Oil pulling is by far the most hippie thing I’ve ever done.
If you had told me 2 months ago that I was about to stop brushing my teeth, my confused response would have been something like, “Because I’m going to be in coma?” Brushing teeth has been such a part of my daily routine (and no doubt yours as well) that I couldn’t even imagine life without it.
So how did I become someone who has abandoned her trusty toothbrush and tube of toothpaste? Well, I am about to tell you all about my adventure, but first I have to tell you that if you have no desire to try oil-pulling that it won’t bother me at all. I am not writing this to convince you to try it. I really am not. I receive no benefits or advantages if you try it. Zero. I am not in league with any sort of Oil-Pulling World Domination Organization. I am not an authority on oil-pulling. I have not done extensive research on oil-pulling. I have not taught my kids to oil pull. We still go to the dentist — in fact, Betty was there for some cavity work last month. And if you do try it, and don’t like it, I won’t have my feelings hurt one little bit, and I won’t try to convince you to try it again. I promise. This post is just me, reporting on this odd thing I tried and happened to like.
In early December, Ben Blair took a trip to France to oversee some work on The Cottage. While he was gone, I spent a Saturday morning seeing what was happening on Facebook and I happened upon an update from a woman I don’t even know very well, but she shared a link to someone’s blog post about oil-pulling, and said she was curious about it. And I was curious too. So I clicked through and spent an hour or so in an oil-pulling rabbit hole.
Oil pulling is a technique to clean your teeth and mouth. You put a spoonful of oil in your mouth, then swish it around for 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes!!). Then you spit it out (into the trash can/compost bin, not the sink, so it won’t clog your plumbing).
In the blog posts I read, people were attaching all sorts of dental miracles to oil-pulling, which of course made me hugely skeptical. Oil pulling fills in cavities! Oil pulling relieves toothaches! Oil pulling whitens teeth! Oil pulling absorbs all the harmful bacteria in your mouth! Oil pulling cures the common cold!
A lot of what I was reading gave me huge eye rolls.
But I was still curious, and some of it made sense to me, and some of the voices were very sincere and realistic. So I tried it. I had a jar of raw coconut oil on hand — the kind that’s solid at room temperature. I put a spoonful in my mouth, waited for it to melt, and then started swishing. I wanted to see if I could actually make it for 20 minutes. And I did make it. After the 20 minutes, I spit out the oil, and rinsed my mouth with water. Then, I spent the rest of the day running my tongue over my teeth because they felt so different. In a good way. So I thought to myself, I’ll just try it for a week, and see what I think then.
Ben Blair arrived home a couple of days into my experiment. I was blushing as I told him about it, because I felt so dorky about it, but without even reading a blog post, he wanted to try it. And jumped right in.
After that week, I was still delighted with the results and said to myself, I’ll just try it for a month, and see what I think then. Ben Blair did the same.
Now, it’s been almost 2 months, and we’re both still oil-pulling, and my latest thought is that I’ll just keep doing it until I no longer like it.
Here’s some Q&A featuring questions I get asked most about it:
Q: Doesn’t it gross you out to have a spoonful of oil in your mouth?
A: I thought it would gross me out too! I thought I would gag. I took a spoonful of castor oil when I was trying to induce labor during my 3rd pregnancy, and I still get queasy thinking about it. But when I tried oil-pulling, it just felt like swishing water. It didn’t feel like oil. So it was fine.
Q: I can’t do it for 20 minutes. How do you manage?
A. I think this is the deal breaker for most people who try it. Twenty minutes is a long time. It works for me, because we have a morning routine where Ben Blair drives the kids to school while I tidy up — making beds, doing the breakfast dishes, starting the laundry, etc. I put the oil in when they leave the house and set my phone timer for 20 minutes, then I get to work. The times flies by. If I didn’t have this routine, I probably would have abandoned my oil-pulling experiment.
Q: Have you seen any benefits?
A. Yes. Nothing crazy miraculous, but I can see my teeth are whiter, with less plaque, and I feel like my breath is better for sure. I noticed the breath thing right away. Ben Blair and I are careful to talk to each other in the mornings with our mouths shielded so we don’t have to smell each other’s morning breath, but with the oil-pulling, the morning breath is much better. Not minty fresh, just neutral.
This is less measurable, but my teeth are no longer as sensitive. During my pregnancy with Betty (about 8 years ago), overnight my teeth became really sensitive and I could no longer rinse my mouth out with cold water. Seriously, it happened overnight. It was crazy. Since then, I’ve used Sensodyne toothpaste and that has helped some — it sort of takes the edge off. But I feel like my teeth are much less sensitive since the oil-pulling.
Lastly, this one is vague, but my teeth feel stronger. Like they are more firmly rooted in my mouth.
Q: What oil do you use?
I use Coconut Oil. Cold-pressed, extra-virgin, unrefined. (This is the brand that my grocery store carries. But I’m not necessarily loyal to it.) One day, I was curious and tried olive oil instead. I didn’t like the taste as much, but I did like how my teeth felt, and I liked that it didn’t have to melt first. Also, it left my lips super soft.
Q: Do you ever brush your teeth anymore?
Once in awhile. I oil-pull in the morning, and sometimes at night, if my teeth feel coated or grimy, I’ll brush with water. When I was traveling this last week, I didn’t bring my jar of oil, and instead thought I would just use toothbrush and paste. But after two days I was dying. My mouth was grossing me out. So my brother-in-law, Steve, picked up a jar of coconut oil for me and I oil-pulled during the rest of my trip.
Q: What about flossing?
Well, this is another reason why I think I personally really like oil-pulling. Flossing has always been a really hard habit for me to form. I seem to have strong enamel on my teeth — for most of my life, I’ve eaten way more sugar than I should, but I rarely if ever get a cavity (alas, my kids did not seem to inherit my enamel genes). And flossing doesn’t seem to make a difference either way. Some years I’ve been good at flossing and other years not so good, and I end up with the same results during my dental visits. So it’s hard to convince myself of the benefits of flossing for me personally. I know every body is different and there are people who see great dental health improvements from flossing — but I’m not one of them.
