Coconut Oil Pulling

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Coconut Oil Pulling - How to use coconut oil to improve oral health
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Coconut Oil Pulling

I wrote about oil pulling several years ago, well before it gained mainstream attention in the news and on fashion blogs.

It is something I’ve been doing off and on for years and I’ve seen noticeable effects from doing it. I figured that whitening my teeth with charcoal would be my most controversial oral health habit, but some recent debate in the comments on an oil pulling post has convinced me otherwise.

What is Oil Pulling?

As I explained in a past post:

Oil pulling is an age-old remedy that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it is beneficial in improving gums and removing harmful bacteria!

The basic idea is that oil is swished in the mouth for a short time each day and that this action helps improve oral health. Just as with Oil Cleansing for the skin, the principle of “like dissolves like” applies, as oil is able to cut through plaque and remove toxins without disturbing the teeth or gums.

Essentially, oil pulling is just using a high quality organic oil as a mouthwash to help cleanse the mouth. Really, it could be called “oil-swishing” as the word “pulling” can be confusing but it refers to the idea that the oil is pulling bacteria out of the gums.

The oils that should be used for oil pulling are food grade and can also be eaten. Despite the fact that the oils can be consumed, some people get really upset about the idea of oil pulling and it has been a source of controversy in the media (isn’t everything a source of controversy in the media these days?)

Benefits of Coconut Oil Pulling?

When oil pulling, the oils (especially oils with naturally antibacterial properties) bind to the biofilm, or plaque, on the teeth and reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth. Streptococcus Mutans is one of the bacteria that is prominent in the mouth and it has been studied for its role in tooth decay and gum disease. Oil pulling has been shown to reduce the number of Streptococcus Mutans bacteria in the mouth, especially when done with coconut oil.

Some sources claim that coconut oil pulling can help everything from acne to sore throats and even heart disease, though I’ve never seen any scientific documentation of these claims. It is well known that good oral health practices can benefit the body in other ways, so it certainly may be beneficial as part of a good oral health routine. I certainly wouldn’t rely on oil pulling alone as a method to address any internal or serious medical problem, but I do find it helpful for keeping my mouth healthy and avoiding bad breath.

Coconut Oil Pulling Cautions

It is also important to use oil pulling as part of a comprehensive oral health regimen and not to use it as a replacement for normal oral hygiene and teeth brushing. My dentist was skeptical of many of the claims about coconut oil pulling being able to benefit the body internally, but said she considered it a safe alternative to mouthwash and didn’t see a problem with the practice when used in combination with other good dental hygiene methods.

Important Note: Some people report negative reactions to using coconut oil for oil pulling. Those with any type of topical or internal reaction to coconut in any form, should not use it for oil pulling or in any other way. In these cases, sesame oil would be a better alternative. As with this or any oral product, it is important to check with a dentist about any concerns or before using, especially if other dental conditions are present.

What Type of Oil?

Traditional cultures use sesame or sunflower oil for oil pulling but I personally prefer to use coconut oil for several reasons.

Coconut oil is effective in attacking Streptococcus Mutans bacteria which causes cavities. It is rich in medium chain triglycerides and high in lauric acid.

Coconut oil has dozens of uses, and we already have it in every room of the house since we use it in toothpaste, deodorant, in cooking and even as a coffee creamer.

In my personal experience, coconut oil pulling is more effective at removing plaque and whitening teeth than sesame oil, although I don’t have any scientific studies that prove the difference.

How to Use  Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling

  • Put 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil into the mouth. I also pour a few drops of Brushing Blend or Essential Oil into the mix. (Just make sure any essential oil is safe to use in the mouth).
  • Swish for 20 minutes. Apparently the timing is key, according to Dr. Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, as this is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spit out.
  • Spit oil into the trash can. Especially if you have a septic system like I do… don’t spit into the sink! Do not swallow the oil as it is hopefully full of bacteria and plaque that are now not in the mouth!
  • Rinse well with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better (my opinion). Occasionally, I swish with salt water which seems more effective but is also more work.
  • Brush well. I prefer to brush with Brushing Blend or homemade toothpaste to make sure any remaining bacteria is removed.

