Oil Pulling Health Benefits

Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil

I love it when I learn new things from the comments people leave on my site.

About two weeks ago, I wrote an article about coconut oil – an awesome tropical oil with many health benefits.

A few people commented that they use coconut oil for something called “Oil Pulling” – which is kind of like using an oil as mouthwash.

Apparently, there are quite a few studies that support this process and a lot of people on blogs and discussion boards swear by it.

I have now been doing this every morning for about 10 days… and I am impressed.

What is Oil Pulling and How Does it Work?

Coconut Oil

Oil pulling has been used for thousands of years as an Indian folk remedy.

It involves putting about a tablespoon of oil in your mouth, then swishing it around your teeth for 10-20 minutes.

There are thousands of different types of bacteria in the mouth. Some of them are friendly, others are not.

Certain bacteria can cause harm, such as Streptococcus Mutans, which is the main culprit behind plaque buildup, gingivitis and cavities.

The bacteria in the mouth create a “biofilm” on the teeth – a thin layer that they use to adhere to the surface. This is what we know as “plaque.”

Having some plaque on your teeth is normal, but if it gets out of hand it can cause all sorts of problems.

The way oil pulling works is simple. When you swish the oil around your mouth, the bacteria “get stuck” in it and dissolve in the liquid oil.

Basically, you remove a large amount of the bacteria and plaque in your mouth each time you do this.

I Personally Prefer Coconut Oil

Traditionally, the Indians used other oils such as sesame oil or sunflower oil.

Oil pulling should work with pretty much any oil you choose.

I prefer coconut oil because Lauric Acid (about half of the fats in coconut oil) is proven to be antimicrobial… it can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi (12).

The taste of coconut oil is also fairly pleasant compared to other oils. I found it rather disgusting at first having my mouth full of oil, but I got used to it after a few days.
Now let’s look at a few studies on oil pulling…

Oil Pulling and Streptococcus Mutans

Streptococcus Mutans is one of the main bacteria in the mouth and a key player in plaque buildup and tooth decay.

In a study published in 2008 with 20 adolescent boys, oil pulling (using sesame oil) caused a reduction in the number of Streptococcus Mutans in the plaque in as little as 2 weeks (3).

It was not as effective as a Chlorhexidine mouthwash, but much cheaper and MUCH less nasty.

Oil Pulling Can Reduce Plaque and Gingivitis

Gingivitis is caused by inflammation of the gums and happens when the immune system starts attacking the bacteria in the plaque.

Another study compared oil pulling and chlorhexidine in adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis. Both oil pulling and chlorhexidine mouthwash were effective against gingivitis (4).

Oil Pulling Can Reduce Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, is in many cases (not all) caused by the smell of chemicals and gases produced by bacteria in the mouth.

It makes sense that if you get rid of some of these bacteria, you reduce bad breath.

In a third study of 20 adolescents, oil pulling therapy significantly reduced all markers for bad breath and was just as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash (5).



How to Oil Pull

Oil pulling is incredibly simple and effective.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Put about a tablespoon of oil in your mouth.
  2. Swish the oil around your mouth for about 10-20 minutes.
  3. Spit out the oil, then brush your teeth.

If you use coconut oil like me, then you may have to chew on the oil for a few seconds for it to melt, because it is solid at room temperature.

It is best to do this on an empty stomach, before you brush your teeth.

I prefer to do it while I take a shower in the morning.

I put the oil in my mouth, swish it around while in the shower and try to “push” and “pull” the oil between my teeth.

When I get out of the shower I spit out the oil, rinse my mouth with water and brush my teeth.

There is no need to use a lot of force here, if doing this causes pain in your facial muscles then just relax a bit. Try using less oil next time and don’t swish it around too forcefully.

It’s important to spit out the oil. You don’t want to swallow it because it is full of bacteria and nasty things.

What to Expect

I’ve been doing this for about 10 days now.

I’ve definitely noticed that my breath is fresher and my teeth look a lot cleaner… both whiter and more shiny.

I’ve never had any dental problems, but I can see how this could have benefits for people that have them.

There are a lot of wild claims out there about oil pulling and how it “pulls” toxins out of your bloodstream. I really don’t think that makes a lot of sense.

However, oil pulling IS effective at reducing the harmful bacteria in your mouth and improving oral and dental health.

I have to say that I am really surprised at how effective this is. I plan to continue doing this for a long time.

This article was originally featured on Authority Nutrition and has been republished here with permission.


Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil

About the author: Tiffany is a real food mama who lives in Oregon. She is a stay at home mom of three coconut babies. She is passionate about traditional and healing foods. As a true believer in the health benefits of coconut, she uses coconut products in almost all her cooking. Subscribe to The Coconut Mama’s Newsletter for more articles like this one.
20 comments… add one
  • Kaz May 17, 2014, 4:38 am

    Hi. It would be a lot easier to “pull” the oil if you “zap” it for a few seconds. Better than “chomping” on hard oil. I have a full set of dentures & it makes them cleaner & fresher than the expensive over night tablets I used to use 🙂 Fresher breath & I get less sore throats as well. I am 56 & get tonsilitis a lot. The coconut oil helps with the pain & inflammation & it’s great! I love all of your recipes/posts. Thank you very much 🙂

  • Catherine N. May 17, 2014, 7:30 am

    Just a heads-up, you might want to have an old jar or something to spit it into, rather than down the drain. We got a newsletter from the town saying to be careful with putting oil down the drain as it can harden and create a “fatberg”.

