Coconut oil pulling is one of the best ways to remove bacteria and promote healthy teeth and gums.
It’s been proven to be even more effective than flossing, and it’s one of the best ways to whiten your teeth naturally.
It has taken quite some time, but oil pulling has finally gained some popularity in the United States.
Used primarily in Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling — known as gandusha in Ayurveda
specifically, coconut oil pulling is a fantastic oral detoxification procedure that’s simply done by swishing a tablespoon of oil (typically coconut oil, olive or sesame oil) in your mouth for 10–20 minutes.
Oil pulling works by cleaning (detoxifying) the oral cavity in a similar way that soap cleans dirty dishes.
It sucks the dirt (toxins) out of your mouth and creates a clean, antiseptic oral environment that contributes to the proper flow of dental liquid that’s needed to prevent cavities and disease.
This unbelievably effective procedure has been used for centuries as a traditional India remedy to:
- Treat tooth decay
- Kill bad breath
- Heal bleeding gums
- Prevent heart disease
- Reduce inflammation
- Whiten teeth
- Soothe throat dryness
- Prevent cavities
- Heal cracked lips
- Boost the immune system
- Improve acne
- Strengthen gums and jaws
It’s even been reported to help with TMJ symptoms, although these are anecdotal reports.
So if you’re looking for whiter teeth, there is no better, safer whitening practice than coconut oil pulling, which has a host of benefits beyond making those teeth look great.
What Is Oil Pulling?
Most of us cannot even imagine what life would be like without brushing and flossing our teeth every day.
However, in the scheme of things, brushing teeth is relative,
new since the nylon bristle toothbrush didn’t become part of our typical American experience until the late 1930s, and many people don’t floss regularly as is.
It’s important to remember that, although most people in American today were all raised with toothbrushes in our mouths, our ancestors didn’t brush their teeth with toothpaste for thousands of years.
And, as far as archeological evidence suggests, most people throughout history lived until a ripe old age with most of their teeth intact and in a robust and healthy state.
Why didn’t their teeth rot?
Well, first of all, they ate real food and didn’t consume processed sugars and grains filled with phytic acid, which destroy tooth enamel.
Secondly, they took care of their teeth through natural means like chew sticks that they rubbed against the teeth, as has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 3000 B.C.
Third, depending on the culture and region of the world, many people also practiced oil pulling.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
To date, there are just 21 oil pulling research studies reporting on the health benefits of oil pulling.
Although unfortunately, science has taken so long to make this ancient art seriously, it is encouraging to see the literature database grow.
I’m excited to read more as researchers catch on to how oil pulling can help transform someone’s life.
The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, for example,
highlighted a study that reviewed holistic approaches to oral health and discovered that oil pulling is one of the most effective natural health solutions known to scientists that prevent tooth decay and loss.
Praised for curing more than 30 systemic diseases, the authors of this study have some profound things to say about this ancient natural healing practice:
Oil pulling is a powerful detoxifying Ayurvedic technique that has recently become very popular as a CAM remedy for many different health ailments. Using this method, surgery or medication could be prevented for a number of chronic illnesses. The oil therapy is preventative as well as curative. The exciting aspect of this healing method is its simplicity.
Ayurveda advises oil gargling to purify the entire system; as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organ such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine, similarly to reflexology and TCM.
I like this passage because it highlights how the detoxification effect that oil pulling has on the entire body reaches far beyond oral health.
This is especially important for people who have conditions that contraindicate brushings, such as mouth ulcers, fever, indigestion, those who tend to vomit, asthma, cough, or thirst.
Also, I found these five studies showing how sesame seed or coconut oil pulling affects a wide range of oral health issues particularly helpful as I considered making it a part of my natural health regimen:
- According to researchers from the Department of Pediatric Dentistry in Tamil Nadu, India, oil pulling reduces Streptococcus mutans bacteria — a significant contributor to tooth decay — in the plaque and saliva of children. (4) In the authors’ words, “Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health.”
- As uncovered by researchers from the Department of Pediatric Dentistry in Chennai India, oil pulling can significantly reduce aerobic microorganisms in plaque among children with plaque-induced gingivitis. (5)
- From the same researchers in Chennai, oil pulling is as effective as mouthwash at improving bad breath and reducing the microorganisms that may cause it. (6)
- Further research published in the Nigerian Medical Journal found that coconut oil pulling can decrease plaque in those with gingivitis thanks in part to its lauric acid content. (7)
- As far as bad breath — aka halitosis or oral malodor — researchers found that “oil pulling with sesame oil is equally efficient as chlorhexidine in reducing oral malodor and microbes causing it. It should be promoted as a preventive home care therapy.” (8) Chlorhexidine is a disinfectant and antiseptic used in oral health.
Why I Recommend Coconut Oil Pulling
One important note to make is that the studies I referenced above mostly tested the effects that sesame seed oil had on patients whose oil pulled. Being a staple in India, it’s no wonder why many Ayurvedic medicinal practitioners would naturally gravitate toward sesame while practicing gandusha. However, I would like to suggest using beneficial coconut oil instead.
Why? Because coconut oil has been shown to:
- Balance hormones
- Kill candida
- Improve digestion
- Moisturize skin
- Reduce cellulite
- Decrease wrinkles and age spots
- Balance blood sugar and improve energy
- Improve Alzheimer’s
- Increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol
- Burn fat
Because it’s highly absorbable, you can experience many of these benefits only by oil pulling.
