Oil Pulling: Everything You Need to Know

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Oil Pulling - everything you need to know

So you’ve heard about oil pulling but aren’t quite sure what the deal is… How exactly do you do it? Does it really whiten teeth, improve oral health, and benefit the whole body? Or is it all a bunch of hippie-dippy hype?

Here’s everything you need to know about this natural health trend!

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling involves swishing a tablespoon or so of oil — usually sesame or coconut oil — around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes.

It’s done first thing in the morning before eating breakfast or brushing your teeth.

What is oil pulling

And why do people do this?

Oil pulling isn’t some new trend. It’s actually been a popular Ayurvedic practice for at least 3,000 years.

It continues to be popular today thanks to two big, supposed health benefits:

Oral health

Our mouths are home to billions of bacteria, as well as viruses, fungi, and toxins (gross, I know, but true). These microscopic intruders can cause gum disease, chronic low-grade infections, cavities, and tooth decay.

Since these micro-organisms are usually single-celled and surrounded in a fatty membrane, they naturally adhere to the oil (really just liquid fat). So when you’re done your 10-20 minutes of oil pulling, they’re expelled (i.e. spit out) along with the oil.

Overall health and wellness

So how does swishing oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes in the morning possibly impact your health beyond teeth and gums?

Well, oral health very significantly impacts all other aspects of health:

  • Chronic inflammation: Chronic but small-scale oral infections cause chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of just about every ailment and disease, from heart disease and autoimmune conditions to arthritis and diabetes.
  • Heart disease: The bacteria from inflammation of the gums and periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and travel to the arteries in the heart and cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. The inner lining of the heart can also become infected and inflamed, a condition known as endocarditis.
  • Alzheimer’s: It’s thought that certain types of oral bacteria that enter the brain may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Respiratory infections: The Journal of Periodontology warns that oral bacteria could infect the lungs, possible causing pneumonia.
  • Diabetic complications: Inflammation of the gum tissue and periodontal disease can make it harder to control your blood sugar and make your diabetes symptoms worse.

Honestly, this is a totally fascinating subject and my own personal motivation to take extra good care of my teeth these days! It’s the reason oil pulling is now a part of my daily routine but also the reason I invested in an electric toothbrush and regularly floss.

So does oil pulling really work?

Actually, there are quite a few studies that have been done on the effectiveness of oil pulling on oral health! Even WebMD states: “Unlike some so-called natural home remedies, it’s not a practice that’s based on pseudo-science.”

  • This study found that oil pulling has been found to be as effective as chlorhexidine (a common germicidal often used in mouthwash) in the treatment of bad breath.
  • This study found that after 45 days of oil pulling, subjects showed a statistically significant reduction in gingivitis.
  • This study found that oil pulling reduces plaque and bacteria in those with gingivitis.
  • This study found that oil pulling reduces streptococcus (strep) bacteria in the mouth.
  • This study found a “remarkable reduction in the total count of bacteria” in the mouth, and reduced risk of dental cavities.

While no studies have yet been conducted on the effects of oil pulling on overall health and wellness, I think it’s safe to assume the benefit given the intimate connection between oral health and the ailments discussed above. In other words:

Oil pulling improves oral health SO oil pulling must also improve overall health and wellness since improved oral health = improved overall health and wellness.

Is my logic here air-tight? No. But it’s a good enough reason for me to take oil pulling seriously and add it my personal health routine.

How to oil pull like a pro?

The best oils for oil pulling

Sesame and coconut oil are the two most popular oils to use for oil pulling.

Sesame oil is particularly high in the antioxidantssesamol, sesamin, and sesamolin. It also holds a high concentration of Vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These antioxidants have been found to stop the absorption of negative forms of cholesterol in the liver. Multiple studies have shown the antibacterial capacities of sesame oil. These studies support the use of oil pulling in the prevention of dental cavities and gingivitis.

When to oil pull

You want to oil pull first thing in the morning before eating breakfast or brushing your teeth.

How long to oil pull

Aim for 10-20 minutes. But don’t feel like you need to put life on hold during this time! Hop in the shower, answer some emails, pep your breakfast — I found that staying distracted was actually key for reaching the 10 minute mark when I first started oil pulling.

What to do after you’re done

After your 10-20 minutes, spit your oil out. Never swallow the oil, since it’s now filled with all of that yucky bacteria!

If using coconut oil, best to spit the oil into a trash can or the toilet to avoid clogging your sink drain.

Immediately brush your teeth as your normally would.

How often to oil pull

3-4 times a week is a good goal to aim for!

Up your oil pulling game with essential oils

Consider adding some of these best essential oils for healthy teeth and gums to your oil for an added boost.

But remember not to overdo it — essential oils are extremely concentrated and powerful! Just a drop or two of essential oil per ounce of oil (the sesame or coconut oil) is enough.

Have you tried oil pulling?

Any tried-ant-true tricks or tips you can share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


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  1. Oh no! To be honest, I don’t know so I did some research and according to Dr. Axe, “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.”

  2. Hi Nadia,
    Is oil pulling safe if someone has crowns? I am afraid it may loosen them up… I was doing oil pulling for months and loved the result until one day I had a crown fall out… I would love to resume but am afraid other crowns may fall out too. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

  3. I developed vitiligo on one corner of my mouth. Is there something safe to tint my lips that could last through eating or all day?

  4. I think as long as you’re using a pure, high-quality, preferable certified organic essential oil, it’s perfectly fine. And actually, I’ve never heard of “digestible” essential oils!

  5. Can you use any essential oil or only the “digestible kind”. Since it’s in your mouth but not swallowing. I didn’t know!