What Is Coconut Oil Pulling?- 5 Things You Need To Know

A coconut for oil pulling

Swishing with coconut oil?  Yuck! That sounds gross. Read on to find out if this is something you should be doing. What is coconut oil pulling? I want to explain everything you need to know about this growing trend. Learn how it works, how to do it and what it will and won’t do for you.

Alternative health care options abound these days. One of these options is a practice called coconut oil pulling and it is nothing new. This practice has actually been around for over 3000 years and it is a type of traditional Indian practice called Ayurvedic medicine.

Studies suggest oil pulling removes bacteria in the mouth, reduces cavities, improves bad breath, improves gum health and other oral health conditions. The idea involves swishing a teaspoon to tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth up to 20 minutes and then spitting it out.

There are 5 things you need to know about this practice….

what-is-coconut-oil-pulling-5-things-you-need-to-know1. Does Coconut Oil Pulling Work and How?

Certain types of harmful bacteria in the mouth contribute to conditions such as gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. Oil pulling with coconut oil is very effective at reducing the bacteria that cause these conditions.

The majority of the bacteria that cause these conditions are called Streptococcus Mutans. These microorganisms consist of a single cell and are covered by an outer membrane comprised of a lipid or fatty membrane which is the bacterial cell’s skin.

When the coconut oil (or fat) is swished in the mouth it naturally adheres to the fatty outer layer of the bacteria which attracts it out and away from the oral cavity.

2. The Proper Way to Do It

There are other oils that can be used for oil pulling such as sunflower or sesame oil. However, coconut oil is most recommended due to it content of lauric acid. Lauric acid has been found to have antimicrobial properties that also benefit the oral cavity. Learn more about coconut oil here from Wikipedia.

Most people start with one teaspoon to one tablespoon of coconut oil at a time. You will want to place it in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. Gently swish, pull and suck the oil through your teeth. This 20 minute session is done once per day but is still beneficial if done only a couple times per week.

Some people have a hard time holding the oil in their mouth for this length of a time so you may want to start with 10 to 15 minutes and work your way up to the recommended time. During this time, the fat will liquify and pull the impurities from the mucous membranes of your oral cavity.

3. Tips for Afterwards

Make sure to spit the oil into the trash afterwards and not into the sink. If it goes into the sink, it may clog the drain pipes. Afterwards it is recommended to brush and floss as you normally would as part of your daily oral hygiene routine.

There are no restrictions on eating or drinking afterwards. If you wish, you can follow this practice by swishing with warm salt water. However, this is not necessary as any of the residue will be removed with your normal brushing routine.A coconut for oil pulling

4. What Will It Do?

There’s a lot of misconception about what coconut oil pulling can and cannot do. It is very effective at reducing gingivitis. An overgrowth of bacteria will cause red, tender and inflamed gums that bleed easily. This is called gingivitis. It is a reversible condition and can be treated when bacteria are sufficiently killed or removed.

It may help remineralize enamel. Our teeth are designed to remineralize themselves but only in the absence of cavity causing bacteria. Coconut oil pulling ensures that bad cavity causing bacteria are eliminated while beneficial bacteria are allowed to thrive.

Coconut oil has more than antibacterial properties. It also has anti-fungal properties. This means it kills the Candida yeast that live in the mouth. An overgrowth of Candida can cause an infection called oral thrush.

This condition is most often seen by people taking medications altering the natural microbiome such as steroids or antibiotics. People undergoing radiation, chemotherapy, using inhalers for asthma or those who wear dentures are at increased risk for Candida infections.

Unlike mouthwash, which can dry out the mouth with its alcohol content, oil pulling supports our saliva’s efforts. Our saliva has minerals in it so it helps to remineralize our teeth and at the same time it washes away bacteria that cause bad breath.

In this way, coconut oil pulling helps to reduce bad breath. It disorganizes the bacteria without killing the good bacteria and drying out the mouth as most mouthwashes do. Another great option for treating bad breath is with the use or oral probiotics.