Note: At the suggestion of a friend, I’ve also experimented with using MCT oil in place of coconut oil. MCT oil is a great option for those who don’t like the taste of coconut oil but still want the benefits. It is more expensive but I really like the combination of MCT oil and essential oils for oil pulling.

For more information on how I use oil pulling and on my other natural oral health resources, check out my oral health page.

Try Coconut Oil Pulling Chews

Since writing this post, I’ve discovered a way to simplify oil pulling with coconut oil by making mini coconut oil chews that melt in the mouth. Pre-making these with essential oils and freezing them is an easy way to have pre-portioned bites for oil pulling and has also made it easier for me to get my husband and kids to try it.

This original coconut oil pulling chews recipe (and even the picture of them) has been copied by multiple other websites but the recipe and instructions can be found at the link above.

Have you ever used coconut oil for oil pulling? How did you like it? Share below!

Coconut oil pulling is a natural way to reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth and improve oral health. I use coconut oil and essential oils for fresh breath.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


291 responses to “Coconut Oil Pulling”

  1. Jean Avatar

    hello All, I am new to the group and highly impressed by it. My tooth enamel has eroded in some places near gums and it made my teeth sensitive, what can i do to regain the enamel naturally? I stay alone so not able to eat healthy and also make the home made toothpaste, still I will try..Please help me with healthy breakfast options (currently I eat oatmeal with milk and sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds) and also for my oral health..

  2. Nicole Avatar

    Okay, okay, you guys are convincing me to keep going. I’m pregnant and saw my first-ever cavity. Ahhhh! Set a dentist appt for later this month because I wanted to give myself 4 weeks of pulling before I went in.
    Is 4 weeks “enough” time if I’m faithful? How have people’s health been affected during pregnancy?

  3. Lisa M Avatar

    Hi. I’ve been doing coconut oil-pulling for 6 wks with great results. Teeth are nice and white. I’ve got my 86 y.o. mother doing it too – 3 days so far Her teeth are grey and stained. Will she get whiter teeth at some point (in a week or 2?), or are some people unable to see results with oil pulling? Her usual dentist’s cleaning doesn’t make much difference. Thanks!

  4. Nanci Avatar

    we use the Tropical Traditions pure Coconut Oil because it does not have the taste factor and I have wondered if that was just as effective for the oil pulling- is there any difference that you are aware of? Thanks

  5. Jane Avatar

    Dear Katie- I have started this new regimen of taking 1 tablespoon of MCT oil mixed with half a tablespoon of olive oil and half of a squeezed fresh lemon. I have heard that olive oil and lemon juice can be a kidney cleanser and of course we know MCT oil is awesome for you. Do you think that the combination of these oils and lemon juice is safe to take combined once daily?

    1. Mary Avatar

      Jane, I wouldn’t use lemon juice as it is acid. The oils you use sound great.

  6. Patricia Avatar

    Hello Katie,

    Thanks for your insight and comments on oil pulling for oral hygiene. I just recently started using coconut oil 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. 7 months ago I had a scrapping done on my teeth at my dentist and it was very costly, not to mention uncomfortable to say the least. I was told that I had a lot of plaque build up and so started vigilantly flossing, and rinsing with an antibacterial twice a day. I have always taken care of my teeth, but I guess age caught up with me and now I have to be even more careful, but no matter how hard I tried it could feel it coming back and didn’t like the way my mouth felt, never quite clean enough. I heard about oil pulling quite by accident. I thought it sounded kind of gross, but actually it was not as bad as I thought it would be, and during the 20 minute swishing process, I did my dishes and took a shower and before I knew it, it was over. The best part was how it made my mouth feel…really clean and after a few times my tongue looked very clean with no white film. My teeth also look amazingly shiny and whiter and I’ve only been doing it for a few weeks…I am anxious to see what the results are when I visit my dentist next time….

