Does Oil Pulling Actually Work? We Think Yes and No…

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tablespoon and open container of coconut oil

Coconut oil can do just about anything… including whitening our teeth??

Oil pulling has been a trendy topic in the last few years, but it’s actually an ancient Ayurvedic dental hygiene technique said to draw toxins from the mouth and body. Plenty of folks have claimed it helped them whiten their teeth, prevent cavities, and strengthen their teeth and gums among other cool benefits.

I can sometimes be a bit skeptical when reading about major health claims, so I dove into the science behind coconut oil pulling and even tried it out myself!

First thing’s first: Is oil pulling a legit way to treat stinky breath and other oral unpleasantries?

tablespoon of coconut oil in front of container

From what I found, it definitely has potential!

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which makes up about 50% of coconut oil’s fatty acid content and has some pretty impressive antimicrobial properties. It’s notably effective at fighting bacteria and fungi, sort of like a natural mouthwash!

In fact, people have said that lauric acid and coconut oil pulling have helped them with everything from cavities to hangovers. 😱

And while we can’t speak for its effectiveness as a hangover cure, some studies have backed up its ability to help battle gingivitis and bad breath & reduce overall inflammation.

Plus, I learned that it can also help your sinuses!

spoon sticking out of coconut oil jar

I asked my Hip teammates if anyone had experience with oil pulling, and one said her husband uses it to help his sinus issues. I had NO idea that coconut oil pulling could do that, but it makes sense since the nose, throat, and mouth are so closely linked.

The antibacterial properties of coconut oil help cleanse the sinuses as well as the throat, so this may be a useful remedy for folks suffering from stubborn seasonal allergies. 🙌

Now that we know about the benefits, here’s how to oil pull!

woman holding jar of coconut oil and tablespoon

To start, oil pulling is pretty straightforward: all ya need is some coconut oil (organic cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is recommended) and a tablespoon!

woman holding coconut oil and tablespoon with oil in mouth oil pulling

After you measure out your tablespoon, it’s time to swish! Ideally, you’ll continue swishing the tablespoon of oil in your mouth & pulling it through your teeth for 15-20 minutes.

woman holding tablespoon

Not gonna lie, I found the feeling of oil pulling to be super unpleasant and had to take breaks in my 20-minute oil pulling increments. I love the flavor of coconut oil, but I just couldn’t hack the feeling of it swimming around in my mouth for that long. 🥴

solid coconut oil in tablespoon measurer

After your 20-minute session’s up, spit out the oil into the trash. This is super important since coconut oil solidifies at room temp and can clog pipes!

After all the oil is out, brush and floss like usual and you’re good to go!

So how did I feel after practicing oil pulling for two weeks?

After reading claims from so many people that oil pulling whitened their teeth, I expected to come out of this experiment with a shiny new smile. But honestly, I didn’t notice a huge difference in the shade of my pearly whites.

before and after picture of oil pulling

I snapped some photos of my smile–before oil pulling (on the left), and after oil pulling for about two weeks (on the right)–at the same time of day using natural light to make sure the lighting didn’t affect the picture results. And while they look pretty similar, to me the one on the right does look a bit brighter.

Also, to be fair, I have whitened my teeth in the past (I find it necessary as a big fan of black coffee), and two weeks isn’t a super long time, so maybe that’s why I didn’t notice a big difference.

What I did notice, however, is that my mouth generally felt a little cleaner and food-related odors didn’t seem to last as long. I love some garlic, so I’m sure my friends & fam were thankful for that last perk. 🤣

coconut oil jar and red tablespoon on table

 A few helpful tips if you want to try oil pulling!

    • For anyone allergic to coconut (or just not crazy about the flavor), you can also try oil pulling with sesame or sunflower oil. They don’t contain lauric acid so they lack some of the antimicrobial properties of coconut oil, but they’re good substitutes if coconut oil doesn’t work for ya.
    • To see the maximum benefits, it’s recommended to practice oil pulling 1-2 times per day for at least two weeks.
    • While swishing the oil, try to do another task, like completing some chores or going for a short walk (to keep your mind off the weird mouthfeel). This definitely helped me when the texture started to feel gross. 😅
    • Rinse your mouth with a gentle saltwater mixture after you spit out the oil & before you brush your teeth. This will help remove the excess oil from your mouth.

The best part? The $$$ you’ll save when switching it out for those harsh mouthwashes!

crest mouthwash at store

A lot of folks–myself included–like to have that extra-clean feeling that often comes from using mouthwash after brushing and flossing. But even when I try to snag a great deal, mouthwashes generally can’t compete with the cost of a jar of coconut oil, especially when I buy the bulk containers.

Compare a jar of coconut oil to this whitening mouthwash.

So not only is the jar of oil a better deal, but it also isn’t full of potential allergens often found in commercial toothpaste and mouthwashes. And like we mentioned, if coconut oil doesn’t work for you, it can always be switched out for a different type of oil. 🙌

oil in tablespoon over jar for oil pulling

While oil pulling is far from a miracle cure or replacement for good oral hygiene, it’s a non-harmful and non-toxic way to give your mouth a little antibacterial boost.

And if you find most commercial mouthwashes to be kind of intense (and pricey!), oil pulling may be a natural alternative for you!

Get ready for the summer heat with our DIY cooling coconut oil lotion!

About the writer:

Brandi has an Associate's Degree and 5+ years of experience writing and creating online content for local businesses.