5. What Won’t It Do?

Coconut oil doesn’t whiten teeth. Some people swear by the whitening properties of oil pulling. However, no clinical studies have proven that the shade of the enamel has actually lightened.

It might help improve the appearance of the teeth by removing stains and reducing plaque buildup but does not actually whiten teeth. Read an article on the best teeth whitening options if you wish to change the shade of your enamel.

Ayurvedic medicine has many claims of more than 30 conditions that oil pulling will treat or cure. Many people swear by improvements they have seen in their own health conditions. Some of these conditions range from arthritis, asthma, diabetes, migraines and even hangovers. To date there is no scientific evidence supporting the claims that conditions other than in the mouth will be treated or cured.

Oil pulling will not replace good oral hygiene habits of brushing and flossing. It should only be considered an adjunct to your normal oral hygiene routine of reducing plaque and cavity causing bacteria.

Try It For Yourself!Happy healthy smile

 I invite you to share your comments and stories below with your personal experiences.As a dental hygienist, I have seen many very positive outcomes from my patients but would like to hear more!

I have included a link to an all natural, organic and cold pressed coconut oil on Amazon here if you need help choosing the right product to use. Please leave any questions and concerns below and I will be happy to help.


Medical Disclaimer:
The information on this website is not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Care and investigation should always be sought from an appropriate health care provider.  I am not a doctor and do not claim to be one.  I have created this site as a way to share information and experiences. 


  1. Janani Kumar

    I really like oil pulling! I actually thought that it could whiten teeth, so thank you for clearing up that misconception. I have done it a few times but not consistently enough to get any noticeable benefits yet. I have heard some people like to do it after brushing, but I don’t know why. Can you venture a guess as to why?

    Thank you!

    1. Michelle

      Thank you for your comment on oil pulling.  The reason some people like to do it after brushing is the belief that they have removed any extra bacteria and food debris allowing better access for the oil to work.  However, this is not necessary.  Rinsing and brushing afterwards is advised to remove the excess oily feeling left behind and completely remove any food particles or leftover toxins from your mouth.

      Thanks again, 


  2. Jay

    I decided to do a little bit of research before actually going through the coconut oil pulling process which is how I landed on this site. I have to say that the informations provided were pretty encouraging on the functions of the coconut oil pulling process and how to properly use it.

    I think it is a practice most of us can embark on but the problem I have with it is that it kind of takes a lot of time. When you say we have to place the oil in the mouth for 20minutes, does this mean we have to leave the oil in our mouth for that long or do we put in our mouth swush it round, spit it out and then redo for 20minutes. 

    1. Michelle

      Hi Jay,

      This is a good question and I am glad you asked.  You would be keeping the same amount (teaspoon to tablespoon) of coconut oil in your mouth for the whole 20 minutes and not replacing it with new oil.  Some people find this is a long period of time.  I have heard of people getting great results from even half the amount of time.  In just 10 minutes you will still be getting a desirable outcome.  I have heard from my patients that they like to put it in their mouth and do the swishing process as they are showering and getting ready in the morning.  By doing so, it makes it easier to not focus on how long it is taking!

      Thanks for the question,


  3. Stella

    I appreciate the explanation of the way Coconut oil interacts in the mouth, how it breaks down the bacteria and fungus.
    It is so refreshing the get up in the morning with a fresh smell and clean breath, no dog in the mouth taste.
    It is hard to keep the oil for 20 min. but it is worth every minute is stays in your mouth and with practice, it will get better.
    Thank you for an excellent article full of valuable information.

    1. Michelle

      There are many great benefits to coconut oil. Oil pulling can certainly be a beneficial practice when added to your home care routine. I agree that 20 minutes does seem like a long time to keep it in your mouth. You will still be getting great results even if you keep it in 5-10 minutes. You can work up to 20 minutes or do longer sessions on weekends or when you have more time. Thanks for the comment.

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