Oil Pulling

Oil in a spoon used for oil pulling

What is Oil Pulling and Does It Work?

Oil pulling (sometimes called oil swishing) is derived from a traditional method of medical treatment that originated thousands of years ago in India called Ayurveda. Ayurveda fundamentally means "the science of life" and is meant to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit using natural sources, mainly from plants. Oil pulling, traditionally used with sesame or sunflower oil, is a natural home remedy that is said to improve not only dental health but also contribute to systematic healing in a simple and inexpensive way. There are many who say they have experienced incredible health benefits from this simple act of swishing oil around in their mouths(1). Dr. F Karach, a Ukrainian oncologist, helped introduce oil pulling to the mainstream population by announcing to his colleagues at a 1992 conference for oncologists and bacteriologists that he had cured his leukemia and arthritis by practicing oil pulling on a daily basis.

The Benefits of Oil Pulling

Oil Pulling Benefits to Oral Health

  • Repairs dry lips
  • Purifies taste buds
  • Whitens teeth
  • Prevents and stops bad breath
  • Alleviates bleeding gums
  • Heals cavities and gingivitis
  • Soothes a dry throat

Inexpensive: A favorable benefit of oil pulling is that it is a low-cost way to improve your oral health. Oil used for oil pulling is readily available in most households, and if that isn't the case, quality oil is relatively inexpensive and can be purchased online and at most stores.

It reduces plaque and gingivitis: A 2007 study(2) found that the people in the study group who added 10-15 mL of refined sunflower oil each morning for eight to ten minutes showed a significant reduction in their levels of plaque and gingivitis. Overall the researchers concluded that oil pulling was a useful addition to every day oral hygiene routines. Another study(3) that compared oil pulling with sesame oil to using chlorhexidine (a mouthwash) determined that they were "equally effective" in reducing halitosis as well as reducing the organisms that cause halitosis.

Systematic health benefits: Oil pulling is believed to have not only oral benefits but also contributes to positive health and healing. The Ayurvedic medicine text professes that oil pulling cures over thirty health ailments. Some of these include: diabetes, arthritis, chronic sinusitis, migraines, asthma, bronchitis, intestinal diseases, heart disease, kidney disease, eczema, and many chronic illnesses. Reducing the amount of unfavorable bacteria and toxins in your body reduces the strain they cause on your immune system. This may explain why some claim oil pulling is capable of curing diseases and chronic inflammation.

How Oil Pulling Works

Oil pulling's simple technique pulls bacteria, toxins, and parasites from your saliva and tissues in your mouth. It is a curative process for dental health because it reduces pathogens, lactobacilli, streptococcus mutans (the bacteria that causes tooth decay), and the buildup of plaque. A triple-blind study(4) found a significant reduction in the levels of streptococcus mutans after just one to two weeks of oil pulling.

A 2011 study tested swished oil and found that the sesame oil had undergone a saponification and emulsification process. Micro-organisms and debris were also detected in the swished oil when observed under a microscope. The saponification/emulsification that results from pulling and swishing the oil, helps clean the mouth(5). Along with the enzymes that are activated from moving oil around in your mouth, the lipids in the oil also assist in pulling toxins, mucous, and bacteria from the mouth and lymphatic system.

Precautions and Side Effects of Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is a simple and natural healing approach with minimal to no side effects. Although it was only a 45 day study, researchers found that oil pulling every day did not cause any damage to hard or soft tissue in the mouths of their study group(2).

If your intentions are to use oil pulling for curing a chronic disease or ailment, some people report experiencing worsening symptoms while oil pulling. This may be attributed to a herxheimer reaction or herx symptoms. Experiencing herx symptoms is said to be an indicator that the body is healing. These symptoms should only last a few days. For more information on this topic it may be helpful to research herx symptoms or herxheimer reactions.

There have been a few reports of crowns or mercury fillings loosening. While these claims are rare and aren't completely validated it is helpful to be aware of them. If you are concerned that a crown or filling has loosened see a dentist immediately.

Do not swallow the oil; it contains bacteria, mucous, and toxins. If some oil is accidentally swallowed it is ok, just don't make a habit of it.

Do not use oil that you have a sensitivity or allergy to. For example, some people with a tree nut allergy are allergic to coconuts and should not use coconut oil.

The Best Oils for Oil Pulling

Coconut oil oil pulling

Sesame Oil - Look for unrefined, cold pressed, and oil that has not been roasted or toasted. Sesame oil contains linoleic acid (omega 6) and oleic acid (omega 9). It is an antifungal, contains antioxidants, vitamins E and K. We use Flora Sesame Oil.

Sunflower Oil - Look for unrefined, cold pressed. Sunflower oil contains linoleic acid (omega 6) and oleic acid (omega 9). It is a triglyceride (blood lipid), antibacterial, and contains vitamins A, D, and E. Some find that there is less taste than sesame oil. We use Life-Flo Sunflower Oil.

Coconut Oil - Look for unrefined, virgin. The lauric acid in coconut oil kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi due to its anti-microbial activity. Many find the taste pleasant. This oil is solid at temperatures below 76 degrees F, but it will quickly melt in your mouth. We use Nature's Way Coconut Oil.

Olive Oil - Look for extra-virgin, cold pressed. Olive oil contains linoleic acid (omega 6) and oleic acid (omega 9). It has antioxidants and is high in vitamins E and K. We use California Olive Ranch Olive Oil.

Almond Oil - Look for unrefined. Contains linoleic acid (omega 6) and oleic acid (omega 9), and vitamin E, and B vitamins. We use NOW Foods Almond Oil.

