Oil Pulling — 6 Years Later

In 2014 I randomly happened upon the practice of oil-pulling. I was curious about it and gave it a try. Turns out I liked it so much I wrote a blog post about it. Four months later, I was still oil-pulling daily, and I wrote an update about it.

Fast forward to today, six and half years since I first wrote about it, and oil-pulling is still a part of my life. So I thought you might like another update.

For many readers, when I wrote about oil-pulling in 2014, it was a new idea for them — just as it had been for me. If you haven’t heard of it, no worries. Here’s a quick introduction:

Oil pulling is a health practice where you put a spoonful of oil in your mouth and swish it through your teeth for 20 minutes. You can use any type of vegetable oil, but coconut oil seems to be the most popular. (With coconut oil, it’s solid when you put it in your mouth, so you have to wait a bit until it melts before you can start swishing.) How much oil? It’s recommended that you start with a couple of teaspoons, and work up to as much as 3 tablespoons. That seems like way too much in my experience — one tablespoon is typical for me.

Apparently, oil pulling itself goes back a few thousand years and has its origins in Ayurvedic medicine in India. Oil pulling books explain that ancient Ayurvedic medical texts outlined this practice, and the practitioners found that the process was good for cleaning the mouth, and improved other health conditions as well. The newest research around oil pulling seems to be focused on the idea that the health of your mouth is a mirror to the health of your body.

If you’d like to know more, there’s a book called Oil Pulling Therapy that has a ton of reviews, and reading the reviews will give you sense of how different people respond to oil-pulling. (The kindle version of the book is only $7 at the moment if you’re curious and want to read it.) That book is from 2008, but there are a few more recent books on oil pulling if you want to check them out — here’s one that is currently 99 cents on kindle.

I can tell oil-pulling has become at least a bit trendy in the last six years, because today, if you do a search for “oil-pulling” on Amazon, dozens and dozens of products come up. But in 2014, the same search only brought up one book and zero products. Hah!

Anytime I do any research into oil-pulling, I find myself getting a bit irritated, because loads of oil-pulling health claims are made, and many people making those claims make no attempt at actually backing them up with data.

So for me, I’ve just relied on my own experience. I enjoy oil-pulling. I like how my mouth feels when I’m oil-pulling daily. My teeth look whiter to me. My gums are pink and healthy. When I don’t get enough sleep for a couple of nights in a row, I tend to get a sore throat. But if I oil pull at the first sign of throat soreness, it will go away. I don’t get canker sores when I’m oil pulling. I’m prone to plaque buildup at my gum-line, but not when I’m oil pulling. And my teeth sensitivity, which started during pregnancy and was still intense years after my last pregnancy, entirely went away after oil-pulling therapy.

I have no data to share on any of that. And I understand that all of those benefits could be unrelated to the oil-pulling. I realize that all of the benefits might just be in my imagination. That’s fine with me. I know oil-pulling is not hurting me, and if I’m only imagining the benefits? So what? They sure seem real enough to me. When I think of self-care, oil pulling is definitely one of the things that makes me feel like I’m taking time to care for myself.

I’ve said this in earlier posts about oil-pulling, but I want to reiterate: I have zero interest in getting you to oil pull. I receive no benefits if you decide to try it or not try it. So why am I writing this? Well, I get questions about oil-pulling pretty regularly, so I’m hoping that sharing my experience with the practice might be beneficial to anyone who’s curious about it.

When I first started oil-pulling, back in 2014, I approached it as replacement for my then mouth-cleaning process. But over the years, it’s become more of a supplement than a replacement. I might oil-pull in the morning, then brush with water at night. But if I’m traveling, I might skip it and just do typical toothbrush-toothpaste-floss.

For me, so much comes down to time and daily routines. When I have a routine that accommodates oil-pulling easily, then I oil-pull daily. When there’s a change in my routine, and 20 minutes isn’t workable, then oil-pulling becomes something I do for a week or so here and there — especially when I feel like I might be getting sick.

I noticed that during quarantine, which happened right after Alt Summit, when my schedule calmed way down, I oil-pulled daily. It had been awhile since I had made it a daily practice and it was nice to be reminded how much I like it. I think it also felt like one other positive action I could take when so many things felt out of control.

Your turn. Have you ever tried oil-pulling? If yes, did you like it? Do you have a preference for type of oil? Amount of oil? Amount of time swishing? Did you try the practice long enough to observe any benefits? Or does the whole thing seem like a big waste of time to you? I’d love to hear.