I have tried flossing a couple of times after I oil pull to see if anything is getting left behind, but the oil pulling seems to do a really thorough job of cleaning.
Q: Have you tried to fill in a cavity?
No. We have not attempted any cavity filling. But I’d love to hear if you have success with it. I’d be really curious to have a dentist try it with someone that has a mild cavity. Have them oil pull for a month and see if it makes a difference. Though really, many of the posts I read said the cavity miracles happened with a combination of oil-pulling + drinking raw milk. So who knows.
Q. Does your mouth feel oily after instead of minty fresh?
My mouth actually feels very clean afterwards. Fresh but not minty. Ben Blair likes the minty feel, so sometimes he’ll rinse with mouthwash after. But I don’t like mouthwash — it feels too harsh. Sometimes I do miss that minty feeling. I wonder if chewing on mint leaves would help…
Q. Where did you read about oil-pulling?
I started with this blog post, then started exploring from there. She includes links within the blog post, and there are links in the comments as well. Or, a quick search produces all sorts of relevant articles. There are also 2 books that come up over and over again in the blog posts — one called Cure Tooth Decay, and one called Oil-Pulling Therapy — though I haven’t read either.
I think that’s it for now! If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. And I’d love to hear: Have you tried it? Are you curious about it? Is it too hippie for you to handle? Has anyone reading tried it for a long period? If yes, how is it going? Or did you give it up? And lastly, have you ever tried something casually, maybe out of curiosity, and then adopted the practice for real? Chime in!
P.S. — I wrote another update on oil pulling a few months after this.
308 thoughts on “Oil Pulling”
Do you know what the science is behind oil pulling? Meaning, scientifically, what is happening to clean your mouth? I’m skeptical, but curious too!
Not sure at all. Some one described it as the oil absorbing the bits of food and bacteria from your mouth. Another described it as your teeth being porous, and the oil coating the teeth and filling the pores, preventing harm from coming to them.
I added in 2 books that were recommended about oil pulling — I haven’t read either, but I’m guessing that they cover the science behind it.
It’s an ancient Ayurvedic practice called Kavala Gandoosha or Kavala Graha. Traditionally, sesame oil is used but I’ve read that sunflower and coconut oils also work. The lauric acid in the oil is shown to have anti-bacterial properties (anti-fungal and anti-viral, as well) which reduce the bacteria (the main bacterium being strep) in the mouth. Here’s the abstract from a study on the NIH’s website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408265. I don’t think the Indians make any claims about filling cavities but it definitely helps with halitosis and gingivitis. I still brush though, using baking soda.
When shopping for coconut oil, look for organic, cold-pressed and unrefined on the label.
And, you know … the hippies were right about a lot of things (sustainability, anyone?).
I was just curious if it’s something I could do at night time instead of the morning. The stuff I am reading says to do in the morning. I’m a night owl and don’t have a scheduled morning so I would stick to doing it at night if that’s something that is normal.
Your supposed to do it before eating or drinking anything! So night wouldn’t work. Try adding to your routine. Like while your showering or doing make up!? Something that takes about 20 min, may help you get used to it too. :)
I don’t know the science behind it, but I do know that ancient Greeks cleansed with olive oil. http://www.greekmedicine.net/hygiene/The_Greco-Roman_Bath.html
For the past few weeks, I’ve put a dab of coconut oil on my toothbrush under the paste and I’ve felt so much cleaner (this was my gateway to see if I’d hate the oil feeling….but there really is NO oily feeling). Totally trying oil pulling now.
I was thinking about that. Humans have been around for eons and eons, but toothbrushes have only been in common practice for how long? Maybe a century? So historically, how did people clean their teeth? I can’t imagine the teeth simply rotted out by 30. That doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary stand point. Interesting.
I don’t know about how humans used to clean teeth, but I did hear on NPR recently about this study that actually disproves the long-held belief that tooth decay started with the farming age. The study from Oxford showed rampant tooth decay in hunter-gatherers- mostly because of the starch in their diets from things like acorns. http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2014/140107_1.html
Some interesting quotes:
“These people’s mouths were often affected by both cavities in the teeth and abscesses, and they would have suffered from frequent toothache.”
“The acorns may have been boiled or ground to make flour; cooking the acorns would have added to their stickiness, and abrasive particles from grindstones contributed to rapid tooth wear so that caries started to form on the roots of the teeth.”
Ouch!! Glad we have dental care widely available now :)
I’d love to see practicing dentists weigh in here- I wonder if they’ve heard of oil pulling before.
My husband is a dentist and he said the foods eaten at this time were not processed like our foods now. The food was very course and fibrous and gritty and the teeth would wear down on the chewing surface and in between. To maintain the teeth contacting together teeth would migrate in a foraward direction ( this is why most people now a days may have straight teeth and by age 30 or 40 the lower front teeth begin to get crowded. This forward migration of teeth still happens today)…As the teeth would wear down and migrate forward, then the wisdom teeth (third molars) would come in around age 17 or 18 and that prehistoric person would now have a fresh set of 4 molars to eat with. No teeth meant dying from starvation…Cavities and gum disease was almost non-existent because of the diet not having any refined sugars to feed the bacteria. (Bacteria produce acid as their waste product and this is what causes tooth decay)…The diet kept the teeth clean. But If the oils have anti bacterial properties then this would help just like Listerine….
For most of human history, if you made it to 30 you were lucky. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy
This number is actually so low though because of the high number of people that died in infancy. A lot of people made it past thirty.
I agree with Meg. There are too many descriptions of gray-haired wizened elders in our human histories for me to believe age 30 was old age.
