Thrive Tries It: Oil Pulling For A Brighter, Whiter Smile

August 20, 2015
by Annalise Mantz for Thrive Market
Thrive Tries It: Oil Pulling For A Brighter, Whiter Smile

I'm one of those weirdos who loves going to the dentist.

I floss religiously, brush twice a day without fail, and can't stand having anything stuck in my teeth. So when we first started kicking around the idea of oil pulling at Thrive HQ, I was intrigued. I'm willing to try (almost) anything that promises extra shiny pearly whites.

Disclaimer: If you can't stand greasy food, or you have a sensitive gag reflex, this Ayurvedic practice might not be for you. In fact, another editor–who shall remain nameless–was originally assigned to try oil pulling, but her first attempt wasn't so pretty (read: she threw up). Understandably, she didn't want to continue the experiment, so I volunteered my own set of teeth.

It wasn't hard to get the hang of it—the idea behind oil pulling is so simple, you'll wonder if that's really all you need to do for whiter teeth, fresher breath, and to eliminate toxins from your mouth. Take 1 tablespoon of sesame, sunflower, or coconut oil and swish it around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, and very carefully, spit all the oil out. Make sure not to spit it down the drain, though—oil can stop up your pipes and leave you desperate for a plumber. Afterwards, floss and brush teeth normally.

With this advice in hand, I set out to oil pull for the first time. I gave it three days—in the interest of the experiment, of course.

Day One

Most people recommend oil pulling first thing in the morning because this is when your mouth is usually filled with the most bacteria, but truthfully, I woke up and totally forgot. So, before bed, I grabbed a spoon and some coconut oil.

My first thought upon putting the oil in my mouth was...huh. I used the coconut oil straight out of the fridge, so it had hardened, and took a few minutes to melt in my mouth. I didn't love the sensation.

Once the oil melted, though, I was okay with it. Coconut oil doesn't have much flavor. Texturally, the longer you swish the coconut oil in your mouth, the thicker the oil becomes. Some say that's because of the toxins released by oil pulling. Whatever made the oil so thick, it was a little funky, so I distracted myself by watching Friends. 

Once I spit out the used oil in the trash (gross, I know), I flossed and brushed my teeth. Overall, my teeth felt nice and smooth—maybe a bit cleaner than usual.

Day Two

Because I messed up the first day, I ended up oil pulling on Day Two about 10 hours after my first experience the night before.

This time wasn't so easy. Maybe because I wasn't fully awake, I accidentally swallowed a tiny bit of the oil and started to gag. It wasn't a pleasant experience.

I tried oil pulling with melted oil this time around, and it was much better not to have to wait for it to melt, and the texture stayed more consistent the whole time. After flossing and brushing again, my choppers were looking—and feeling—pretty great.

Day Three

My final day of oil pulling actually went the best. By now, I knew to start with melted oil, and this time, I tried to relax as much as possible. I could feel my jaw and neck tense up the first few times, and making a conscious effort to release these muscles actually made the whole experience more enjoyable. I was even able to start getting dressed and make my bed while swishing the oil around my mouth.

After flossing and brushing, I couldn't see any marked difference in my teeth since the beginning of the experiment. A longer trial would probably make a bigger difference, but I don't feel particularly excited about keeping up the whole oil-in-the-mouth charade.

The verdict? I probably won't be adding it to my daily routine. Fifteen minutes is a long time to hold oil in your mouth, and my stomach is just too queasy to deal with any issues about accidentally swallowing oil infused with the toxins and impurities that it's drawn out from my body.

That said, my teeth did feel especially clean while I was oil pulling. With a little more practice, I think I could get more comfortable with oil pulling and maybe try it daily. For the time being, though, I think I'll stick to my trusty floss and toothpaste.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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  • Biota

    I highly recommend oil pulling! I've noticed it helps me to avoid canker sores, and if I do have a little one forming, oil pulling makes it go away so much faster.

  • Sara Thompson

    I use herb infused olive oil at night before bed. I swish and watch a little tv which makes it super easy (except that's when my family wants to talk to me).

  • Pam

    Even if you can only stand 10 minutes it's worth the benefits. The big thing is to not spit it out in your drains!

  • Lisa Moran

    I oil pull each night, but just for a few minutes while doing other parts of my nightly routine. I find that just a few minutes still provides benefit (whiter teeth, fresh feeling mouth). I'm sure 15-20 minutes would be optimum - and necessary with some gum/mouth issues; but for me, a few minutes is enough.

  • NALadyCM

    I oil pull while I am in the shower, since it usually takes about 15-20 minutes. Just always remember to spit it into the trash, not your drain, it will clog your drains.

  • Maggie C Wong

    I have been pulling with coconut oil for months. While I have not noticed any increase in the whiteness of my teeth, my dentist recently told me that my gums are so much healthier, much less bleeding during cleanings. Those results are good enough for me!

