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Oil Pulling Heals Gums & Whitens Teeth, Naturally

Oil Pulling Heals Gums & Whitens Teeth, Naturally

When I first read about oil-pulling, it set off just about every skeptic alarm bell in my brain.

See, I’m a hippie, tried and true. I was raised by hippies and spent my childhood burning sage in dry river beds while dancing to the rhythmic pulse of a spiritual drum circle. But now I’m all grown up, and as it turns out, I’m a scientist. So I love my natural, holistic, alternative therapies. But I need them to make good logical sense, too.

And when I first read about oil pulling? Well, it didn’t make so much sense.

Oil pulling is the ancient Ayurvedic technique that basically involved swishing a tablespoon of cold-pressed oil around in your mouth every morning for 20 minutes. Because purportedly, this swishing will pull the “toxins” out from all over your body, drawing them into the oil and therefore cleansing your whole system. Which heals your gums and whitens your teeth. Because the oil pulls the “toxins” out of your tongue.

So, no. That doesn’t make any sense.

But at the time I was investigating all this, I was pretty desperate. I’d just had a baby, and that had left me with pregnancy-induced gingivitis (which occurs in roughly 50% of pregnant women). My gums would sometimes bleed, and my teeth were super sensitive. And due to an out of control coffee and green juice habit, my teeth were abysmally stained.

So yes, I was desperate. And that desperation led me to dig deeper. I read testimony after testimony of people who had restored their oral health using oil pulling, and I just couldn’t help but wonder. Was there something to this? Was there something more, maybe something scientifically sound, going on there?

Yes! What I finally found, to my delight, was a totally plausible explanation of how oil pulling might actually impact oral health in a positive way. Essentially, a rational explanation for all these amazing and seemingly-mystical results. It goes like this:

Plaque accumulates along the base of your teeth, causing little pockets to form under your gums. These pockets become home to harmful bacteria. The bacteria produce toxins (real ones, not “woo woo” mystical ones) that irritate your gums, causing inflammation and bleeding. This is gingivitis. It’s basically a factory of toxicity in your mouth, happily tucked away up under your gums, overloading your immune system with bacterial exotoxins and endotoxins every single time you swallow.

And how does oil pulling fit in? Well, that’s an interesting question.

It appears that the key to successful oil pulling is in the duration of the swishing. See, oil is viscous, so it’s “sticky.” And it spreads. Given enough time (like, say, a full 20 minutes), it will slowly seep all the way up into those bacteria-filled pockets. Tooth brush bristles can’t get up there. Toothpaste is foamy and runny, not sticky at all, so it won’t get up there. Mouthwash isn’t viscous at all. But oil – oil creeps into every nook and cranny. It seeps in everywhere, and then as you swish, it’s drawn back out. Oil pulling is the only way to reach, and dislodge, those harmful bacteria that are buried so deeply under your gum line.

You want to know the best part? Science agrees! Oil pulling leads to a reduction in oral bacteria: See here and here.

So, are we dealing with mystic body detoxification? Or simply a sticky oil that’s able to go where no cleanser has gone before? Or maybe a better question – does it really even matter?

I was curious enough and convinced enough to give oil pulling a try, and I am so glad that I did. Oil pulling completely cleared up my gingivitis, and it absolutely whitened my teeth, all in under two months. I could hardly believe it!

But I couldn’t deny it.

So whether you’re a tried-and-true crystal twinkie, or a die hard rationalistic skeptic, it doesn’t really matter. If you want to improve your oral health, then oil pulling can help you. Period.

How to Try Oil Pulling:

  • Every morning, first thing in the morning, before brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth out, measure one tablespoon of virgin cold-pressed sesame, coconut, sunflower, or olive oil (sesame and coconut are the most reputed).
  • Swish this oil around in your mouth, letting it pass over your tongue, your gums, and all your teeth, and trying your best to move it between each tooth, for a full 20 minutes. I usually do this while I make breakfast and get dressed.
  • The oil will turn white and frothy. Don’t gargle it or you’ll risk swallowing it. When the 20 minutes is up, spit it all out.
  • Gargle, preferably with salt water, and thoroughly rinse your mouth out. Brush your teeth as normal. Go about your day.
  • Repeat daily for a minimum of 30 days, but ideally 45-60 days.


Good luck, and here’s to your oral health!

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Read more: Alternative Therapies, Ayurveda, Bath & Shower, Beauty, General Health, Health, Holistic Beauty, Natural Remedies, Oral Care, , , , , , , ,

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Sayward Rebhal

Sayward Rebhal is a writer, a mother, a mover and a maker. Author of the Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, Sayward also works as a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and blogs about all things "socially conscious, totally fabulous" at


+ add your own
10:41PM PDT on May 12, 2015


9:24PM PDT on May 12, 2015

thanks for the article. When I have told my friends about oil pulling, they look at me like I'm crazy or something, so now that there is an actual article I can send to them maybe they will think otherwise. I prefer the coconut oil for oil pulling it is much more palatable. in the cooler months coconut oil solidifies, but I have no problem just putting a big table spoon in my mouth. for some people that have never done this it can be kind of a weird experience! lol!, so if that is the case warming it up first will liquefy it and then make it more palatable. do not however warm it up by way of microwave. put it in a glass or stainless steel dish with a larger dish underneath filled with hot water from the faucet just and it will liquefy pretty quickly then put in your mouth and swish away!, definitely heed the advice of tongue scraping once you get used to that sensation you will absolutely never go back to not scraping your tongue, and will wonder how you ever did without it!

2:51PM PDT on May 12, 2015

Thank you, good article. I think it works with removing bacteria and that's important. Not sure about improving recession or pockets fully but certainly getting the bacteria out of there helps it. You still must brush and floss and only include oil pulling as part of your oral plan.

2:53PM PDT on Apr 29, 2015

My daughter told me to try oil pulling with coconut oil and I did. I did it for the first time this morning, for 20 minutes with organic coconut oil. My gums have been receding and getting very sore for about 6 months now. After the first oil pull there was no more pain in my gums! Hope it lasts, and I will continue with oil pulling and see what else happens.
Thanks for posting.

6:28PM PDT on Mar 17, 2015

I tried the oil pulling today- felt very soothing, but I forgot about the gargling- will do that tomorrow!

10:33AM PDT on Mar 10, 2015

I think I will try it!

4:24PM PST on Feb 24, 2015

I did oil pulling with coconut oil, and alternated with sesame oil for 4 months last summer, for 20 minutes each morning, as directed. When I went for my 6-month dental cleaning, the hygienist asked me if I was doing anything different, as I seemed to have more plaque than usual. I was blown away--I figured I would have a very good report. I hadn't noticed anything different, but figured my teeth would be in better condition. Needless to say I stopped. It not only cost me 2 bottles of sesame oil--which isn't cheap, plus 1 jar of coconut oil, also not cheap, and 20 minutes each morning. I think it's useless.

10:20AM PST on Feb 24, 2015

Thank you very much! :)

7:39AM PST on Feb 24, 2015


6:19AM PST on Feb 24, 2015

Very useful information. Thanks!

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