37 thoughts on “Oil Pulling — 6 Years Later”

  1. I find it interesting and I’ve tried it one time….it felt awkward and a wee bit gross….and then I promptly forgot about it. I absolutely realize that it would take some getting used to! I think if I were having mouth issues it would be a good thing to try, but because all is well, orally speaking, I might not? But what the heck. Hang on. OK. There’s a fat spoonful of melting coconut oil in my mouth right now. Will report back. ;)

    1. oh. my. stars. The phone rang, the UPS man came, and my middle child wanted advice on his resume. I see the value of doing it in the shower as mentioned in the below comment, but think I’ll pass. But thanks for a little morning comedy!

      1. I started when you first posted this years ago. I pulled daily for a few months and had the first checkup in my life with no cavities!!!!! I’m 67.
        I wept in my car afterwards. We have spent many thousands on my teeth. I have had one cavity in 6 years and that was because I got lazy and stopped for awhile. I have proved the method for myself and tell everyone ! I wish I’d known 30 years ago.

  2. I was just wondering if you were still oil pulling. I also do it. I swish during my morning shower, and use the brush/floss at night before bed. It feels like a really great combo for me. I have receding gums and this has helped tremendously with sensitivity!

  3. This post is certainly timely! As I was oil-pulling yesterday, I thought of you and wondered if you were still doing it. Ha!

    I have noticed all the same benefits you report. I oil-pull probably three times a week these days.

  4. I love oil pulling and have been doing it off and on for years. I actually find it helps when cavities are starting or I have a sensitive spot on my teeth. I work in a remote area of Africa and can’t get to the dentist easily for years at a time. I have found oil pulling keeps me mostly plaque free, pretty white teeth and when I got a chipped tooth or lost a filling, it kept the pain at bay until I could get proper care. Thank you for sharing!! I was interested in this post immediately when I saw the title as I remember you mentioning it years ago.

  5. I remember reading your original post, started oil pulling, and last year made my own toothpaste with charcoal + coconut oil that feels good in a similar way. That and flossing as much as possible help me feel like I have clean, healthy teeth and gums. Love having an update! Thank you so much for sharing cool ideas like this.

  6. Thanks for the reminder! I tried oil pulling several years ago, liked it, but it did not fit into my schedule, so it fell by the wayside. Now is the perfect time to start again!

    1. Just came here to say the same, I just couldn’t make it work before. Now I’m home alone, at my computer desk for 8 hours a day – I could totally try it again! I have kind of terrible teeth, sensitive, prone to bleeding (gums) and plaque and I hate flossing. I feel like, how could it hurt?

  7. I, too, was wondering about your oil pulling regimen from years ago. I tried it then but my mouth muscles were too sore And I gave up after a few days. There was no way I could manage 20 minutes a day. Did you start out with less time?

    1. I almost never make is for 20 minutes, usually about 10 but sometimes even less. I still feel like its beneficial though.

  8. The coconut oil lives next to the coffee so it’s super easy to do while I wait for the espresso maker to heat up. I started doing it when you first reported on it and have done it on and off since then, finding all the same benefits that you describe. I live in a horrible climate so I find it especially benefial during the winter.

  9. I am a dental hygienist and have tried to read scientific articles about oil pulling. There aren’t many out there but the ones I’ve read have mixed results. Benefits that I felt were pretty valid from what I could find in scientific publications are improved oral muscle tone and possible reduction in bacteria similar to to what you would see in someone swishing with antibacterial mouthwash (the case study was small). What I say to my patients who have asked me about it is similar to what you said, “If you like it and it makes you feel good do it, just don’t neglect brushing and flossing.”
    You’re comment about help with sensitivity is interesting but knowing how the mechanics of sensitivity toothpaste works I can see how 20 minutes of oil pulling could help too.

  10. Susan Magnolia

    I just bought a new jar of coconut oil so I would remember to do it more often. I really like the positive effects: cleaner feeling mouth, healthier gums, no tooth pain. I am in my forties but finally getting wisdom teeth and cannot visit a dentist because of the pandemic. I figured swishing would really help right now. I do oil pulling in the morning and brush with toothpaste at night. I personally love doing it but completely forget most days.

  11. I’ve got intrigue in oil pulling by your post years ago. I’ve tried it and like it, but 20 min would not always work for me. and I would do it more often in the evening. I’ve tried cocconut oil and sesam oil (nice aftertaste). Thanks for your update, I was wondering if you were still doing it as well ;)

  12. Silly question: I want to try this but I’m not sure what to buy – is there a preferred brand of coconut oil for oil pulling?

  13. Marianne Molendy Feller

    What have your dentists/dental hygienist say after you have been oil pulling for a period of time? Do they notice any changes in your dental health?

