Learn About Oil Pulling – Fact Versus Fiction

Oil pulling - Fact versus Fiction - What is oil pulling?  What does oil pulling do?  Scientific studies that prove oil pulling works.

I’ve been oil pulling off and on now for several years.  Since a number of people have recently asked about it, and since I’ve finally found some scientific studies verifying that oil pulling works, I decided to pull together some oil pulling questions and answers.

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is the act of placing roughly a tablespoon of a good quality oil (preferably unrefined and organic) in your mouth and swishing the oil around for 15-20 minutes, forcing it back and forth through the teeth.  The oil is then spit out (DO NOT SWALLOW THE OIL), and the mouth is rinsed with water or salt water and/or the teeth are brushed.  It depends on which recommendations you follow.

Oil pulling is typically done first thing in the morning, before eating, and can be repeated up to three times per day.  If you don’t have time in the morning, you can do it at other times during the day.  You can watch an oil pulling video if you still have more questions.

Which oil should I use for oil pulling?

Sunflower, sesame and coconut are the most common, but many other oils have been used.  I prefer coconut oil.  I normally use Nutiva.  I keep a jar on my counter that I refill from my gallon container.  On Earth Clinic, contributors discuss using sesame, sunflower, olive, walnut, macadamia, coconut, Udo’s Oil, Total EFA Oil and others.  I have seen some references where people’s teeth took on a yellow tinge from using olive oil, so that probably wouldn’t be my first choice.  Oilpulling.com recommends sunflower and sesame.

Doesn’t putting a large amount of oil in your mouth make you want to gag, and doesn’t your mouth get sore from swishing?

When I first started doing this, it did feel a little weird.  I find the coconut oil easier to use than liquid oil (my coconut oil is solid or semi-solid most of the year).  I put a spoonful in my cheek and let it warm up and melt, and it gives me a minute or two to get used to that much oil in my mouth.  You can start with smaller amounts and work up to a tablespoon.

If swishing for 15-20 minutes is too much, start with 5-10 minutes and work up to a longer time period.  You don’t have swish constantly – you can take a break now and then.  Once you get used to it, it’s really not a big deal, but my cheeks were a bit sore at first.

How do you find time to do oil pulling for 20 minutes?

I usually oil pull as I am getting ready to shower and in the shower, when my kids normally give me a bit of privacy and stop asking questions for a few minutes.  They’ve gotten used to mom responding in  “mmmmm..hhmmm….hmmm…”.  (“Oh you’re oil pulling, okay.  I’ll come back in a few minutes.”)  When you’re done, spitting outside off the beaten path, in the garbage or compost is preferred.  Avoid the sink, as oil may build up over time and clog the plumbing, and do make sure you pull for the full 20 minutes so the oil is effectively pre-digested/broken down if you are going to spit in the toilet or shower.

What does oil pulling do?

To read some claims, oil pulling does everything but cook you breakfast in the morning.  Oilpulling.com lists the following conditions on their “Diseases Cured” page as most frequently responding to oil pulling:

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Back and Neck Pain
  • Bad Breath
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Constipation
  • Dental Cavities
  • Dermatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Eczema
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Mucous Congestion
  • Peptic Ulcers
  • PMS
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Bleeding Gums
  • Sinusitis
  • Tooth Abscess

They also list a slew of others that may be helped.  The Coconut Oil Research Center also endorses oil pulling.

Personally, I’ve found that it makes my teeth feel smooth and clean, and has lightened some of my teeth stains but not removed them.  (I’ve been using an herbal detox tooth powder and it stained my teeth quite a bit.)  I notice that it helps clear out sinus congestion.  After pulling for a while, the crud will literally work loose from my nose and throat area, and I can spit it all out when I spit out the oil.

Scientific Studies that Show Oil Pulling is Useful

I found several scientific studies verifying that oil pulling is helpful for oral health.  I think other claims would be very hard to measure.

Oil pulling reduces plaque and gingivitisEffect of Oil Pulling on Plaque and Gingivitis (full results) and Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study (summary)

Oil pulling can help reduce cavitiesEffect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria

Oil pulling reduces harmful bacteria in the mouthEffect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study.