I thought major tooth decay began when people’s diets started including more sugar, especially refined sugar. Don’t ask for a date here, but evolutionarily (is that a word?) it’s been really recent. Back me up someone?
Yep, historian here. Humans lived for a very long time and what we often call a “life expectancy” is actually an average. It’s not the length of time a person can live to in their old age, it’s just an raw average of ages of death. When you remove the large numbers of children who died before age 5, life expectancy shoots up to the 70s and 80s easily.
Also, the acorn thing isn’t a widespread deal. It’s localized. Usually, in anthropology if you see a skeleton with crooked or damaged teeth you start asking questions because the largest majority have straight, decent looking teeth. The amount of people who need braces today should be a huge wake up call to us, because the ancients mostly wouldn’t have needed them.
“There are too many descriptions of gray-haired wizened elders in our human histories for me to believe age 30 was old age.”
They were the 30-year-olds.
Here in Ghana people use a stick from a certain tree to brush their teeth. They chew one end until it becomes fiber much like the hairs on a toothbrush and clean their teeth with that end. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks quite appealing, all natural!
Fascinated by the twig brushes! Now I want to see one in action — or even better, try one myself.
Licorice stick or twig- you can usually find them in bulk (so like three cents each) at your local co-ops or herb/natural med stores
Twigs have been used throughout human history:
And are still widely used today:
outside biblical oddities, people really didn’t live very long….
A Shorter lifespan was actually due to lack of proper shelter/natural disasters rather than teeth care/ diet.
I’m curious enough about the oil that I might try it, but I have something to offer on the historical front. I learned a few years ago about brushing with twigs, which (google it!) people have done on every continent for thousands of years. In India they use peelu and neem sticks. Here in the southern US, dogwood, oak and sassafras are the tradition in some areas. I’ve tried dogwood (Cornus florida) and it works GREAT! If I weren’t so lazy, I’d keep a supply of twigs and use nothing else. With twigs, there’s no need for toothpaste or floss. The twig does it all.
You need a twig just about 4″ to 5″ long and about half the diameter of a pencil. Strip the bark from the end, then gently bite down/chew on the end until it gets sort of a frayed look. Now you’re ready to brush your teeth. Rub the end on your teeth, getting the whole surface, and taking care to be gentle around the gum-line. You’ll be amazed at how clean it gets your teeth, I promise.
I find this so interesting! But I’m not quite sure I’m up to trying it myself yet. Maybe because I am currently pregnant and most things involving my mouth lead to a strong gag reflex these days.
Can I please request an update on oil pulling after your next dental cleaning? I’m curious about the long-term results!
Definitely! I’ll be sure to report after my next dentist visit.
I started oil pulling after I read about it on your blog! My husband thought I was crazy, but I told him I trusted you. ;-) The plain solid oil felt a little gross to me in my mouth so I melt it beforehand in a Dixie cup in the microwave and add a couple drops of peppermint oil to it to get that familiar minty taste.
So smart to melt it! The chunk of oil in my mouth is my least favorite part as well.
First off, I’m totally trying this too. I’m scared – i have awful teeth – but i’ll test it out (with flossing, bc I HAVE to floss).
Anyway, just a tip – I keep a tub of coconut oil in the bathroom anyway for a pre-conditioner treatment, and I just put the blow dryer on it for a bit to melt it down. Works great! (By May, it will be in liquid form 24/7 in my house though. Ah, Texas.)
Just a thought – might microwaving damage the beneficial properties?
I have been reading about this the last hour and have a jar of coconut oils sitting right next to me. The thing is I read initially was like. DON’T USE THE MICROWAVE, you will die of the radioactive cancer cells. I use it for my skin but I had put the jar (minus the lid) in the microwave so it is stopping me from trying it today.
Does anyone know the truth behind that? I kept thinking I should go get a new jar but I am a student who doesn’t really have an extra ten bucks to spend.
You’re not going to die from swishing microwaved oil in your mouth. Think of the amount of microwaved food eaten around the world every day. The concern is that the microwave can reduce the effectiveness of the oil, not that it will kill you. Swish away
Just set the jar in a bit of hot water before using it to melt the oil and you won’t have to worry about whether or not microwaving it will hurt. I think the main reason is because it can break down the effective properties in the oil (Lauric acid). There are is a higher content of Lauric acid in UNREFINED coconut oil so that’s the best form if you can get your hands on it. Hope this helps :)
Just be careful about melting it ahead of time. While it seems like a really good idea, when you heat the oil, you burn off a lot of the healthy qualities of the oil. That is why raw oil is the best, because it has not yet been heated, therefore it keeps all the essential vitamins and minerals. I know the first couple times are rough, trying to get used to the solid until it melts, but it does get easier, I promise!! =)
I was fascinated with your original post and went out right away to try oil pulling myself. I read the link you listed and did my own investigating. I couldn’t really find anything negative about it although the list of possible benefits did vary a lot! So far, I’ve continued to brush my teeth once daily as well. 20 minutes of swishing is really hard for me – I can usually do about 15 minutes. The gag impulse has settled down now that I am used to “chewing the oil.” Once the oil is liquid, it is not greasy at all and feels really good on my teeth. My facial muscles were also a bit sore after the first few times but now I’m basically totally buff in the cheeks. After a few weeks, my teeth definitely seem whiter but unlike you, I think they are actually more sensitive. Not sure what to make of that. Maybe the brushing and the oil pulling is just too much? I’ve actually changed to oil pulling every other day and that seems to be working well. At my last dentist visit, there were two tiny dark spots on my molars which my dentist said would likely progress to cavities (I don’t have any cavities yet at 38) but I’ve noticed that one of them is gone now! Hopefully the other one will disappear, too. It’s a few more months until my next professional cleaning but I’m anxious to see what difference this makes. It sure seems like I have less plaque and my flossing is easier. Thanks so much for posting about this. At the very least I am starting 2014 being much more aware of my toothy routine!