Many find that it is helpful to alternate different oils occasionally. It is also a good idea to always keep oil bottles firmly capped to protect the quality of the fatty acids in the oil. Exposing certain types of oil to oxygen for a long period of time will cause it to turn rancid faster.

BreathMD's Favorite: It is hard to decide which type of oil is our favorite. We have preferences towards taste (I personally enjoy the taste of sesame oil), but it is hard to determine which one is most effective. We have tried all of them and what we do now is alternate between each of these oils each time we oil pull.

How to Oil Pull

  1. Put 1 TBSP of oil in your mouth.

  2. Slowly push, swish, and pull the oil through your teeth and all around your mouth (except near the back of your throat), including under your tongue for 20 minutes. The oil will turn white and milky towards the end of the oil pulling session. This is a sign that bacteria and toxins have been pulled from your saliva.

    *Remember, do not swallow or gargle oil! Breathe deeply through your nose while oil pulling. It may be helpful to tilt your chin down a little to ensure you don't swallow the oil, just be sure you are moving the oil throughout your whole mouth.

  3. Spit out oil. It is recommended you spit the oil into the toilet or garbage can so your sinks plumbing does not risk getting clogged. Coconut oil solidifies at temperatures below 76°F (24°C) and may clog drains and/or pipes.

  4. Thoroughly rinse mouth with salt water to further cleanse any remaining toxins in mouth.

  5. Brush teeth.

* When first beginning oil pulling your jaw may become sore after just a few minutes, to prevent this from occurring remember to swish the oil gently. There is no need to thrash the oil vigorously in your mouth; the oil simply needs to be swished around the entire oral cavity. Using less oil may help in easing discomfort. Oil pulling aids in strengthening the jaw, some people may need to build up to a 20 minutes session.

* Oil pulling is not mean to replace your day to day oral care. Continue brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping as you normally would.

When and How Often to Oil Pull

It is best to oil pull in the morning before drinking any water, eating, or brushing your teeth. Many find that it is easy to routinely oil pull while showering. If you cannot oil pull in the morning it is always best to do it on an empty stomach. Wait four hours after a meal to oil pull and one hour after drinking. Oil pulling can be practiced a few times a week or even a few times each day.

**Do not use oil pulling as a substitute for care by a qualified health practitioner. Report any worsening symptoms to your doctor to determine if it is a part of the healing process or if you require immediate medical treatment.**

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Comments (10)
Pages | 1

Hey Karisa,
you should avoid gargling the oil because it might enter your bronchial / lung system. This can lead to lipoid pneumonia. The lungs cannot not deal with oil and chronic inflammation might result.

by Krane on Feb 14, 2017 | 9:18 PM

Hi. I have a question. This is my third day oil pulling. I looked in my mouth before I began. After I oil pulled, rinsed my mouth out, flossed, and brushes, I noticed I had two white patches on my tongue. Are those patches there because the toxins are being pulled out through my tongue and it caused a reaction?

by LA on Jan 20, 2017 | 11:04 AM

Why shouldn't you gargle with oil too

I keep reading that I shouldn't gargle with oil but no site explains why I shouldn't gargle with the oil. Surely the little bugs and fungi don't just live at the front of my mouth but also my throat and tonsils.

by Karisa on Dec 10, 2016 | 4:59 PM

Oil pulling has done me wonders...

by everline on Oct 23, 2016 | 1:59 PM

Here is a vegan oil - 24 natural ingredients in one tooth oil detox: http://www.purenaturalfresh.com/oil-pulling-detox-best-oil-for-oil-pulling/
Tasty too

by Geoffrey on Jan 24, 2016 | 2:50 PM

how to use oil pulling and were can I get it

Well I search on the Internet cos I have a kidney disease which cause me to have eczema, mouth odour which I can't relate my problem to a lecture, it becomes so embarrassed with my meet in college ,it even causes my face with raches.i want to try it now. Pls I will need ur guide. And is oil pulling different from coconut oil?Thank you.

by ibrahim hassan on Oct 9, 2015 | 6:49 PM


I am just wandering how long do I have to do oil pulling before I reap the full benefits. I have been doing it for the past four days and noticed that my gums still have a slight odour when I dental floss, but not as bad as before. I am really hoping that this is the final solution to my bad breath, which I think is caused by the pockets formed between my gums after I had veneers done two years ago, maybe plaque between the teeth. I brush, floss and use mouth wash twice a day and it has not helped in the past. Any comments on how long before it really sorts out my problem?

by cindy SA on Jun 22, 2015 | 7:34 AM

I just learned about oil pulling. I'm absolutely amazed I love the way my teeth feel and how white they are getting. I have shared this information with family and friends. I wish I had known sooner. I'm definitely hooked. Yes good advice to continue to see your dentist . I feel so much better now that my breath is so much fresher. Sincerely Lillian

by lillian on Jun 16, 2015 | 1:18 PM

I am so glad to discover this method of oral hygiene. I have suffered from chronic bad breath for 5 years now. Each time I visit my dentist she run a tooth scaling for me, and will say I don't have halitosis, yet when I run a test on my wrist or speak closely to my spouse, I still find the terrible odour. After 7 days of oil pulling, honestly I am amazed at how the odour has become almost non-existent. I use coconut oil and I oil pull twice everyday. I will continue with this natural healing procedure.

by David Chong on Apr 16, 2015 | 8:08 PM

I love oil pulling with coconut oil. It tastes good and my mouth feels so refreshed after. I'll have to share this page with my friends. Thanks for the info!

by Alexa on Oct 15, 2014 | 1:02 AM
Pages | 1
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