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.


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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. Sudha Avatar

    Hello Katie,
    I recently read all of your blog and all of the comments about Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil. Today, my first day at OP, I did it twice, but could only manage for 4 minutes each time. The first time after I had spat out the swished oil, I immediately felt extreme stomach full and bloating feeling,(I had had a light lunch 1 hour before). Then after another one hour, I got severe and continual belching. Could these be attributed as side effects of the coconut oil pulling, or due to something else, as I have severe gastrointestinal problems also. And in the second time after OP, with coconut oil, after I had spat it out, I immediately on reflex action swallowed a minute quantity of saliva mixed with the swished oil residue. I felt terrible in my stomach afterwards. My doubt is could I have swallowed back into my stomach some of the harmful toxic bacteria which were pulled out in the swishing? Or could it cause me Lipoid Pneumonia, as I have read elsewhere that swallowing some of the swished oil can cause one Lipoid Pneumonia? Please please reply to my doubts, as I am very scared and worried about this, but on the other hand, I very much want to continue with oil pulling also on a daily basis. Also, I have very sensitive teeth and gums, could OP worsen the teeth sensitivity and gums sensitivity? Or should I do OP only every other day, and for lesser time say 10 or 15 minutes only? Thank you very much for your wonderful advice and suggestions in advance.

  2. Tess Avatar

    I have been oil pulling regularly for over a year with organic coconut oil. I have always been diligent with oral hygiene but despite my best efforts my gums would bleed, especially when being cleaned at the dentist. Oil pulling has made a huge difference. Rarely any bleeding of the gums when I brush and now when I have my teeth cleaned at the dentist the bleeding is minimal. My fillings are perfectly fine as well

  3. Rae Garcia Avatar
    Rae Garcia

    Hi, I’ve tried to oil pull by using coconut. I recently back in December had to have root canal done and then I had a crown put on the same tooth. So I know what the pain feels like. So recently 4 months later I had gotten tooth discomfort and I thought oh no, not again. So I recently read about oil pulling. I decided to try it. Well I’ve been doing it for the last two weeks and I haven’t had any discomfort. So all I have to say is it’s working for me. Thank you coconut oil.

  4. Jean Avatar

    Get organic unrefined coconut oil. I get mine at Costco in a big jar but you can also get it at Trader Joe’s in a pint jar. Lots of other places sell it and any brand as long as it’s organic and unrefined will be good.

  5. Stephanie Avatar

    Can you recommend a brand name to get, I just a little confused to what I should be getting to use. I found Coconut Premium oil that say on bottle great for cooking but wasn’t sure if this was the right kind to use. The brand is Nature’s Way brought at Krogers.


  6. Sara Avatar

    Is coconut oil acidic since it’s lauric acid? Aren’t acids bad for tooth enamel? I’m genuinely curious about it but I can’t find any info on the ph level of coconut oil. Do you know? Thank you.

  7. Nicole Avatar

    I wonder if we are to swish coconut oil in our mouth for 20 minutes, as it’s written, or only for 20 seconds? I’m opting for 20 seconds!!

  8. Jen Avatar

    Hi! Do you do oil pulling first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening before you sleep?

  9. Kate Avatar

    This seems to be working for me to control the plaque that I constantly fight even with 2 x a day brushing with my electric TBrush, rinses before and after, water pic at bedtime and frequent flossing…I was always aware of the plaque reforming within hours. When I started with the simple 1-2 tsp of coconut oil. I just spoon it out and start chewing until it liquefies – in only a few seconds, then start swishing while I go about doing other things that doesn’t involve talking. I actually enjoy the warm, toasty coconut aftertaste, and regret that I have to rinse and brush afterwards. Well the grittiness has gone away and my teeth actually feel polished. There has been minimal research on this process with coconut oil, but it makes sense to me that the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects with the “pulling” technique and when the chemical components and reactions are broken down and explained…even the “saponification” (alkali plus oil make soap) part . The benefits from the high % of lauric acid, which is also unique to human breast milk, make sense to me too….I still haven’t fully convinced my dentist. He’s happy as long as I still perform my brushing, flossing routines.