Sesame and sunflower oils on their own do not fight mouth bacteria, but the action of oil pulling changes them (enzyme action and emulsification action) so that they can lift contaminants from teethMechanism of oil-pulling therapy – in vitro study.

Oil pulling with coconut oil reduces mouth bacteria

Oil pulling may also be a good way to get EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) into the body subligually (under the tongue) – Detailed discussion of this on Curezone.org

Oil Pulling for Detox? – maybe, maybe not.  I suspect more will be found to show that the detox claims have some validity.

Is Oil Pulling Dangerous?

I have read some accounts of people who have experienced mouth irritation from oil pulling.  If this happens, discontinue, try a different oil or pull less frequently.  Don’t swallow the oil, because it looks like it will be filled with dead bacteria and other things that are better out than in – not a yummy.

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  1. Melissa says

    Have you ever come across anyone whose fillings were loosened by oil-pulling? Someone on Facebook mentioned their dentist said it could happen. I asked my Ayurvedic doctor about it and she said she’d never heard of that. Hoping it’s just a myth as I love oil-pulling! Stops my mouth feeling yucky in the mornings.

    • says

      I’ve heard stories about fillings being loosened during any change in dental routine, so it’s possible, but not likely. It seems in the majority of cases, oil pulling helps to strengthen the enamel, which seems to me like it would help keep fillings in place. From personal experience, I have a mouth full of metal (from my younger years), and have been pulling off and on for a couple of years, and never had a filling come loose.

      • BT says

        Forget oil pulling; use wildflower honey instead. Taste better and does the same thing in regards to oral hygiene.

    • Alexis says

      Sounds like something a for-profit dentist would say to discourage his patients from doing anything that could hurt his sales.

  2. says

    After experiencing some health problems for the past two months related to my mouth, I discovered oil pulling as a potential therapy. I can’t say it helped for the condition I have (which remains undiagnosed and apparently quite mysterious), but I found it very relaxing and intuitively feel that it good for the body. I don’t do it often, but will continue to work with it over time! Glad you posted this! Reminded me to get back on it! :)

    • says

      Me teeth felt smoother and cleaner right away. Stains fade with multiple uses, but results are not nearly as dramatic as chemical whiteners. On the more aggressive mouth problems, I’m not sure.

      • Nancy McManus says

        I think my teeth are whiter than the OTC whiteners. Maybe not what they would be from a professional whitening, but not $600.00 either!

  3. Bri says

    I’ve just started oil pulling for the last 2weeks. Let me say that my translucent teeth have really started to remineralize. I lost a lot of enamel because of my upset stomach and burping for the last 30 years. I’m surprised that I survived. I’ve had to do a total detox by going mostly vegan. And with oil pulling my whole body is going great! My skin, hair, teeth, nails are recouping. This after listening to doctors trying to help, but they have no resources. They’ve been taught to give us a silver bullet or pills that don’t work. They don’t for the most part. If it took a long time for the sickness to overtake our immune system and has been a part of us for a long time, then it will take a long time for our bodies to completely turn around, but what a great reversal. I’m enjoying this revitalization. I’m walking on the sunny side of the street, all smiles. And I’m 60 going on 20. My breathing is better, my posture looks to be on a 20 year old. I’ve always been a nonconformist so doctors and dentists don’t love me. I have no use for them. I’m back in the race. I’m totally there. Hey. Come on life, give all you got.

  4. Jill says

    I get allergy shots every week, is it ok to do oil pulling or will it affect my shots? Ive never tryed oil pulling but i thought maybe it could help with my sinuses because i have sinus disease.

    • says

      I haven’t been able to find anything definitive on this. My gut feeling is that it shouldn’t present any problems, but if you try it, do take careful note of any differences you feel when you include oil pulling in your routine – for better or worse. You may also wish to consult your doctor (although it’s been my experience that not too many are familiar with oil pulling in any fashion).

    • Amanda Y says

      My husband has been on allergy shots almost 2 years and oil pulling for at least 1 year pretty consistently, no issues for him, so that’s just one case, but thought I’d share even though everyone may be different!