    • Michele May 17, 2014, 8:51 am

      I was wondering about where to spit the oil. The jar is a good idea, any other thoughts?

      • Robin May 17, 2014, 10:43 am

        I keep a ziplock Baggie in my drawer and spit in there throughout the week, then throw away and start again.

      • Chris May 17, 2014, 4:19 pm

        Does oil pulling cause almalgam fillings to loosen?

        • TERRI May 19, 2014, 2:35 pm


          • Jacob May 31, 2014, 4:39 pm

            That doesn’t really answer the question on fillings. I’ve been wondering the same thing about fillings, crowns, caps, implants. Anyone know if oil pulling can loosen them?

            • LA April 22, 2015, 6:47 am

              Now I am NOT a dentist but I have worked in the field for many years, and I would be inclined to say it shouldn’t hurt dental work as long as it was properly completed. I may say temporary crowns and things may not be as sturdy (as they are temporary ) but should be fine once the permanent is placed. It WILL NOT make loose teeth “harden” again, that is not only a myth but there are so many other factors when it comes to that, there is not one specific thing that could help no matter what it is. I can however see something becoming more loose just because of the forcing the liquid around, not the liquid itself.

      • Natasha June 24, 2014, 12:16 am

        You can also just spit it in the garbage

  • Jennifer May 17, 2014, 11:57 am

    Hi , I whisk my coconut oil and keep in a tin with a lid on . Its nice and soft. I keep the tin right next to my toothbrush. I always spit out into kitchen paper then straight into the bin…..

  • lou May 28, 2014, 6:50 am

    I’ve tried oil pulling a few times with little success, mainly because after a few seconds I have a really hard swallowing instinct. Is it possible that when this happen I can spit it and start with a new spoon full for the remaining minutes?

  • marielle June 16, 2014, 11:28 am

    I have braces which cause a lot of sores in my mouth. I found that oil pulling does an amazing job of soothing sores.

  • Cheryl July 23, 2014, 6:31 am

    Someone asked me a question about the oil pulling that I couldn’t find the answer to: If the oil pulling takes away harmful bacteria, how does it influence the “good” bacteria? Is that also washed away?

  • Nani September 1, 2014, 9:19 am

    I started oil pulling with coconut oil a couple weeks ago. It has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to doing it every morning. Fortunately, I live in Hawaii and the oil is always in liquid form.

    I have heard that dental visits have shown improvement in people who oil pull so I’m looking forward to my next checkup. I know any inflammation in the gums or plaque is also a reflection of your heart and arteries. I can tell the little bit of consistent inflammation is gone so my dentist will be happy. Yay me!

  • Denise September 23, 2014, 10:46 am

    Just a few things here: 1) please don’t nuke your hard coconut oil in the microwave. It will kill all the helpful properties found in the oil. All you really need to do is put the jar under running hot water or perhaps in a saucepan filled with hot water. You’ll be surprised how quickly it will melt. Remember, you only need a tablespoon for this. 2) It is widely known that one can tell all about your health by just looking in your mouth. Notice how quickly your gums can bleed, and bleed quite a lot, if nicked or if you’re not in the habit of flossing. If toxic chemicals can leech into your bloodstream from moisturizing lotion rubbed on your skin, then it’s not too much of a stretch to believe that whatever you put in your mouth is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream as well. I heard an interview with an aryuvedic doctor who said 20 minutes of swishing will pull the toxins out of your bloodstream of your whole body 6 times. I can’t help but reason that this is because our mouths are so close to the blood source – there’s no easier or faster way to reach your blood stream other than through a needle. This is also the reason why some medications are taken under the tongue – quick absorption into your blood stream.

  • Diane October 1, 2014, 4:46 am

    You shouldn’t spit the oil down the drain for two reasons, the first being it can accumulate and cause plumbing issues, the second is all of that oil contains bacteria and should not be disposed in our water system. Spit it in the garbage instead.

  • Alice Roberts January 25, 2015, 2:15 pm

    Trying out your coconut oil bites with peppermint oil for oil pulling…my first time! A bit hard not to swallow but better after first few minutes. Also salivating quite a bit. But there’s still oil in the mix and given the anti-bacterial properties of saliva, I figure this is a secondary benefit

  • LISA LISA September 20, 2015, 4:06 pm

    I started pulling about 3 months ago. My gums had started to recede and there were spaces between my teeth for the past year or two. I don’t remember when I started to notice results but I can actually tell that the spaces minimized quite a bit. My teeth are also whiter.

  • T October 18, 2015, 11:43 am

    When first trying coconut oil to “pull” I started with 1/2 teaspoon of oil and 5 minutes on the timer. By slowly increasing the amount of coconut oil I used and time has helped decrease the need to’gag’ and instinct to swallow. It is now something I do on a regular basis and find enjoyable.


Leave a Comment