  7. Raini Avatar

    So what if I combined coconut oil with tooth powder to make a paste? Would that change the effectiveness of either?

  8. Greg Avatar

    Can’t wait to try oil pulling. But if the membranes in the mouth are very thin and permeable – which is why sublingual absorption of medications and hormones works so well – then wouldn’t any toxins pulled out of teeth or gums be rapidly absorbed through the thin membranes in the mouth? Sure you’re spitting the oil out after 20 minutes rather than swallowing it but isn’t sublingual absorption even greater than via the digestive tract and bound to be in an issue? Would love to hear others thoughts 🙂

    1. David Alan Avatar
      David Alan

      The reason it works so well is because of the high rate of trans-dermal absorption of the mouth – it allows the toxins to come out, using the oil as a medium for said toxins. You won’t add any toxins to your system by oil pulling, but you can certainly remove some! Catch my drift? 🙂

    1. Casey Avatar

      hi there,

      i dont think it would be a good idea to oil pull with braces, as it supposedly whitens your teeth so you dont want yellow squares on your teeth when you get them removed

      1. Nicolette Avatar

        After I had gotten my braces off they whitened my teeth for me so just contact the orthodontist and ask. But I’m sure if they see a major color change that they will probably whiten it for her.

  9. Marta Avatar

    My children and I do oil pulling with coconut oil, but my 11 year old daughter just had braces put on. I was wondering if this means she will have to stop oil pulling until she has her braces removed? Will the oil loosen the brackets or have a harmful effect on her with all that metal in her mouth?

  10. Kimberly Avatar

    I would like to try Oil pulling. Where can I buy this unrefined coconut oil? Thanks 🙂

  11. Katie Avatar

    For my own personal experience. I’ve been coconut oil pulling on and off for about a year and a half since I came across your original artical about it. I have the worst teeth ever and very weak. My mouth is full of dental work. After pregnancy, my teeth were in the worst shape yet and had 7k of work done. Sadly, no joke in that number. Yikes. Once I was done with the work I started to oil pull, I figured I had nothing to lose since I was already on every dental prescription there was. To my surprise and my dentist for the last year and a half I’ve not had one cavity and my over all mouth is so much healthier! None of my fillings are coming undone at all. I’ve not had to have any dental work since oil pulling. My teeth did not get whiter, but my teeth stay white even with coffee and tea use daily. I’ve never had bad plague build up too, I’ve just had weak teeth since I was a kid. For the first time in my life I’ve gone a year and a half without one cavity!! I oil pull on and off for 20 min. I don’t do it every day anymore like I did in the beginning, but doing it a few times a week has kept it up. Love it. Thank you so much.

    1. Lucinda Avatar

      Do you have any amalgam fillings? I have no dental insurance and my oral health is not the greatest. 🙁 I’ve read about all the benefits of oil pulling but I’ve also read you shouldn’t oil pull if you have amalgam fillings. I just want to know the experience of oil pulling from someone with amalgam fillings. Thank you.

      1. Mary Avatar

        Lucinda, Amalgams won’t be affected at all by oil pulling. This question was asked by someone on Dr Mercola’s site and he said it was perfectly safe.

  12. Jaime Avatar

    I’ve tried this a few times and I can’t seem to get past 10 minutes with it in my mouth because it fills with saliva! Ick! Is this normal? I started with 1 tsp of coconut oil and now I’m sitting here looking like a chipmunk, trying to fight the urge to spit some out. Should I just spit it out and put in another 1 tsp for another 10 minutes? I’m going to explode.

  13. Eswari Avatar

    Hi I thought I should share my experience with oil pulling. I started about 6 months ago after a really bad episode of toothache and a scary dentist visit. My ancestors – I am Indian – have been doing this for the longest time according to mum. So i tried with organic cold pressed coconut oil .Initially it was torturous as I could not pull for more than 5 minutes and now I have progressed to twenty minutes. I do it twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed time. In addition, to my whiter teeth, my once broken half tooth has regenerated … it i s so weird. My husband who poohed me then – now does oil pulling too 🙂 thank you again for your wonderful blog. Stay blessed.