  5. Alexis says

    I am already sold on coconut oil, so I will add this to the many things I use it for now. I’ve swallowed it, so swishing it isn’t a problem. I’ve got it in right now, will update later after I’ve done it for awhile. So glad I found this through Pinterest. Thank you!

  6. sarah says

    I doubt swallowing it can do any harm, bacteria have a harder time in stomach acid than in your mouth or sinuses, but it would feel gross going down.

    • David says

      The only credible evidence I’ve seen supporting the notion that swallowing FOOD that has been swished on your mouth can be harmful is the report of a woman who aspirated pulled oil when attempting to swallow it. This may come as a shock, but that is a risk associated with aspirating *anything*. Don’t aspirate your food, kids, it could be fatal whether you swished it in your mouth or not.

      As for the notion that pulled oil contains mysterious “toxins” magically extracted from the body through the mouth, what a bunch of malarkey. Any and all systemic benefits associated with oil pulling are attributable to the benefits gleaned from improved oral hygiene – there is no mystical “detoxification” here, just the physical removal of oral bacteria and parasites. I would think it obvious that any of these which has taken up residence in the mouth *already* exists in the gastrointestinal tract *if* they are able to survive there, and an influx carried in by oil that has antibacterial properties in its own right is not going to make an impact in that inhospitable environment (though if one were concerned about it, walnut hull extract + wormwood tea + fresh ground cloves will make more of a positive impact than spitting food in the trash).

      • says

        So, if I’m understanding you correctly, then the coconut oil, honey and oatmeal I use to clean my face should be scraped off and eaten for breakfast, rather than washed down the drain, because it’s “good food”. I know when I oil pull that I remove plaque, and sometimes have a significant amount of sinus drainage. I think I’ll skip chowing down on that, but you and others are certainly welcome to do as you see fit.

    • Donna says

      I’ve used both coconut oil solid form and liquid as well as the seasame. It is much easier if you start with the liquid form. When I started with the solid, I had a much harder time and felt like it was a lot, but when it was the liquid, MUCH easier.

  7. Donna says

    I have found that oil pulling while showering is the easiest and best way for me. The time goes by much easier as well as killing 2 birds with one stone time wise.

  8. Betsy says

    Thanks so much for an informative article – I have had great success with oil pulling – my gums were not good – I use coconut oil and I try to check with hubby to see if he needs anything before I oil pull – I easily worked up to 20 minutes – I also do it while I am getting ready for the day.

  9. maureen joseph says

    Hello, I’ve been reading some of the amazing results people have been getting with oilpulling. I recently discovered oilpulling, on another website and decided to give it a go, plus I’ve seen videos on YouTube. I couldn’t find sesame oil but sunflower oil was the alternative from the info I got. I’ve swished once for 20mins, which was no problem, but while swishing, the right side of my throat started to feel sore. I didn’t feel well afterwards, I didn’t want to eat and havn’t, I felt cold and I have a headache. In one of the videos I watched, the lady said this would happen, but I didn’t think it would happen straight away. Is this normal? I don’t want to stop this technique, as I feel it is the natural solution to solving my body problems. I’m going through the menopause.

    • says

      If possible, I’d consult a natural practitioner. You may want to try a different oil, such as coconut, and a shorter time period (say ten minutes) to start. I’ve never had those sort of symptoms.

  10. Bill says

    I know that loose fillings have been discussed above. But I’ve wondered if Oil Pulling could cause the mercury in fillings to leach out?

    • says

      There’s some disagreement on this. Some sources say yes, some say no. The action of chewing puts pressure on the tooth, and that’s not happening here, but the fluid is actively moving around the tooth. Since you spit out the oil, I would think that any mercury that leaches out of the amalgam would be spat out with the oil. I do know that significant amounts of gum chewing are not recommend for people with amalgams, because you chew and swallow (saliva) with no real food in place to buffer the teeth.

  11. sarah fripp says

    Have you read anything about oil pulling with coconut oil while having amalgam fillings? I thought I read somewhere that it isn’t good and I’m wondering if you heard the same?