So interesting! I hope you’ll keep us updated on the dark spots. The idea of being able to repair cavities seems like such a hopeful thing!
I tried it once, and was embarrassed my facial muscles were sore too, I thought maybe I had too much oil in my mouth. I will try it again. I have the same feeling about coconut oil when I use it in cold smoothies, it ends up as chunks of solid oil. That’s my least favorite part.
Try adding a drop of peppermint essential oil to your oil for some minty freshness. :)
Genius idea! I’ll have to try it.
Oil pulling makes my teeth whiter and removes the tartar I always have gotten in between my two front teeth. Sold!
My mom has been oil pulling on an off for years. And just recently, I’ve been reading more and more about the benefits. It’s all so fascinating!
I’m curious how your mom happened to try oil pulling. Did she hear about it from a particular source? I guess I’m curious about the history of it, since it’s so new-to-me.
She’s a certified naturopath and has been practicing for years. I’m guessing oil pulling is just one of the many things she does in her practice. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve heard so many good things about it. I’ve also heard it helps with other ailments in the body too like digestive problems, nausea, acne and sinus issues.
Interesting. I read Trina Holden’s blog post about oil-pulling back in June and thought it loony, but now I’m curious… almost curious enough to try it. We’ll see :)
I tried it for a week then we transitioned my son out of crib so sleep is haywire at our house. My oil pulling time was in the early morning.
I actually love the feel of the oil in my mouth – I looked forward to doing it! (I eat for texture more than flavor.) I can’t wait until I have more dedicated time to perform it. I may have to switch to late-night.
This has been a fun experiment! Can’t wait to come back and read more comments.
I hear you. I think finding the right time of day is everything. Otherwise, it feels like a chore.
I was wondering when does your husband oil pull in the morning? Does he have it fit into his routine as well? Since I am currently at home alone in the mornings with my two young children – I’m curious about other routines.
Ben usually oil-pulls after he’s done with the school drop off. He’ll put in the oil before he steps into the shower, then keeps swishing as he gets dressed. If he’s finished before getting ready for the day before the 20 minutes are up, he’ll grab his phone and enjoy a few minutes of instagram/facebook till he’s done.
What about gum disease? It seems to me that without flossing or brushing along your gum line you would be more susceptible to it.
I don’t know the science behind, but the oil-pulling really does seem to do a great job of actually cleaning — even along the gumline.
But I’d be interested in hearing from a dentist who has seen a patient before and after a month of oil pulling. I’d love a professional opinion on whether or not the cleaning is effective.
On some of the blog posts I read, the author would mention his or her dentist was surprised at the positive outcome, but I want to hear from a dentist I actually know.
As a dental hygienist with an interest in natural alternatives, I can only add that flossing is to clean underneath your gums, where rinsing cannot reach. I can’t say for certain because I haven’t read any research re: flossing vs oilpulling, but flossing is able to thoroughly clean underneath the gums (up to 3mm that may not be attached and plaque enters) more than any other technique. That said, it doesn’t mean brushing is superior to oil pulling, it just means for a thorough prevention of gum disease some additional attention could be required to remove plaque below the gums! Keep up with the oil pulling for sure :) Also, everyone’s prone to gum disease at a different level, just like decay…
“everyone’s prone to gum disease at a different level, just like decay…”
I’ve been thinking about this and it makes sense. I’m sure there are many who try oil-pulling who could benefit from some supplementary flossing as well, and others who might not see a difference either way.
How interesting! I will try this.
Since you did an earlier post about cleansing your face, I wanted to give you another use for your large tub of coconut oil—-washing your face.
I have been doing this for months now and my skin has never been more beautiful. Here is what I do. In the morning I splash with warm water, take a knob of coconut oil and rub it in my hands to melt it, then massage it in. Use a dampened (warm) washcloth to remove it. Voila! Glowing skin. You can also just rub a bit between your hands and apply like moisturiser whenever needed. Use any remaining on the ends of your hair to banish frizz, to moisturize your lips, and soften your hands and cuticles.
Coconut oil has replaced all kinds of beauty products for me. It is way cheaper and much more effective than all those lab concoctions with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Just curious. Do you still apply moisturizer after you wash your face with coconut oil? Or is it not necessary anymore?
I have had several friends who used coconut oil to wash their faces, some who had dry skin and some who were acne prone and said it cured their acne, and they were all very excited about it.
I, however, found it worked abysmally badly for me. I have sensitive and dryish but also acne prone skin. For the first week or so my face looked great. Then I started breaking out. I thought that maybe it had to do with impurities coming to the surface, and I kept going for a little more than a month – and my skin looked awful the whole time after the first week. So, be careful with using this on your face! It could be awesome, but if your normal regime works ok and you have sensitive or acne prone skin you may want to think twice.
I had the same problem and did some research and found that doing a combination of oils with an astringent (like lavender essential oil) worked better for some skin types than just coconut oil alone. I use grapeseed and coconut oils with lavender. :)
I, too, began oil pulling. Two things I had to get used to were the time factor and the mintiness=cleanliness notion. Twenty minutes seemed too long for my first attempt, but after a few days I was able to work up to it. And once I realized that my breath was much more pleasant, my teeth were a bit whiter, and my lips were conditioned, it was easier to make the switch. I like the idea of adding essential oils! Not sure if I’ll do it forever, but I have seen it’s benefits.
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It hurts my face!
But now I want to give it another go.
This got me really curious! I read a bit about it and I like what I read. I’d like to try it but I’ll have to find a time that suit. I do not have coconut oil at hand but sesam oil and sunflower oil. I know that sesam oil has some great properties as well. It is all so facinating!
Thanks for sharing!
I’ve been wondering about this for a while. And I’m the same with flossing. Every time I go to the dentist, they go crazy over how great my teeth look, then ask how often I floss … never.