  14. Regina Melvin Avatar
    Regina Melvin

    Ive tried oil pulling but have a sensitive gag reflex. I can only handle about 15-30 seconds. Any suggestions to trick the gag reflex?

    1. Sharon Lynn Avatar
      Sharon Lynn

      I read somewhere that someone put a small drop of mint flavor in it to help them with the taste. You can probably put any food flavor extract. Also someone melted the coconut oil first because the texture caused them to gag. It melts very easily.. Good luck!

      1. Pam Avatar

        I am unable to chew the hard oil I gag immediately. I decided to melt it and also added a drop of peppermint oil and I have absolutely no troubles now. Because of the gag reflex I am also only able to swish 1 TBS at a time. I try to do this once a day and I feel like it has made a tremendous difference in my oral health.

    2. Shelly Avatar

      I do too! I melted it first and was able to do the whole 20 min. Just now!

  15. Misti Avatar

    Katie, do you know if oil pulling/activated charcoal works for interior teeth stains? I just came from my dentist and I have small greenish stains near my gums and my dentist said that “there was nothing they could do”. I found that it could possibly be a result from exposure to copper, nickel, or mercury mixed with bacteria. Possibly from my drinking water? No idea, but curious to see if anyone would know if these remedies would help with interior stains before I decide on laser whitening.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Well, it does help pull out toxins, so it may help those deeper stains. It certainly could not hurt. Everyone is different, so you might give it a try for a period of time, see if you notice results, and then decide if you want to try something else. It’s so simple (and inexpensive) that it’s worth a shot.

  16. Tran Avatar

    Just started oil pulling. Coconut oil definitely better and easier than olive oil. Just after oil pulling I experienced an intense earache and headache. Coincidence? or does this mean something?

    Love your website! Thanks!

    1. Emily Avatar

      I’m no expert, but my guess is that you might be swishing with the oil a little too intensely. The very first time I started oil pulling, I went at it like a champ and swished it around rather vigorously for 10 minutes and noticed a tension in my head afterwards. Pretty much everything as far as jaw, throat, ear canals, sinus cavities, and eyes are all connected (ever notice how when you yawn and sometimes your ear pops or when you sneeze and sometimes your ear gets plugged up?) It all has to do with the pressure inside your skull, and swishing oil for 20 mins can affect the pressure. Plus, I bet the muscles in your face/jaw were just a little sore from swishing. Perhaps just be gentler the next time around.

      Hope this helps!

    2. David Alan Avatar
      David Alan

      I am going to go in a different direction with this and say that some antibodies/bacteria from your sinuses were killed off, causing a fluid imbalance or a need for your body to change the fluids therein. This might have made you feel pressure in your sinuses, leading you to feel those pains. I’d say keep it up and you may be healing something dormant you didn’t even know was there 🙂

  17. Beth Avatar

    Just a couple of questions for you: do I brush my teeth then oil pull then brush my teeth again or start my routine with oil pulling then finish with brushing my teeth?

    Also, how frequently do you recommend doing oil pulling per week?

    Thank you so much for the info!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      You would typically want to do oil pulling first, before you put anything else in your mouth. You can do it everyday (some people do it up to 3 times a day, like brushing). You can start small and work up if that seems daunting, though. Maybe do it once or twice a week at first.

      1. Trudy Avatar

        Actually Dr. Bruce Fife in his book on oil pulling recommends brushing your teeth first and then oil pull.
        Then brush your tongue with a tooth brush set aside “after oil pulling tongue brushing” and then swish your mouth with a xylitol rinse for a minute or two. You can make your own rinse by using 1/4 teaspoon of pure xylitol and about 4 oz of water. This is enough for about 3-4 rinses. Xylitol has anti-bacterial properties.

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