  12. says

    I was checking out this post earlier this week and now coming back to visit it again. I just started oil pulling and your article was so helpful getting started! Thanks for compiling all the information into one spot. You’re the best!!

  13. Erin says

    My boyfriend and I just started oil pulling today. We both have dental problems but he has terribly bleeding gums and he noticed a big difference in just one day! I can’t wait to see the results after a few weeks!

    • says

      That’s wonderful! Thanks so much for letting me know. Sensitive gums are common with thyroid issues (which I have) and I know oil pulling is a big help to me if my gums start acting up.

  14. Amanda says

    Ever since I got pregnant with my first child my teeth have went down hill. I want to start the oil pulling but how many times a day do you do it?And am I suppose to stop brushing my teeth all together?

    • says

      Don’t quit brushing. Try it a few times a week and see how you feel, then try it more or less frequently based on your reaction. I’d also highly recommend the book “Deep Nutrition“, given that you mentioned health problems associated with getting pregnant.

  15. Pam says

    I think the whole point of oil pulling is to remove toxins from your body – if you swallow it, that would just be reintroducing the toxins. I follow advice from other sources that say to spit it in the trash – that way you are not introducing the toxins into the water supply, or clogging up any pipes.

    • David says

      That’s not “the whole point of oil pulling”, it’s just unfounded mysticism with no basis in fact. The “point” is oral hygiene, a benefit with credible evidence to support it. Ludicrous claims of “whole body detoxification” should be put in the category of “snake oil pulling”.

      • Rhonda says

        David, there is evidence to support detoxing. Not just oral health. So those of you that have sinusitis and other health issues, pull away!

  16. Terry says

    Hey – thanks for the information. I just started this week and feel amazing. I have Sjogren’s Syndrome which is dry eyes and dry mouth – and any other moist areas. Recently diagnosed with several additional issues that go along as well. Dental health is a huge issue. But got immediate relief on the dry mouth deal at first rinse and brush. Discovered a few months ago I am allergic to toothpaste and some really nasty stuff recurring in my mouth tongue gums and lips cleared immediately when I stopped using regular toothpaste. But the dry mouth thing is awful. Plan to contact my rheumatologist to let him know about this!

  17. Beverly Thompson says

    I oil pull every morning. Oil pulling makes my teeth and mouth feel cleaner and I feel it is beneficial for overall health. Have a lot of fillings from my childhood, but have had no problems with oil pulling. Did have a hard time oil pulling until I found an oil I could tolerate so don’t be afraid to try different oils. To my oil for pulling, I add a drop of peppermint essential oil for added benefits. I do brush afterwards with a natural toothpaste. Please be aware of the ingredient list on your toothpaste. Note that most toothpastes say call poison control if swallowed – which is usually due to the fluoride, but many of the other ingredients are not something I want in my mouth or body. Wanted to share that there is a free app called Skin Deep that lists ingredients that have use restrictions for many personal care products. Thanks for sharing the great information in your oil pulling article.

    • says

      Another strange ingredient that has ended up in some toothpastes are plastic microbeads, which dental hygienists are now finding imbedded at the gumline. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  18. Amber says

    Hello! Just read all this about oil pulling. I was wondering if it helps your enemal and can I do oil pulling with braces? I just got them and it takes a lot of time cleaning them, so I thought I could do pulling to help a bit. Thank u(:

    • says

      It should be safe, but make sure to check with your dentist, just in case there might be any reason to avoid it. Depending on the length of time your braces are on, regular pulling might make the exposed enamel a lighter shade than the covered enamel.

      To strengthen teeth bone broth is a great mix of readily available minerals and gelatin. You may also try a remineralizing tooth powder or paste for surface treatment. The book “Cure Tooth Decay” gives a comprehensive explanation on how to strengthen and rebuild teeth.

  19. Samantha says

    Pulling for the first time right now. I have been swallowing it for digestion issues for the past year and have fallen in love with coconut oil (unrefined and virgin) with all its great uses who wouldn’t love this stuff.

  20. Mailisha says

    This may sound like a silly question, but I would prefer to do this at night. Is there any problem with me doing this just before bed instead of in the AM?