  • Darcyinks

    You can add peppermint or clove essential oils if the oil taste bothers you. They have the added benefit of being anti-microbial. Oil pulling is especially good for healthy gums! You can keep all your teeth forever! I do it during my morning shower. Once you get used to it, it is easy!

  • FredPierre

    If I have a toxic taste in my mouth in the morning, like I did after painting the garage, I oil pull to clean my mouth out. I only swish for a minute or two and repeat if the bad flavor is still present. It is amazingly refreshing.

  • teresasvedman

    I've done the reading research and I finally started coconut oil pulling about 5 days ago. It has whitened my teeth a bit, my mouth feels more clean after brushing. I do it at night while decompressing watching the tube as I'm not a morning person. After getting over that initial nausea from putting the oil in my mouth, I've found it feels good. I don't melt it, just chomp it down (which could have its benefits) and start pressing it through my front teeth until I can swish it through in and around everything. I like that my gums really do feel healthier. I think I am developing a life long habit. I really believe it has helped my oral health. Tonight I thought I might put a drop of clove oil in too. For first timers, keep a paper towel or napkin with you and maybe even a small waste basket just in case. Better to start again if you need to. ;)

  • Rita Bates

    I have always had yellow teeth, oil pulling has most efinately helped make them whiter. I also use it whe I feel a tooth ache coming on or with sinus issues. I swear it helps.

  • diablo135

    You all would be better served (and healthier) by actually eating the coconut oil rather than wasting it by swishing it around.

  • Jamie B

    I'm not sure if you did it long enough to see any benefits. I started oiling pulling a few weeks ago. I do it daily while I'm making my green smoothie each morning. I started it because I have 2 crowns side by side that have created a food trap. After almost a month of oil pulling and using my new water flosser, I don't get nearly as much food (if any) caught between those 2 crowns. It also seems that the gap has closed some. I'm really not sure if it was the oil pulling or the water flosser or a combo of the 2 (or something else). I plan to check with my dentist bc maybe it's all in my head (ha!). Either way, Im satisfied with my results.

  • MyMonkey'sUncle

    Sesame oil works as well. I've had good results with both.

  • MiamiGirl29

    rinse with salt after too!

  • Faust

    Much easier is using brushing rinse, a commercially available product made with food grade hydrogen peroxide and a mixture of natural plant oils. It is easier to use, whitens teeth, leaves the mouth fresh, removes toxins, and freshens breath. It is great first thing in the morning instead of toothpaste. You can spit it out into the drain with no problem. I brush my teeth with some of it in my mouth in the morning and use toothpaste with a sonic toothbrush the rest of the day.

  • Chi

    Preface: I still also do basic brushing and flossing; use a strong herbal mouthwash [Tooth and Gum rinse].
    I have learned over time:
    The minimum needed to do the job, is NOT the usually recommended One Tablespoon; instead, a far more comfortable and manageable One rounded TEASPOON. Time: Minimum 5 minutes, longer if you can. ALWAYS spit it to the trash, the garden, or other waste stream [NOT the plumbing!]
    I use coconut oil, because it has the added advantage of being slightly germicidal. IF I'd known the above minimums, I'd have been using it decades earlier when first learned of it, and would likely have avoided losing a couple teeth.
    New Dentist took photos of my teeth [several years ago] as a new patient at that office...so he has records somewhere.
    Front teeth had longitudinal cracks; and, were significantly decalcified...the front teeth were water-clear on the lower biting portions. Several dentists had tried to talk me into capping them, or doing other cosmetic things. I said no.
    I learned it was OK to use less than the traditional 1 Tblsp., and, OK to use a good veggie oil whatever one has on hand. Because teeth were in sad shape, I decided to do it more often every day; I was doing it 2 to 3 times daily.
    After just 3 days, the gum pockets disappeared...the worst was a 4...Those just simply all healed. At two weeks into it, I thought I was seeing things...it seemed the teeth were recalcifying. At one month, the teeth were absolutely Recalcified...and no cracks could be seen. Further, it felt as though a bridge had resolidified into it's tooth...it was over 40 years old, and had been feeling a tiny bit loose for years. My teeth felt stronger than they had in decades. And, they were whiter, despite drinking coffee and tea.
    A couple years later, I'd slacked off doing it for some time...and a nasty cavity had formed at the back side of an upper molar. I commenced Oil Pulling again, this time 3 to 4 times a day. Within a month, that cavity had filled in, including nice, new hard shiny enamel surface.
    The dentist found NO trace a cavity had ever been there, upon Xray and physically examining it, and had a hard time believing what he was seeing.
    BUT...he did find I'd lost a rather deep filling in a lower [cuspid?]---BUT that tooth had been drilled and filled with composite, so no idea if it would respond to Oil Pulling... I'm giving it 6 months to do something towards repairing itself; so far, a couple months into it, it does NOT seem as though OP'ing will repair a dentist-drilled/filled tooth.
    But there's more time yet...jury is still out. And the dentist, who also teaches at UW, has been reservedly recommending Oil Pulling to his periodontal patients.
    To those who think eating the oil, is better to help the teeth?? NOT!!!!
    OP'ing does things eating it cannot do. Here's the explanation I got: The .process. physically pumps the lymph system and glands surrounding the mouth; that causes fluids to circulate more effectively through the microtubules in the teeth. Waste materials and toxins that get stuck in sluggish lymph glands, and inside the teeth, can therefore circulate out via saliva, which mixes with the oil. Toxins BOND with the Oil, which cannot bond with saliva or water; THAT is why the used oil gets spit out.
    And THAT is why simply eating the oil, Cannot do what OP'ing does.
    THEREFORE...OP'ing can also help those who have no teeth...because it helps circulate garbage OUT of the lymph via the saliva. Though it's not very pronounced, the physical action of swishing/pumping the lymph system around the mouth, using a good veggie oil, ALSO has beneficial effects on the entire lymph system, helping move garbage to where it can be processed out better.