Hah! I hear you.
Having kids has also made me realize how little control I have of their dental experiences. They all have essentially the same diet, and the same dental habits, and the same assistance from their parents (helping them brush their teeth until they are competently able to themselves), but they have vastly different dental outcomes. Some have had big issues with decaying teeth, and others have a more typical experience.
I have never heard of it, but I am curious to try it.
I’m curious to try this. I already wash my face with coconut oil, so it’s sitting on my bathroom counter. I’ve given up shampoo and deodorant as well, may as well give up toothpaste next!
Amber – How do you wash your face with Coconut Oil? Is it the oil that is solid at room temp? I’m so used to using a liquid soap that I don’t understand how this would work, but I’d love to try!
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My father, his three siblings and both my paternal grandparents all had dentures by the time they were in their 30’s and 40’s. Lack of fluoride? infrequent visits to the dentist, poor nutrition, luck of the Irish?
Anyhoo, I read your first blog post on oil pulling and tried it once. I couldn’t handle the “chewing” of the cold coconut oil, but I didn’t mind how it made my mouth feel. Maybe I’ll try it again :)
I laughed out loud at the “most hippie thing I’ve ever done” preface. Something very similar has come out of my mouth before I’m sure.
I’d for sure try it, though it kinda makes me sick to my stomach thinking about a spoonful of oil in my mouth. Who knows though, never say never!
The nice thing about coconut oil is that it’s not “oily” like you might expect.
This surprised me too!
This made me laugh because of the coincidence-I happened upon upon a blog post in early December (have no idea how) on oil pulling and posted the link on facebook saying I was curious. A few of my friends tried and liked it but I only just started last week but I’m loving it! I do brush my teeth after but maybe I will stop now that I have read your style. My teeth have also been so super sensitive since I had my 5th and I have been using rx toothpaste to no avail to try to ease it . Since oil pulling suddenly the sensitivity is all but gone. I love it and I like to think the swishing (push and pull especially) is a good facial exercise :) I was about to post about this on my own blog, you beat me to it! ;)
Trying it now. Two minutes downs: 18 to go. The whole concept of cleaning with oil seems counterintuitive until I remember the story of my great-grandmother who saved all her leftover cooking grease to make her own soap in a big boiling pot on her front lawn. Thanks for sharing!
So true. I think we have given oil and fats a bad rap over the last couple of decades, but of course, our bodies need oils and fats to thrive.
I’ve been wanting to try it but fear that without a fluoride toothpaste I’ll be setting myself up for cavities. I have a mouthful of expensive dental work! But you’ve peaked my curiosity. I always have coconut oil in the cabinet so what the heck!
I’m sooooo happy you shared this ! Believe it or not , at 49 years old.. I have braces this year. Oh la la.
A friend of mine told me about oil pulling and how FAB it is. I was just sitting on the fence wondering if I should go for it.
I am definitely giving it a whirl now. She swears by it too.
Thanks for the nudge in the coconut oil direction :)
I got braces at age 49 and am so pleased I did. That was three years ago.
Please don’t stop at least flossing your teeth. Gum disease leads to bone loss which leads to tooth loss if you don’t clean between the teeth and under the gums. I am a dental assistant (25 years). If you don’t brush and floss make sure you consult with your orthodontist. I wouldn’t risk your teeth and money.
What sort of dreadful advertising network do you use that so aggressively redirects to porn sites when visiting with an iPad? And twice redirected to an App Store entry. Absolutely atrocious.
Hmm. My ad network is Federated Media and they would never redirect to a porn site. You are the first person to ever tell me they reached a porn site from clicking an ad on Design Mom.
The ads you are seeing when you look at the site, and the ads I see are different. They are based on things like cookies on our browsers and a history of the sites we’ve visited. If you can please describe the ad you are clicking, I would happy to make an inquiry with FM.
I can come to the site with the browser set in privacy mode (no cookies sent) and I get porn pop ups. It’s absolutely your ads alone. Go visit the site with an iPad. It’s brutal.
Mr. Nosuch – I’ve been reading this site (daily) exclusively on my iPad for a couple of years and I never got a single ad sending me to a porn website. Just because it is an iPad doesn’t mean it is absolutely secure and free of malware. You may want to have yours evaluated thoroughly.
Gabrielle, thanks for starting this topic. I’ve been skeptical of oil pulling too because of my science background (growing back teeth?!) but tried it after your first post and I’m loving the results thus far. My husband and kids want to try it now! I have been using coconut oil as body lotion and deodorant! Loving these applications too :)
I am sorry to say, but I am also on iPad and there are days that it is impossible to visit designmom as the porn pop ups come up constantly. Other days all goes smoothly! In case it may be of interest, I am in Europe.
As for this topic, thanks for sharing! I have started this morning!!!
Ania, ilda – Thanks for adding your feedback.
Ilda, Mr. Nosuch – Since I can’t see what you’re seeing, instead of continuing this conversation in the middle of the oil-pulling conversation, please do send me a screen grab of the offending ads (gabrielle @ designmom.com), and I will look into it right away.
Your iPad’s reaction to this site sounds like a classic a case malware, Mr. NoSuch. Apple may deny such things exist for the iPad, but I’d take my iPad to visit the Genius Bar and show them what’s going on, unless of course it’s jailbroken.
So fascinating! I’d heard of it before, but wasn’t too convinced. Now I’m totally going to try it!
