I first heard about oil pulling a few years ago and my first thought was, “say whaaat?” I was skeptical but intrigued. Why would anyone want to swish around oil in their mouth? I was curious, I wanted to know more and I wanted to try it for myself.

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic medicine practice that involves swishing oil around in your mouth for a period of time (typically 5-20 minutes) and then spitting said oil out. If you’re thinking, 20 minutes?! You’re a crazy person!, I thought the same thing. Hear me out. The verdict is out for me on oil pulling for extended periods of time like 20 minutes, but I personally do 10 minutes and love it.

Oil pulling is a newer practice here in the United States, but it has actually been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It is believed that the swishing “pulls” toxins out of the body and can improve overall gum and oral health. Plus, it helps remove plaque and stains from teeth which can naturally help whiten teeth. Umm yes, please!

Other potential benefits

-prevent cavities

-boost the immune system

-strengthen gums and jaw

-heal bleeding or sensitive gums

-fights bad breath


…and a slew of other claims from healing acne and other skin conditions, to preventing heart disease and other conditions that I believe warrant much more scientific research. Anecdotal success is great but those are some bold claims and frankly we need a lot more research before people boast these benefits as facts.

How I oil pull:

I don’t oil pull every day, but I typically do 3-4 mornings each week. You can oil pull any time of day, but it is believed that it is best to oil pull first thing in the morning, before you eat or drink anything and before you brush your teeth. While you sleep, bacteria are hanging out and having a party up in your grill (literally), so it’s best to combat all those bacteria that have accumulated over night first thing in the morning.

  • Scoop your oil. I have a dedicated jar of organic coconut oil in my pantry, but other oils like sesame oil work too. You definitely do not want to use vegetable oil, canola oil or soybean oil, because trans fats. Don’t make a healthy act unhealthy. I prefer coconut oil because it has a mild taste, contains vitamin E, lauric acid, and is known to be antibacterial, amongst a slew of other health benefits discussed in The Coconut Oil Miracle. I use cold pressed unrefined organic coconut oil and I scoop a heaping teaspoon of coconut oil. You can do more or less depending on your comfort, but keep in mind your saliva will add to the oil so you want to allow your mouth room to accommodate the added saliva. I also add a couple drops of essential oils to the spoon full. I like to do a drop of clove essential oil- great for oral detoxification and a drop of peppermint oil- awesome natural breath freshener, plus it tastes like you’re swishing candy canes around in your mouth.
  • Start swishing! Coconut oil melts and becomes liquid at 76 degrees Fahrenheit (1), so in the warmer weather my oil is usually already completely liquid already or close to it. In the colder months, it will be solidified but it will melt quickly in your mouth. This is the worst part for me. I hate melting the coconut oil in my mouth. It’s a texture thing for me. But it melts quickly and then you literally just swish for about 10 minutes or as long as you’re comfortable. The first time I tried, I thought 20 minutes?! No way! I decided I’d try just two minutes. I did two minutes no problem, so I kept swishing to five minutes. The following day I did ten minutes easily. Now, I routinely swish for 10 minutes without even thinking about it. It’s just part of my morning routine. I oil pull first thing in the morning while I’m getting ready. It’s an easy multitasking activity because I’m not taking any extra time out of my day. I need to get ready anyway, so I might as well clean my mouth while I’m at it. And my boyfriend is usually still sleeping, so I don’t have to worry about talking while I’m swishing. Although there have been times when he gets up early and starts trying to talk to me and I have play charades with him to let him know what’s up.

5-20 minutes is the recommended time to effectively fight bacteria and reduce plaque in the mouth, but I would recommend starting slow and building up. I would start small with maybe 2 minutes and work your way up to 10 minutes. Some people with sensitive jaws can experience soreness from too much swishing, so start small and listen to your body. It’s not a contest, people. You can work your way up over time.

  • Spit oil out. When you’re done swishing it’s time to spit the oil out. It is important not to swallow the oil because it’s full of toxins and morning breath and well, that’s gross. You want to spit all that junk out of your mouth, not re-ingest it. The oil will be a creamy white after swishing. Be sure to spit the oil out into the garbage, not the sink or toilet. Oil can clog pipes and create a plumbing disaster, so you definitely want to spit it out in a garbage can.
  • Rinse your mouth. After I spit my oil out I take a sip of water and do a quick swish/rinse with the water. I am sensitive to cold water so I use room temperature or warm water. I also spit that into the garbage just to be safe and because I’m already there.
  • Brush your teeth. Then I brush my teeth like normal. Your mouth will feel super clean and amazing. Smile in the mirror and see if your teeth sparkle.

A good oral report card

I had been oil pulling on the regular for a couple months when I went in for my regularly scheduled dental cleaning. (Side note: I have always been vigilant about brushing and flossing and general oral care. I was “blessed” with bad oral genetics from both parents and despite always trying to take extra good care of my teeth, I have to go in three times a year for a cleaning vs. the standard twice a year. Yay me!)

I have been going to the same dentist since I was a kid and I made no mention of the oil pulling to her. She told me my gums had never looked better and asked me if I had switched my toothpaste or what had changed? I told her nothing had changed, but I that I had started oil pulling. She was impressed and admitted that she had been wanting to try it herself but had never done it. I gave her an oil pulling pep-talk and for once in my life gave my dentist a “homework” assignment.

Why not?!

There are more studies coming out about oil pulling and although the efficacy varies by study, I believe oil pulling does have merit on oral health. It’s something easy and simple that can be done in the comfort of your own home. So, my thought is, why not?! That said, it is always a good idea to consult with your dentist before trying any new dental or oral health regimen. Especially if you have dental hardware or a complex dental history, you definitely want to speak with a dental professional first.

Take aways

-Oil pulling has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years but is still a relatively new practice here in the United States.

-Research shows that oil pulling may positively affect oral health by removing bacteria and plaque from the mouth.

-Don’t stress about the time. Start small and work your way up.

-Don’t spit the oil into the sink or toilet! It’s ironic to clean up your mouth only to end up trashing your pipes in the process. Always spit into a (lined) garbage can.

-Oil pulling can be used in conjunction but is not a substitute for brushing and flossing!

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