Why You Should Be Pro-Oil: The Scoop On Oil Pulling

"Sticking Together" / Manav Gupta / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Sticking Together” / Manav Gupta / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

No, I’m not about talking the crude stuff here. Big Oil is bad news. Sign me up for wind and solar power any day. 

I’m talking about oil pulling – the process of taking a tablespoon of oil into your mouth and swishing it around for 20 minutes. Why on earth would you do that, you ask? Keep reading…

According to Avurveda, the ancient Indian medical science, disease begins in the mouth. Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic method to promote oral and overall health. Even Western doctors and dentists agree that our mouths are filthy and this process produces marked reduction in oral bacteria.

The mouth naturally fills with bacteria that cause dental problems like plaque buildup and gingivitis and, left unchecked, enter our bodies and wreak havoc on our whole system. When you brush, you manually scrub off accumulated bacteria from tooth enamel, but the rest of the mouth is largely ignored.

Mouthwash aims to kill bacteria but uses harsh chemicals and alcohol and breath spray just covers up the smelly effects of all this bacteria with strong flavors. Natural methods like oil pulling and tongue scraping aim more directly at the source of the problem and are much gentler on the body. 


Oil pulling should be done on an empty stomach, ideally first thing in the morning. 

  1. Put 1 tablespoon of untoasted sesame or coconut oil in your mouth (1 teaspoon for children).
  2. Swish the oil around your mouth and push/pull the oil through your teeth for 15-20 minutes. Do not gargle or swallow the oil. 
  3. Spit the oil out (it should be white now).
  4. Rinse with warm salt water (optional) for added anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
  5. Brush as usual.


  • reduction in plaque buildup & gingivitis (1, 2, 3, 4)
  • reduces bad breath (5
  • whitens teeth naturally
  • decreased sensitivity in teeth and gums
  • reduces/eliminates bleeding gums
  • some  also report improvement in overall health including skin improvement, weight loss, mucous reduction and more


  • Spit out your oil in the garbage can. Spitting it into your sink or toilet can cause plumbing issues if it solidifies.
  • Don’t gargle with it. What’s in your mouth is full of nasty bacteria and the risk of accidentally swallowing it too high.
  • Rinse with warm salt water to enhance the disinfectant effects. The salt water you can gargle with, since you love gargling so much! 

I know it sounds odd. People have said, “I could never hold something slimy in my mouth for 20 minutes.” But if your oil is actually slimy, you need new oil. And is 20 minutes really that long? By the time it’s up you can take a shower, wash that sink full of last night’s dishes, or maybe even iron your clothes for the day (just don’t drool). Unless you’re talking or eating every minute of your morning routine, you can likely find 20 minutes to swish.

The traditional Indian method typically uses un-toasted sesame or sunflower oil, however I prefer coconut oil, because a) the high volume of lauric acid in coconut oil has documented anti-bacterial properties, b) I enjoy the taste, and c) I’m convinced that there is very little that a coconut can’t do. 

Coconut oil solidifies at a lower temperature than other oils and while some people just let it melt in their mouths if it’s gone solid, chunks of oil kind of grosses even me out. So if the weather’s cold I let my jar sit atop the stove when it’s not in use. The heat from the pilot light is enough to keep it liquefied. Do not rapidly heat your oil to liquify it

When I started oil pulling I liked it so much I did it every morning for a month. Now I do it a few times a week, or if I feel like I might be getting sick. Along with twice daily brushing, nightly (ok, occasional) flossing, and my trusty tongue scraper, oil pulling rounds out my oral health routine nicely.

My teeth are noticeably whiter, my breath is great even first thing in the morning, I’ve staved off every seasonal cold that came my way, and my sinuses have never been clearer. 

So give it a shot! The worst thing that happens is you spit it out, call me crazy, and have one less tablespoon of oil to cook with.

Just remember to use organic oil if possible and never ever to swallow the oil. You’re trying to get the toxins out of your body, not put more in! 

Happy swishing! 

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One Response to Why You Should Be Pro-Oil: The Scoop On Oil Pulling

  1. how to close google plus account March 11, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    Awesome article.

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