I’ve read about this for a few years now, and it’s always intrigued me, though I’ve never tried it. I think I’m curious enough now to give it a go! I’m also currently reading one of the books you mentioned, Cure Tooth Decay. So far, it’s informative, and a lot of what the author has to say rings true to me and what I know about nutrition. He’s also a proponent of Weston A. Price, which we follow to some extent (though not strictly). Regarding the science of it, I’ve never looked into the scientific explanation for oil-pulling, but I do know that the science behind the oil-cleansing method (for face washing) is that oil dissolves oil. So when you rub a blend of oils onto your face, they blend with the natural oils in your skin to dissolve dirt and make-up. I’ve been using the oil-cleansing method for a year now and love it. Perhaps the science behind oil pulling is similar? Maybe the chemical make up of oil is similar to the chemical make up of plaque, so the oil binds with the plaque to dissolve it? I may be WAY off base, but it’s a thought!
So funny! I was just reading about oil pulling 2 days ago, but didnt dare to try! The coconut oil is sitting on my counter. untouched.
The article I read, said you shouldnt eat before you do the pulling. How do you handle it? Or do you have any information about it? Do you think the time of the day matters?
The time of day doesn’t really matter. It’s just preferred if you have an empty stomach because oil pulling after eating could cause some nausea. I have tried it at different times of the day and it did not affect me, but if you are more sensitive it might.
i’ve heard of oil pulling, but have never had the guts to try it myself! but after your post, i’m definitely interested. on a side note, my husband is a dentist and he hadn’t really heard of this before i brought it up to him a while ago. maybe i’ll give it a try for a while and have him check my mouth before and after :) and on a side note, my husband told me that anciently people used to chew on different types of sticks and twigs to clean their teeth. this would scrape any plaque off and help to keep their teeth clean after eating.
Oh. I hope you try it, Emily! And I hope you get a before and after evaluation from your husband. I’m so curious!
I’m definitely interested, but I’m a librarian, so I had to do some research on this and found some randomized, triple-blind scientific studies in our health databases. They indicated that oil pulling (they used sesame oil) was a good preventative oral care method, on par with the “gold standard” mouthwash they used on one group in the study. It did mention in more than one study I looked at that teeth should be brushed after oil pulling. I love the idea of using something natural, but personally, I think I’ll try this in addition to brushing instead of as a replacement.
I just tried this and couldn’t make it past 5 minutes because my mouth was producing so much saliva as I swished, that I had to keep spitting so I wouldn’t gag.
We oil pull at our house too. My husband started it when he had a filling fall out and we were in very desperate financial times (read: no money for the dentist). Coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial properties, so he started using it as a mouthwash in an attempt to ward off infection in that tooth until we were able to afford a new filling. Over a year went by before we were able to afford the dentist, and when he finally made it in the dentist was amazed that he’d been able to go so long with a gaping hole in his tooth!
I started oil pulling after discovering that I have allergies to a particular ingredient found in many toothpastes (triclosan, which is a known toxin: avoid it when you can). I started by just brushing with baking soda, which works really well too, but it’s a little tricky to get used to the salty flavor (at least for me). But what I really liked about the baking soda was the way that it made my mouth feel so much cleaner than toothpaste ever did. Not that I ever felt like toothpaste *wasn’t* making my mouth clean… but in comparison to the baking soda, toothpaste felt more like it was masking than cleaning. Does that make sense? Anyway, no more toothpaste for me. I much prefer natural solutions!
As has been mentioned previously in the comments here, people had ways to keep themselves clean before companies like Johnson & Johnson came along, we’ve just largely forgotten what those ways were. I feel like so often we’re sold on the IDEA of clean. For example, we all kind of believe that minty = clean because that’s what the commercials tell us. But really, minty = minty, which is nice… but doesn’t necessarily mean it’s doing a better job of cleaning anything.
In the last couple of years, I’ve swapped out several “traditional” beauty products for homemade all-natural ones. I’m always skeptical to try it, but in EVERY case, I’ve found the homemade options to be far superior. I make a homemade deodorant (which also uses coconut oil as a main ingredient) and it is the most effective underarm product I’ve ever used (and I am no delicate sweater). I sweat far less with it, even though it’s not even technically an anti-perspirant. And I wash my face with a combo of avocado oil and castor oil, also to fantastic results.
have any of you people stopped for a single moment to think about how absolutely incredibly clean and bright white your teeth would be if you brushed your teeth for 20 minutes ?!!!
Think about what you are saying here .
the cleanliness of your teeth have to do with plaque , plaque forms a barrier on a surface , its akin to grease on a plate or cup in the sink its not about the type of soap or how much you use , no it is instead about the duration of time spent working the barrier physically off the surface its been temporarily adhered to .
You do not need any sort of paste or oil in fact in you just vigorously blasted it with 20 minutes with all sorts of different shaped micro objects – sand blasting , power washing is the action you are seeking .
are you under the assumption now that swishing for 20 minutes oil vs mouthwash oil would win ? or oil vs tooth paste ? oil the win again?
Im thinking its more about the 1/3 of an hour you spent effectively power washing your mouth thats the big change
We oil pull at my house, but not for anywhere near 20 minutes, and we still have amazing results. There’s also more to a clean mouth than plaque. Getting rid of the bacteria in your mouth is also important, and coconut oil (a natural anti-bacterial) is a great way to do that. Personally, I don’t oil pull because I think it does a *better* job necessarily, but because it does a fantastic job with a single, all-natural ingredient. I prefer that to the questionable ingredients in traditional toothpastes and mouthwashes.
I’m not sure this topic warrants such a passionate anonymous response. I’m going to pretend you left a comment with a name that said something similar, but with less exclamation points. Something like:
I wonder if the 20 minutes is the major factor here. If you brushed your teeth for 20 minutes, would you see the same benefits?
And this would be my response:
I’m guessing that yes, the 20 minutes does factor in. In fact, one blog post I read mentioned there was a study looking into the effectiveness of swishing water for 20 minutes instead of oil. (I didn’t see the study myself, but apparently, even without the oil, the swishing is somewhat effective.)
But as for brushing for 20 minutes, I couldn’t do it. My gums would deteriorate too quickly.