  10. Haley Avatar

    Do you think it would remove a stain I have from a filling a few years ago? It’s definitely a stain it was there the day I got the filling. I feel like it’s more noticeable now (or it’s just bothering me seeing it more) it’s a little dark speck.

    1. Pete Avatar

      I can’t comment on oil pulling as it doesn’t currently work for me, but I have filling stains too. Although I didn’t notice until my dentist had to change my filling and I opted for a composite filling instead of zinc. She then told me unfortunately the zinc can leech into tooth enamel. So it is ‘normal’ to an extent.

      There are many commentators online claiming oil pulling can remineralise teeth, remove plaque/tartar, etc. So who knows if it may work for you or anyone else. You have to remember its not an exact science.

      There are other routines in my daily regime that are just as subjective, but are actually effective. You don’t really know until you try. So if you’re really bothered by the filling stain, give oil pulling a go for a few months (unless you’re allergic to coconuts/sesame?). It doesn’t cost much, and it doesn’t take up much time.

      Good luck!

  11. Melinda Avatar

    How often should oil pulling be done? Once a week, a few times a week, once a month?

  12. Alex Avatar

    Hello, I’d like to know where you get those small glass jars with the wooden lids! They look amazing and a great way to have a smaller ecological footprint since I try to stay away from plastic. Thanks!

  13. Pete Avatar

    Hi Katie

    I prefer to PM if possible please as actually I did type out a response which caused an error as it was too long. If I try to edit it, it won’t be as good or detailed with regards to my Daily Routine. I just wanted your opinion where I could make improvements.

    Although I read about your Daily Routine with great interest. I’m curious about the Broth (probably would try packet first), but the Marine Phytoplankton sounds incredible, almost too good to be true. Has it made a difference to you/family? Could that be the missing link for me? If I used Marine Phytoplankton could it potentially replace some of my Daily Routine or supplement it (you’ll be better informed when/if we PM)?

    Many thanks.

  14. Pete Avatar

    Hi Wellness Mama

    Hope you’re OK.

    I’ve oil pulled with sesame oil, but mainly coconut oil for about six months last year (20 minutes in the morning), and for about four months just with coconut oil this year and still going.

    I just don’t get though. Its all over the internet how fantastic it is; remineralisation of teeth, plaque/tartar removal, healthier gums, a brighter smile. But it doesn’t work for me at all.

    I can go in to more detail if you’re able to PM me?

    Thank you.

      1. Pete Avatar

        Hi Katie and all

        Thanks for pointing me to your diet link. Its been almost three months since my last post, and during that time I’ve been consuming 230ml-250ml Chicken Bone Broth (its quite gelatinous, and delicious) on most days. I’ve noticed small changes, but its not helped my daily coconut oil pulling (its almost seven months) at all as I’m still unaffected.

        I also took a look at Marine Phytoplankton, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the whole industry looks rather shady and seems only intent on the exploitation of people hopes and wallets.

        I’ve been using Magnesium Oil (which has worked wonders for me) for about 18 months, and about the same time since I switched to using just Oliva Soap to brush my teeth.

        I don’t intend to give up any of my routines quite yet, but can’t help feeling frustrated about my teeth.

        Your help and guidance is appreciated.

        Thank you.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I would think so but check with your orthodontist first. Remember that coconut oil can whiten teeth, so you may want to be aware of potential marks on the teeth once braces are removed.

  15. Constance Avatar

    I was not sure that I could do it for 20 minutes. However, I started looking at Pinterest sites and find that the time just flys.

  16. Jean Chambers Avatar
    Jean Chambers

    I’ve been oil pulling regularly for several years and I don’t have any sensitivity. My teeth and gums are healthy. No cavities or problems.

  17. Rhonda Avatar

    Hello Wellness Mama, can you please address the sensitivity issue? I have read every blog and didn’t come any replies.
    If oil pulling causes sensitivity, is it better to discontinue pulling?

  18. Thia Avatar

    I think this oil pulling is helping me get rid of an infection down by the roots of a molar! My Dentist was thinking he’d have to go in there to try to get rid of the infection, but I was going out of the country for three weeks. I’m so glad, it’s given me time to try this other way and, really excited to get back and show that Dentist!!!

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