    • says

      Wellness Mama did some research on oil pulling during pregnancy, and this is what she came up with:

      I asked a midwife and she said that it is generally considered safe for pregnant women, especially after the first trimester. Oral health is especially important during pregnancy so I’ve always been glad to have an extra way to keep my teeth and gums healthy while pregnant. (Purely anecdotal- I haven’t had a cavity, even while pregnant, since I started oil pulling and my oral health routine). As with anything, check with a doctor or midwife before doing oil pulling, especially if pregnant.

  21. says

    Really great information. Thank you for putting together a credible post on it! I oil pulled a few years back and then for some reason stopped….I have no idea why. Anyway, I was looking back into the health benefits and came across your page

  22. says

    Laurie, I love how you say self-sustainability is just about making common sense choices to improve your life. Amen, sister! I have been wanting to try oil pulling for a while and now I think I finally will because of this great post. Thank you for sharing, cheers!

  23. Angie says

    Shortly before Easter, my teeth started acting up because of receeding gums. I had no idea when I would find the time to go my dentist before the long easter weekend. So I tried oil pulling for the first time. Olive oil. And againg the next morning. And lookie, I could bite down on my food again without pain. As soon as the stores re-opened after the holidays I switched over to coconut oil. The taste of olive oil, even with a few drops of essential sage oil was just too much first thing in the morning ( I have to wake up at 4:30am). On work days, I additionally rinse my mouth with water and a drop of peppermint oil. For the freshness. Other than that, I brush my teeth with plain water spitting everything out several times in the process. Don’t think I’ll be needing my dentist anytime soon!

  24. Caramello says

    I have been oil pulling for about 12 months, rotating between coconut oil and sesame oil.

    As a child of the 60s/70s, I have extensive dental work and I am passionate about preserving my teeth and preventing any further major dental work, fillings etc. I ditched the fluoride toothpaste and commercial mouthwash (much to my family’s horror!) in favour of mineral/herbal/essential oil toothpaste and mouthwash. I upped my vitamin c intake, mixed Aloe Vera or apple cider vinegar in my drinking water in the mornings. As well, I rinsed with warm salty water after oil pulling and used a homeopathic gum health spray at night.

    So after actively pursuing improved dental health, I had to face my fear of actually going to the dentist…. I have a crown which my previous dentist wanted to replace with an implant as she believed it was ‘unstable and not likely to last too long’. I asked around for a potential new dentist amongst friends and work colleagues and after much procrastinating, made an appointment.

    I was so nervous and my imagination was running wild with worst case scenarios. It had been 3 years since my last dental checkup – but I only confessed to 15 months… Bottom line, I had virtually no plaque, my so-called ‘unstable’ crown turns out to be secure and healthy on X-ray, he said my gums were exceptional and teeth were in good shape.

    I was so happy and pleased with my checkup. I know for sure that the combo of oil pulling and stopping the popular fluoride based products brought back my oral health – despite other people’s fears!

    It was important for me to face my fear of the dentist and it is even better because I proved that natural therapies are so much more effective and healing than the mainstream products. I turned my dental health around – you can too!

  25. Jim Rose says

    Hi Laurie,
    Excellent article and it certainly stirred a lot of interest – your community is something I aspire to, but have yet to start encouraging. The earlier reports on oil pulling from Russia described Herxheimer reactions, presumably as the toxic load was reduced enough to allow the natural detoxification of the body to kick in. I find that a teaspoon (5ml) is plenty – by the time one gets to the 20 minute mark one’s mouth is full anyway with the emulsified oil.
    Best wishes

  26. Theresa Hayes says

    I have been oil pulling every day for two weeks with unrefined organic coconut oil. I do it first thing in the morning for 20 minutes, as recommended. My question is, how long does it usually take for plaque build up to be reduced. I notice that every time I oil pull, I still have a lot of plaque on my teeth and still need to brush. I’ve had different sources say that with the oil pulling, brushing shouldn’t be necessary. I have been brushing mainly to get rid of the plaque, which makes it hard for me to judge if the oil pulling is actually making a difference. Has anyone else had this problem?

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