Join The Discussion

Comments 27

  1. Michelle

    I have done this on and off for years. I personally love it, just don’t always have 20 minutes to swish around in the morning. My teeth have whitened, almost overnight on my first use. I don’t use any teeth whitening products. It is also amazing for clearing sinus. When you spit it out, I tend to cough up some deep lingering phlegm and often have to blow my nose, but its the best breathing you’ll have for a while. Especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies. Best of luck in your oil pulling adventures!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh interesting! Thanks for sharing your experience, Michelle! Good to know how it has worked for you!

  2. Jen

    Never heard of this! Very interesting.. might just give it a try 😉

  3. LG

    Very interesting article, Hip2Save friends! Thanks for sharing!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re welcome, LG!

  4. Mary

    I have really bad seasonal allergies and I constantly have to take Claritin D so I can breathe and taste my food. I will definitely try this. Thank you.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re welcome, Mary! Hope you love it!

  5. debra

    I have never heard of this. Its really a great organic way to help sinuses and clean your mouth. Thanks for the post.. Love all this cool stuff you all are doing!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Aww, You’re so welcome, Debra! Glad you are enjoying these posts! Thanks a bunch for the sweet feedback!

  6. Jessica

    I love all these articles with the things you guys try! Never heard of this before but it’s interesting! Thanks for all you do!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re most welcome, Jessica! Thank YOU for the kind words! Super happy to hear you are loving the reviews!

  7. Laura

    I’ve been doing this off and on for years. “Experts” recommend you start with about 3 minutes a day and work your way up to 15-20. Much more effective for gum and mouth health than whitening.

  8. Jackie

    Wow! I will for sure try this for my teeth. They are not bad but I do love my Coke, tea and my morning coffee (btw always use a straw when drinking liquids that might stain my teeth). My teeth are very sensitive and I have tried every single whitening strips out there and all of them aggravate my tooth sensitivity. L❤️VE these articles (used them and here are the results) it’s like a mini consumer report so please keep them coming! Here is an idea- ask some of us (readers) to use a certain household product (like this one and the coconut oil) and get a few before and after pictures and their personal 100% truthful opinion (good or bad) and maybe compensate them with a gift card for their participation and post the results 😉. Our own Hip2Save consumer reports. I love Amazon because of their feedback but some of those feedbacks are paid for so you can’t 100% trust them. I would for sure trust our little consumer report if we had one. Our Hip2Save community is the best. I don’t buy anything before reading the comments here. They are super helpful 😁🙌❤️

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      What a fun idea, Jackie! Thanks so much for the suggestion and feedback! I have passed this along to the team!

  9. Sherry

    Our 15 year old dog had to have 4 teeth pulled and had atrocious breath. The vet said to gently brush his teeth with virgin coconut oil and use a soft baby toothbrush. She said if he ingested some of it it would be good for his coat and digestive system. His breath is so much better and so far no more teeth problems.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for letting us know how well it has worked for his teeth and breath! Good to know!

  10. LB

    I have oil pulled for over 10 years. Several dentists have remarked about the lack in plaque build up and I have had a decrease in cavities. The biggest plus for me is it helps reduce the sensitivity of my teeth. I would recommend not using low grade yellowish coconut oil. It does not work as well and definitely does not taste great.

  11. Sheri Baby

    I have tried this but really struggled having something that tastes like food in my mouth for 20 minutes without swallowing it. I might try it again for 3 minutes and see if I can get used to it.

  12. CHakel

    I mix in some activated charcoal with my coconut oil. My best check ups are when I’m consistent- barely any time spent scraping!

  13. P M

    I have to add my comment: started oil swishing last year, following the advice from a person who creates amazing ayurvedic body and hair products. Only using sesame oil. And my dentist and me are amazed at the improvement in my teeth. No bleeding , pink gums.
    Oil has to the be the first thing in your mouth, no rinsing, or eating or anything. A spoonful, and swish it around. Do other things while swishing it to make sure its in your mouth for 20 mins. At the end, spit it into your trash basket to avoid clogging pipes. Then just brush as you would normally.I use a tooth powder after oil rinsing, but sometimes will use a toothpaste.Do oil rinse 3 times a week, not daily. And for some sesame oil wont suit, so use Triphala concoction.
    Check this article too. And you can check the blog and shop while there

  14. LolaLolita

    I had never heard of this, thanks for sharing! I think I will try it!

  15. Mary W

    The American Dental Association noted the absence of proper scientific studies demonstrating any beneficial dental- or oral-related effects from oil pulling.

    • Pytha

      Well, so many ayurvedic and homeopathic remedies not stamped by the FDA are out there helping some or even many, does not make them less valuable imo. Took years for hydrogen peroxide to be considered beneficial for mouth washes and approved and it is by now, finally. Just saying, not everything is bad because the gods is white haven’t given their okay.

  16. Peggy

    I have Sjogren’s, an autoimmune disease. My immune system attacks my salivary glands and causes severe dry mouth which leads to tooth decay and mouth sores. My Rheumatologist had me start using coconut oil about 6 months ago. It has helped quite a bit!

  17. Lisa

    I only do it for 5 minutes and now I have no gum sensitivity, goodbye expensive toothpaste! If you don’t want to deal with the oil every morning you can make oil pulling chews, super simple and convenient.

    • Meee

      That sounds super interesting. Would you have the recipe for that?

  18. Ashley

    I did this for several weeks. It aggravated my TMJ. I ended up at the dentist, who gave me a prescription for muscle relaxers. 🙁

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