-all solution to dental care.
"Every individual is very unique and has different needs to maintain oral health," Carr said.
"You want to go to a dentist who has the expertise and can kind of guide you towards your best oral care practices."