And really, 20 minutes feels very long some mornings, but if I add up the time it takes me to properly brush and floss and rinse twice a day, it’s pretty darn close to 20 minutes.
swishing anything in your mouth for 20 minutes hardly constitutes “power washing” or “sand blasting”. also, if you were to brush your teeth for 20 minutes, you would seriously wear your teeth down. not good.
plus, I don’t see anyone here going into oil pulling for the whitening effect. I see everyone saying that they noticed that their teeth were whiter as a side effect after they oil pulled for some time. totally different.
I really want to try this and I just got a huge, new tub of coconut oil. Perfect timing!
So excited to try this with my husband. I had coconut oil in my Amazon basket, and I was waiting for your post. I’ve already placed my order, and I’m not even done reading the post. Hopefully this will help my poor man’s hurting teeth. Thanks for sharing your experience, even if it does make you blush. No shame!
Pain relief for teeth is one thing I’m very curious about as far as oil pulling goes. I feel like that is a consistent comment or story I read as I wandered through the oil-pulling rabbit hole. Lots of people seem to have immediate relief from toothaches with oil pulling.
i read the same blog post about oil pulling by clicking through one of your posts (about finding out how crunchy we are), and i was intrigued. kind of almost disgusted by the idea of plain oil in my mouth, but intrigued because i strongly feel that natural is healthier. and i happen to hate the aftertaste i get from toothpaste. i hardly ever brush my teeth in the morning cause it changes the taste of my breakfast. i must confess i was slightly turned off by how crunchy the idea of it sounds, which is stupid i know, especially because i already cloth diaper. i’ve heard that in my grandparents’ time people in rural areas used baking soda to clean their teeth and chewed on cloves to improve their breath. i occasionally remember that story and consider trying the baking soda thing, but i haven’t actually got around to it yet. your post sounds very genuine and i’m seriously considering both of the natural options now. i hope to get pregnant again soon, and since my teeth were also very sensitive during my first pregnancy, i might try it then. maybe i’ll end up doing it my entire pregnancy, maybe for the rest of my life, who knows, but i’m opet to it.
I brushed my teeth with baking soda for years. I never liked the taste of the baking soda in my mouth *while* I was brushing (it’s salty), but I got used to it. And I much preferred the aftertaste (like you, I don’t care for toothpaste’s aftertaste), which was more neutral and just felt clean. Baking soda is also a natural whitener, so there’s that.
If you decided to try it, know that you don’t need much. A little goes a long way. You can also mix it with a bit of water it a small bowl before putting it on your brush. Then it’s kind of like brushing your teeth with salt water. (Which, I realize, doesn’t make it sound terribly appetizing, but it can be a bit milder that way than just brushing with the dry soda.)
I was raised by hippies, so the idea of “crunchy” never bothered me much, but I know for a lot of people it’s something of a leap. Don’t be afraid to try it though; if you don’t like it, you can always go back to your usual routine, right? No big deal. And I bet you’ll find that at least some of those “crunchy” things end up serving you better than you’d expect. :)
I used to be a receptionist at a dental office, and one of the dentists there always told people not to brush with baking soda because it can damage your gum line. It’s too harsh I guess, or so she said. I’ve loved using baking soda for whitening, but I was cautious after I heard that. Have you seen a problem with that Kellee?
Sarah, I’ve never experienced damage to my gum line from it. In fact, I always got better reports from my dentist when I was using baking soda. But I do know that some people have a sensitivity to baking soda on their skin, so it seems plausible that it would be too much for some people’s gums too. That said, I don’t use a large amount; just a pinch.
thank you kellee, i think i’ll try it and see how it goes :)
So, do you do the oil-pulling once a day and that is it? I don’t think I could go to bed unless I brushed my teeth at night?
Isn’t it strange? Sometimes I’ll brush with water in the evening, but mostly I don’t.
It’s very interesting. That would take me some getting used to I think.
This is so intriguing, especially since I have 2 jars of “homemade” toothpaste sitting on my bathroom counter that are made with unrefined organic coconut oil, baking soda and essential oil for flavor (one jar is wintergreen, the other is grapefruit). I’ve only used it a few times, but maybe now I’ll try again!!
That sounds fantastic, how did you make it? Do you use it to “brush” or “swish” ?
I go to a holistic dentist, and they recommend oil pulling! In fact they never hassle me about flossing, they just tell me to oil pull more consistently :)
I don’t think I’ve ever met a “holistic” dentist. Now I’m curious!
Is there a reason you have to spit the oil out or can you just swallow it? Coconut oil has so many health benefits, I have been known to eat a spoonful of it on occasion. It’s not bad!! :)
From what I have read, the oil will be full of bacteria and other stuff from your mouth after 20 minutes of swishing, so unless you want to swallow all those toxins, it’s better to spit.
I’ve read the same as Monique. Maybe spit out the oil pulling oil, but eat a separate spoonful?
I just started oil pulling recently, several weeks ago. I asked a friend who works for a wholistic dentist, and she said they have seen it do amazing things for some patients, although it doesn’t work miracles for everyone. She suggested adding a drop of essential oil as well, to boost the antibiotic properties.
My “achey” tooth areas are gone, my teeth feel stronger, breath better. I just take 20 minutes from my day wherever I find it, and tell my preschoolers that mom can’t talk for the next little while. It’s fun for all of us to play charades with them when they forget and ask me a question. They’ve also taken to pretending they are swishing “white stuff” and can’t talk on occasion. Fine by me! Ha.
I use olive oil — love it.
I clean my whole face and body with olive oil using soap only occasionally with great results.
how do you wash your face with olive oil? just rub some olive oil on your face and rinse it with water? i’m curious because tap water just makes my skin really dry, and i imagine the oil would act as a protective layer. and what does your skin smell like afterwards?