Make sure to use unrefined coconut oil to ensure there are no additives to it. Unrefined coconut oil is pure, natural coconut oil that won’t contain any harmful, unnatural substances.
Another option is to use sunflower seed oil, but again,
I recommend coconut oil pulling for all the reasons mentioned above.
Plus, as researchers have dug deeper into coconut oil pulling in particular, they’ve found that it can fight Streptococcus mutans, gingivitis, and more.
How to Do Oil Pulling
This is how I like to do coconut oil pulling:
- Make sure to oil pull first thing in the morning right after you get out of bed — before you brush your teeth or drink anything.
- Gently swish 1–2 tablespoons of coconut oil in your mouth and between your teeth for 10–20 minutes, making sure that you don’t swallow any of the oil. (Do this gently, so you don’t wear out your jaw and cheeks!)
- Spit out the oil in the trash (not the sink, so it doesn’t clog up the plumbing… ask me how I know), and immediately rinse your mouth out with warm water (use salt water for added antimicrobial properties).
- Finally, brush your teeth as usual.
- Voila, easy as that!
I recommend oil pulling three to four times per week with coconut oil and also adding essential oils to your mixture.
As you can see, oil pulling with coconut oil is a simple procedure with beneficial results.
If 10–20 minutes sounds like a long time, simply do oil pulling while in the shower or while driving to work in the morning.
You can even do it while you do work around the house to help pass the time.
Here’s a quick “how-to” coconut oil pulling video demonstration:
Next, I want to share with you how you can use essential oils to take your oil pulling benefits to a whole new level.
Oil Pulling with Essential Oils
Essential oils carry some of the most potent antibacterial and antifungal properties on the planet, and they can quickly and safely enhance the oil pulling experience.
Additionally, as essential oils absorb into your oral mucosa, your body will enjoy the antioxidant and medicinal powers inherent in these potent compounds.
Here are two of my favorite ways to use essential oils during my morning oil pulling routine:
- For everyday use: Add three drops of wild orange, lemon, and peppermint with one tablespoon of coconut oil.
- When battling an infection or sickness: Change it up a bit and mix clove oil, cinnamon oil, or tea tree oil as a homeopathic remedy.
Is Oil Pulling Dangerous? Questions Answered
1. What age is suitable for oil pulling?
Since the oil swished around in the mouth and spit out, then there should be no harm in oil pulling even at a young age.
Try a smaller amount of fat, though, say about a half to one teaspoon.
You want to make sure it’s comfortable, and it should be an enjoyable experience, not a dreaded one.
If people don’t like it, and they need healing for their teeth, then I would focus on adjusting their diet to heal cavities naturally.
2. Can I pull oil if I have fillings?
According to the Coconut Research Center:
Oil pulling will not and cannot loosen properly placed crowns or fillings. The only time oil pulling will affect crowns or fillings is if the teeth underneath have decayed and are full of infection. In this case, the foundation on which the crowns or fillings are secured to is badly decayed and unable to hold the dental material. Oil pulling removes bacteria, pus, and mucus. It cannot pull out porcelain, amalgam, or composite dental materials from the teeth.
The only reason that a filling will become loose is if you have a rot or infection in the tooth. Then you will want to address this issue to keep the disease from spreading to your body.
3. Why do I have to oil pull in the morning?
You don’t. The best time to oil pull is in the morning on an empty stomach, but you can certainly try other times during the day or before eating.
4. Why do I have to oil pull for so long?
When you oil pulls, you are using up the oil in the process of swishing the oil.
It will become watery and sometimes milky after about 15 minutes.
If you pull with less fuel, you may notice it change texture sooner, but you want to make sure you have enough oil to clean your mouth and teeth.
5. How long does it take to see a difference with my teeth and mouth?
Within one week, most people notice a cleaner mouth and change in their breath.
Within a month, some people have experienced dental repair or healthier gums.
6. Are there oil pulling side effects or symptoms?
Every person is different.
Some people may have a release of mucous in their throats or noses, as the swishing can release sinuses and cause drainage.
This is harmless, but if it is uncomfortable to you, then you may want to blow your nose before oil pulling.
Also, some people experience jaw soreness.
If this happens, try swishing more gently and don’t pull between your teeth as hard, or maybe cut back a few minutes down to 8–10 minutes and then build back up once you get adjusted to this exercise.
Occasionally, oil pulling can trigger the gag reflex in some people.
If this happens, then try leaning your head forward just slightly and using a little bit less oil. Also, warming the oil a few can make it thinner and less likely to cause any gagging.
7. Can I oil pull while pregnant?
Because you spit out the toxins that are “pulled” out when swishing, there should not be any harm in oil pulling while pregnant.
It can be a soothing way to clean your teeth if you experience any gum sensitivity.
Final Thoughts on Coconut Oil Pulling
- Coconut oil pulling is a standard Ayurvedic practice that can help you get whiter teeth. It’s been used to treat tooth decay, kill bad breath, heal bleeding gums, prevent heart disease, reduce inflammation, soothe throat dryness, prevent cavities, heal cracked lips, boost the immune system, improve acne, strengthen the gum and jaws, and treat TMJ.
- Coconut oil is the best oil to use because it contains lauric acid, which has proven anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Sesame oil and sunflower are also options, but I recommend coconut oil pulling the most.
- You can also incorporate essential oils into the process to enhance oil pulling benefits.
How to Stop Grinding Teeth, or Bruxism + 7 Natural Treatments