  • kellou

    Good things come to those who wait. You did not do it long enough.patience is key. Coconut pulling works! I had noticeable results in 2-3 weeks how am I so sure?when pics show my teeth as White and no longer yellow and my 18 year old son notices and says "wow mom your teeth are white! I need to do what u r doing!"

  • k a

    Great little article and I could almost completely relate to your first experiences with oil pulling, especially the gagging thing. Oh, and the texture / volume changes because of increased saliva production. Like anything new, it takes practice and a desire or curiosity to keep going. The first day was tough and kinda funny (gagging, thinking I was smelling it in my nasopharynx, a mouth suddenly FILLED with liquid) so I did a little more reading about it and started using a little less oil. I've been doing it for almost two weeks now. I use a little less than a tablespoon of oil (the soupspoon tablespoon) and then get to reading emails or showering or some other opening of the day activity (on the 2nd day I tossed the oil in and went to do laundry not ever thinking I'd run into people in the elevator who wanted to chat ... funny). Before I know it, 20 minutes is history! My teeth and gums seem to look and feel better. And I'm looking forward to the next visit to the dentist for my final cleaning of the year where we'll see the actual evidence of the process.

  • Pixi

    Great article. The only but if advice I wanted to give us that you didn't do it long enough. You get amazing results if you would have given it a week or longer. My husband had receding gums and a very sensitive tooth. After 2 weeks his teeth were no longer sensitive and his gums were much healthier. The dentist was wondering what he was doing different that aided in his gum health! I understand it is hard to get used to and hard to get into the routine of. But I suggest doing it at a time of day that works best for you. Like in the evening works best for me because the kids are in bed and I can read a book or browse facebook. I would highly suggest keeping oil pulling in your routine! You gave up too soon!!

  • Delphine Brisepierre

    If I can get my 5 year old to do it, anyone can.

    The trick is making little coconut oil chewables, use very small molds and add a drop of peppermint oil. Much much easier! I find people who have issues use way too much, you don't want more than a tsp.

    As for benefits, I have completely reversed my tooth cold sensitivity (seriously, I couldn't eat ice cream without letting it melt on my tongue first, now I can chew ice!) That's proof enough for me that it's beneficial :)

  • http://www.sourceseminars.com Kanta Masters

    I have been oil-pulling for close to a year...I rarely miss a morning. It is FANTASTIC. I was chagrined that the writer may have dissuaded even one person from trying it. My dental hygienist has said she has seen miracles among those who diligently practice. I was told TWENTY minutes was recommended. I bought a timer from Amazon and just swish til it goes off. Makes the whole thing so much less invasive. There are plenty of things one can do while 'pulling' so the time invested is no burden. I use coconut oil and recommend it. I buy a gallon of the best raw, organic, handmade I can find. It lasts a long time and my teeth are whiter, my gums have lost most of their 'recession' or pockets and I KNOW my mouth, teeth, etc are much healthier. This is a 5,000 year old practice from the Vedas...it was passed down from sages from a much Higher age than ours. To me the whole thing is a no-brainer. I hope you will give it a chance. I use a full tablespoon (recommended) and after the initial time I have not had any issues. We are just so use to swallowing we have to acclimate ourselves not to....and that was quite easy for me. Mind over matter...why let the ego make a fuss if it is truly better for the body?

  • pixelzombie

    I tried this in the morning for a good 2 months. My teeth were very smooth and clean but they did not whiten at all.

  • Cissus Experts

    You should all try TruthPaste. It's the first, and only, complete botanical toothpaste made from all natural and organic ingredients. It would be great to see TruthPaste on the Thrive market someday.

  • Legend79

    Has there been any study that proves the oil is full of toxins...?