I can’t talk about any science behind this (but I will start looking at peer reviewed journals tonight), but I feel the need to clarify the improper use of the word oil here. Fats are solid at room temp, oils are liquid at room temp. If you have to melt it from room temp, it’s a saturated fat. That is all.
Interesting clarification. I never thought of that. Coconut oil is liquid at room temp as well though. It hardens in cold weather.
My coconut oil is solid at room temperature, 68 degrees.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat that melts at about 75 degrees or so. There is no standard room temperature. Room temperature varies from one home to another, depending on where one sets his thermostat. Christine’s room temp is 68 degrees, Clarence’s is obviously in the upper 70’s, which will make a difference in the solidity of the oil/fat. It probably is called an oil because in the tropics where coconut oil is produced, the oil is liquid year-round.
i totally want to try this! i have always HATED brushing my teeth, something about the toothpaste really grosses me out and i am truly skeeved out by chemicals. i’m almost out of my toothpaste! perfect! thanks gabrielle, i never would have known otherwise! xoxo
I started oil pulling in early December and went to the dentist last week for a check-up and clean. My dentist noticed a difference in colour and oral hygiene (which surprised me as I was a little embarrassed to admit I was doing something so ‘weird’). She said she would investigate with her dental associations but that it seemed very positive. I have a few ‘watches’ on my teeth so I’m excited to see if the oil pulling helps to reverse them over the next six months. Thank you for writing about this!
Love this kind of update, Susan! Thanks for the info.
I’ve tried oil pulling off and on, I’ve never been very consistent with it although I do like it. My first attempt was when I was recovering from a nasty cold with lots of congestion and mucus (blech!) and I was intrigued by oil pullings ability to “heal colds.” I couldn’t make it the whole 20 minutes due to my congestion, but it worked! I won’t go into details, but my nose and throat cleared up over the next hour and got a lot of relief. Ever since then if I’m suffering from a cold I’ll oil pull. We’ll see if I can do it consistently.
I have been a dental assistant for almost 30 years. I would suggest people consult with their dentist while doing this. If you don’t floss under the gum line you will eventually develop gum disease which leads to bone loss which leads to Roth loss. Brushing and flossing isn’t just about cavities. A sold 2 minutes of brushing your teeth and flossing a few times a week is all that is necessary.
“A sold 2 minutes of brushing your teeth and flossing a few times a week is all that is necessary.”
I so wish this worked for my kids, but even when we do this religiously, a few have still seen major tooth decay. At our house, it really does seem to be a person-by-person situation, with everyone experiencing something different.
My house is the same way, my husband has never had a cavity or gum issues in his life and he never even touched floss until he was in his mid-20s, even now in his 30s it’s a rare occurrence. Me on the other hand I’m diligent with my brushing, flossing, minimal sugary substances…and my mouth is a cave of fillings *sigh* I’ve just come to terms with the fact that that my teeth are made out of chalk.
I also wonder if a oil pulling for a shorter time would be a good accompaniment to brushing (with traditional or homemade toothpaste)?…
Boy, I sure had a few typos in my post! :) A “solid” two minutes. It is true some people are more prone to decay. My kids have had their share of cavities filled, for sure. For adults, the main concern is gum disease, not getting cavities. Thank you for a very interesting post. I am just very skeptical about oil pulling replacing flossing. I appreciate your thoughts on this topic! Love your blog very much!
About flossing being so essential – I’m a skeptic and here’s why: During my recent pregnancy I tried to get more consistent about daily consumption of a high-quality, high dose powdered probiotic. I did it at night after brushing teeth (sometimes even instead of brushing).
Early in the pregnancy my gums bled at the dentist as I would have expected. At that point I hadn’t been doing the probiotic consistently. Late in the pregnancy, when I’d been doing it every day, the hygienist (without knowing about my probiotic regime), commented that I had unusually healthy gums for a pregnant woman and that I must have great dental hygiene at home. I responded that in fact I never floss and don’t even brush more than once a day). I had had almost no blood at that visit – less than when I’m not pregnant.
I don’t think what keeps gums healthy is getting under the gums – on the contrary, I think what keeps gums healthy is combatting bad oral bacteria, and most people try to do that mechanically by flossing under the gums. Good powdered probiotics can do the same thing and have wider health benefits.
Seems to me like oil pulling plus a probiotic like this could be the perfect dental routine.
I have to agree with you. I have never been a flosser my entire life. I think I have literally flossed maybe…20 times in my life total? Embarrassing, but true. And I have great gums and have had only 1 cavity in my life (on a tooth I cracked eating something – it was inevitable).
So I guess I’m not so sure about the true need to floss either.
In terms of oil pulling – tried for the first time last week. I have been suffering from an intense sinus infection that 3 rounds of antibiotics hasn’t cleared, and even went in for a CT scan last week to see what was going on. Not to get too gross, but while pulling for the very first time, my sinuses started to drain like crazy. Not sure if this is due to moving the facial muscles around for 20 minutes, or if it’s the actual oil pulling – but I will continue because I can’t see any harm in it. My teeth do seem to be whiter as well, and they are really smooth.
As others have said – my breath is also much fresher than when I brush alone. I do follow up my oil pulling with a tiny bit of toothpaste just so I can brush off my tongue.
I started oil pulling last month. In fact it may have been around the time you mentioned it on your blog. I have issues with my gums as well as sensitive teeth and wanted to begin to focus on solving the problems, rather than just continue to brush, floss, and use mouth wash, because those things were clearly not working. So I decided to give oil pulling a try just for a week and see how I liked it. I loved it from the start. Not sure I have noticed any measurable differences yet but the lack of bad breath alone is enough of a benefit for me to continue. My mouth just feels so much cleaner as well. I always notice a difference on the days when I don’t oil pull and I always regret not taking the time to do it. Now if I could just convince my hubby to give it a try! He doesn’t understand how I would dare not brush and thinks I am just going to get cavities from this little experiment of mine…maybe one day he will come around.