Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Coconut Oil Pulling

The first time I heard about it, I just couldn’t get past the name. “Oil Pulling” sounded so strange…and the thought of pulling oil just didn’t make any sense. As it turns out, this ancient oral hygiene practice has become quite popular, and proponents claim that it’s excellent for treating a wide range of problems of the teeth and gums.  This piece by my UpWellness team will tell you everything you need to know about oil pulling…including a how-to guide at the end.


You may have heard of it; you may have even tried it – the ancient art of oil pulling seems to be gaining popularity in the west like never before. Is it a fad, or does it really work? It does appear that this traditional practice has health-promoting benefits.

What exactly is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is often associated with Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system from India. The oil pulling practice itself involves swishing about one tablespoon of coconut oil around in your mouth – like a mouthwash. The oil is generally left in the mouth for fifteen to twenty minutes, spat out and followed by a clean water mouth rinse.

While it is not incredibly clear how it works, oil pulling is claimed to “pull” bacteria from the mouth. It could also help moisturize dry gums which increases saliva production which reduces bacteria.  Coconut oil also contains properties that allow it to naturally reduce inflammation and bacteria, thus promoting good oral health.

Science-backed benefits of oil pulling

Because there is some debate over the actual benefits of oil pulling, we will start with what research has shown us about this practice.

Coconut oil pulling can reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth

Your mouth contains many different bacteria, but Streptococcus mutans (S.mutans) is one of the most plentiful and one of the main players in plaque buildup and tooth decay. Scientists demonstrated the effectiveness of coconut oil pulling to reduce S. mutans in saliva with just ten minutes of oil pulling per day for two weeks when compared to those who did the same procedure with distilled water. In another study, oil pulling with coconut oil was found to be as effective as standard chlorhexidine mouthwash at eliminating S. mutans.

Coconut oil pulling can reduce plaque and gingivitis

Inflammation of the gums causes gingivitis, a condition that causes the immune system to start attacking the bacteria in the plaque. In one study of 60 adolescents, daily coconut oil pulling had a significant impact on gingivitis – reducing it noticeably

Coconut oil pulling can reduce bad breath

Halitosis, or bad breath impact over 50% of the population. There are a number of reasons why one may develop bad breath including:

  • Infection
  • Gum disease
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Tongue coating where bacteria becomes trapped on the tongue

Oil pulling has been found to be equally effective as the antiseptic mouthwash chlorhexidine that is generally used as a treatment for halitosis.

Anecdotal reports of effectiveness

Here is a list of other reported benefits of coconut oil pulling.

  • Treat tooth decay
  • Kill bad breath
  • Heal bleeding gums
  • Prevent heart disease
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Whiten teeth
  • Soothe throat dryness
  • Prevent cavities
  • Heal cracked lips
  • Boost the immune system
  • Improve acne
  • Strengthen gums and jaws

How to oil pull step-by-step

  1. Put about one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth.
  2. Swish the oil around for about 15-20 minutes. Maybe do it while you are in the shower.
  3. Spit out the oil, brush your teeth as usual and rinse with fresh water.

Tips for success

  • It is best to spit out the coconut oil onto a piece of paper and place it in the trash. Spitting over your sink may cause a clog to form after some time.
  • You don’t need to swish with a great deal of force. In fact, it is best to try to remain relaxed in the process.
  • It’s best to oil pull on an empty stomach
  • Repeat 3-5 times a week for best results.

Make your own probiotic coconut oil chews

Not only do these chews help fight bacteria in your mouth but they also help promote a healthy gut microbiome.


  • ¼ cup cold pressed organic coconut oil
  • ¼ cup avocado oil
  • 3 teaspoons baobab powder
  • 2 capsules spore-based probiotic
  • Mini ice tray
  • Glass Jar

How to make

  1. Combine coconut oil and avocado oil.
  2. Whisk in baobab powder until dissolved.
  3. Fill ice cube trays in one teaspoon portions.
  4. Freeze for two hours until completely hardened.
  5. Store in refrigerator.
  6. Use one daily – swish in mouth for 15 minutes – don’t swallow the oil.

-The UpWellness Team