  14. I have also done it on and off since you first posted about it and love the results! My dentist thinks it’s a great practice, too.

  15. I noticed improvement with teeth sensitivity too! I have some exposed roots and it’s miraculous how after swishing two days in a row the sensitivity is gone for me.

    I’m interested to know where you spit – My bathroom garbage gets tipped over frequently so I was spitting into a jar under the sink for a while… I’d love to know what solutions others have!

    1. I buy $ store $1.25 small zip lock sandwich bags and keep them in the bathroom. I spit oil in one, zip it up, and throw away in the trash. My store sells the 13-16 bags per box.

  16. Kate the Great

    I tried oil pulling when I read your very first post about it. I can’t remember why I stopped. I probably couldn’t find any good coconut oil in the stores. Or maybe I travelled and didn’t want to take my jar with me, and then fell out of the habit.

  17. My mom who is a Ayurveda specialist did pull oil for years.
    She stopped when she noticed that the whole procedure was like bodybuilding for jaw muscles – her mouth and jawline together with the typical facial wrinkles got more pronounced.
    The daily oil will also clog the pipes of your house, no kidding. It’s a big issue where to get rid of the used oil.

    1. I spit in the kitchen garbage. I hold the oil in my mouth and move it around occasionally. I can’t imagine why anyone would get muscle problems. I no longer get cavities. So worth the effort.

  18. Great timing! I’ve been oil pulling since you posted about it six years ago. Just last week I was wondering if you still do it and was going to reach out to you about it, and now here you posted about it. :)

    I get all the same benefits you describe and it’s become such a part of my daily routine that I miss it if I don’t do it, such as when I’m on vacation.

  19. My gosh thank you for sharing! Ever since my second baby I cannot get rid of this taste in my mouth (dentist and doctor checked out – not thrush or anything else) and only probiotics seems to help (and marginally at that). I did oil pulling this weekend and OMG! It isn’t gone but it is SO much better. The shower tip was perfect too!

  20. I should also mention… it’s especially important to do this if you have crowns because bacteria gets up and under the gums easily. I melt any old coconut oil for a few seconds in the microwave in a glass baby food jar I use just for this then hold in my mouth for 20 minutes with a few swishes in between. Spit out in garbage can. Just never never swallow it. The bacteria will make you sick.

  21. SusaninPeckham

    I tried oil pulling when you first posted (good heavens can it really be six years!) and have been pretty steady since. I take a scant tablespoon before I step in the shower and swish until I am dressed and go down to the kitchen (where I spit in the kitchen bin). Of the ~15-20 minutes it’s in my mouth I am actively swishing perhaps half that….with some half hearted swishing (:
    My dentist has told me my mouth hygiene is excellent and I really do think my teeth are whiter when I’m swishing every day.
    I brush with commercial toothpaste and swish with mouth wash every evening but really I’m a very lax flosser. ):
    Thanks so much for introducing me to oil pulling all those years ago!

  22. I’ve been oil pulling since 2013! I do it only in the AM while I shower/hair/makeup. I brush at night with Hello paste and a Sonicare.
    I will say, I already had very good oral hygiene, floss every night, only one cavity, etc. If you have serious oral issues, it won’t resolve that.
    Pulling has reduced my plaque and eased a lot of sensitivity.

  23. I did an off and on for several years when you first posted about it, and I loved how it made my mouth feel. I picked it up again in the last few weeks and noticed that the process seems to work some of the same muscles in my neck that appear to be sagging these days. So I’m wondering if it will help with muscle tone and sagging skin in my face, which would be a great side benefit. Definitely going to dedicate more time to the practice.

  24. I read your post in 2014 and planned to give it a try…I finally started a few months ago. I had my dental cleaning and was told there was a cavity forming but if I flossed religiously it would clear up. So I’ve been oil pulling every morning and flossing at night (also I brush) and I’ve loved it. Mainly because it gives me the opportunity to spend some time with myself before I leave my bedroom and start focusing on everyone else. I’m also looking forward to the feedback at my next drntal cleaning. I think I’ll stick with it even if there’s no notable change as far as the dentist is concerned just because it feels good.

  25. I’ve been oil pulling about the same amount of time as you, but I do it after I brush my teeth in the shower ( for no set amount of time, mostly probably 5 minutes). FYI, if you ever have bad/ onion/ garlic breath do a coconut oil swish for a minute and it’s better! Because coconut oil has anti viral and anti bacterial properties it helps with illness prevention and getting rid of plaque. The saponification effect of your saliva mixing with the oil creates the cleaning effect. My dentist says whatever I’m doing keep doing it because my gums and teeth are so much better than ever in my life!

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