Oil Pulling

In the past month or so, I’ve been asked so many times if I “do oil pulling.” For those who don’t know, oil pulling is putting up to 1 T of a healthy oil (extra virgin cold pressed coconut, sunflower, or olive oil) in your mouth and swishing for 30 minutes. You can’t swallow it, you just swish, and then spit it out in the trash can. For 30 minutes. Good times.

Oil pulling has been around for thousands of years, but oddly has become the latest fad largely in part to a blog post that recently made the viral rounds. At least I believe that’s what triggered multiple people asking me if I do it. Written by a seemingly young girl, she spoke of leisurely mornings cuddled in bed watching TV with her dog while she swishes coconut oil in her mouth for 30 minutes. Um, what? In what universe is that a doable morning for someone with a job, children, school, responsibilities, or all of the above, is way beyond me. Please teach me how that could be my morning! Will I also get a maid, a 24/7 on-call nanny, a pool boy, and a personal trainer who comes to the 1200 sq ft gym in my house too?! But once you get past that unrealistic depiction of a morning, just the daunting thought of 30 minutes of not being able to talk, swallow, or even smile is insane to me. Maybe I talk to my family, sing, and smile too much?

Sarcasm aside, the theory behind oil pulling is intriguing. It makes sense to me that this ancient Ayurvedic remedy can be beneficial to your oral health by loosening bacteria, plaque, and other ickies from your mouth as you swish. According to Food Matters, other possible benefits to oil pulling include:

  • Overall strengthening of the teeth and gums and jaws
  • Prevention of diseases of the gums and mouth, such as cavities and gingivitis
  • Prevention for bad breath
  • Potential holistic remedy for bleeding gums
  • Prevention of dryness of the lips, mouth and throat
  • Possible holistic treatment for TMJ and general soreness in the jaw area

These all seem like very reasonable benefits to oil pulling. But other unreputable sources (that I refuse to link to), are making wild claims that oil pulling is a body detox, answer to all your medical woes, and all you need for good oral health. Oil pulling being a replacement for a toothbrush? Not sold. Curing hangovers? Uh, nice try. Preventing allergies? Show me the scientific data that you conveniently omitted. Being a detoxification for weight loss? DEFINITELY not sold. (…trying really hard not to go on a tangent about why body detoxes—particularly in the form of pills, special drinks, or those stupid wraps—are all marketing BS…it’s called your liver.)

I have tried oil pulling with coconut oil three times now. The first time, a few weeks ago, now makes for a humorous story complete with accidental swallowing of “germy” oil, mime-like dramatics in an effort to silently discipline my son, and eventual giving up at the 15 minute mark. I thought I’d never do it again, but then I read one of my favorite blogs, Mama Natural. She’s a real adult with 2 kids, including a 4 month old just like me, so I put way more clout into her posts and recommendations than one post wonder, Suzie McLeisurelife. Mama Natural said that she swishes while she prepares breakfast and makes lunch for her husband and son. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes of swishing, sometimes it’s not. She also recommended building up to 25 minutes in 5-10 minute increments, instead of launching straight into it like a masochist. Or breaking it up into a morning session of 15 minutes, and a nighttime session of 15 minutes. This I could do! So the past two times, I have swished for about 10 minutes while I make breakfast. This still puts me in some awkward moments since my 4 year old asks about 60 questions PER MINUTE and repeats it again and again until he gets an answer, but overall, I’ve had more success with this method.

So in response to the “do you do oil pulling?” question: Kind of, but I don’t think it will ever become a daily thing for me. And it certainly won’t replace my toothbrush as there’s a reason people’s teeth used to fall out and now they don’t. But I love holistic remedies, I LOVE coconut oil, and we don’t have dental insurance in this season of our life, so I’ll do whatever I can to maintain my pearly whites!

What are your thoughts on oil pulling? Have you tried it? And more importantly, what the heck do you do during those 30 minutes? 


Meridith Oram
Meridith Oram is an ACE-Certified Health Coach at Love Yourself Towards Healthy where she helps chronic dieters heal their relationship with food, fitness and body image. She is also the creator of Gain Wellness, a 5-week behavioral change program to unlearn diet culture, stop negative self-talk and set wellness goals---not appearance goals. Follow Meridith at @loveyourself2healthy on all social channels.
  • Jhoei

    I never heard about oil pulling before and I never knew that swishing virgin oil in one’s mouth will be beneficial to our gums and teeth. This is indeed informative.

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