I Tried It: Oil Pulling


Photo by Thomas Lefebvre

I’m a huge fan of natural health and beauty products and really try to stick by the adage, ‘if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin’.

This past February, my Nutrition lecturer mentioned oil pulling and alternative dental hygiene products in one of our classes and this naturally piqued my interest. I had been thinking about this a little bit already when doing research in natural children’s toothpastes for little J, and hearing the feedback from my fellow students that had already been oil pulling for a while was very intriguing, so I decided to try it out.

I opted to use food-grade extra virgin coconut oil for my oil pulling – I figured if it was okay to eat, it would be okay to swish around my mouth.  I usually buy coconut oil from Chi, Biona, Fushi or Lucy Bee and try to pick up a few whenever I see them on sale in Whole Foods or As Nature Intended.

Oil pulling is apparently best to do in the morning, before you eat or brush your teeth, as it helps to get rid of the bad bacteria that accumulates overnight and has been shown to reduce the number of Streptococcus Mutans bacteria (the bacteria that causes decay and cavities) in the mouth, especially when done with coconut oil, which has anti-bacterial properties. I started off with a tablespoon of coconut oil. I let melt in my mouth for a minute and then swished it around gently for as long as I could manage. The first time, I could only last for ten minutes and I eventually built up to the recommended twenty minutes.

Oil pulling takes time to get used to. Over the twenty minutes, the oil liquefies in the mouth, getting bigger as saliva and mucus get added. When it got too much, I would spit a bit out, otherwise all the liquid would make me gag! When you’re done, it’s really important to spit the oil into the trash, not the sink, otherwise your pipes will get clogged!

It took about a week for me to notice results. My breath was definitely fresher throughout the day and my teeth and gums became less sensitive. But something strange happened. Parts of my teeth became whiter, while some, specifically my top four front teeth, developed a bit of staining. At first, I thought that I needed to focus more on swishing the oil around the front of my mouth, so I became more diligent about that. After a week, there was no difference.

I started to think about the things I was doing after I finished oil pulling in the morning. Drinking my usual fresh squeezed lemon juice with water, grated ginger and turmeric? That couldn’t cause any problems. Eating an omelette? Again, shouldn’t cause an issue. Drinking a cup of black coffee? Okay, that’s probably it. What I’ve since learned, is that oil pulling makes the teeth slightly more porous, which means you need to be careful about what you drink for a few hours afterwards.

Happily, my dentist was able to remove the stains after a fairly brutal clean and polish.


I am still a fan of oil pulling, but am not willing to give up coffee for it. I’ve decided to try incorporating it into my night time routine instead to see if that makes any difference at all.

Have you tried oil pulling? I would love to hear your story!

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