My Thoughts on Coconut Oil Pulling

Oil pulling has been around for over 3,000 years and it’s believed to have started as part of a traditional medicine practice in India called Ayurveda, which focuses on the balance between the mind, body and spirit.  It has definitely gained some popularity in the past few years with consumers that are hoping to find more natural ways to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

According to various websites and holistic experts, the dental health benefits of coconut oil pulling are:

  • Cures tooth decay
  • Whitens teeth
  • Gets rid of bad breath
  • Heals bleeding gums
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Soothes throat dryness
  • Prevents cavities
  • Heals cracked lips
  • Strengthens gums and jaw

Although there are a myriad of other total body health benefit claims out there, I will try to stay focused on those having to do with dentistry since that’s my expertise.

Basic instructions for coconut oil pulling:

  1. First thing in the morning is the best time for oil pulling
  2. Gently roll 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes.
  3. Spit the oil out in the trash NOT down the drain.  It could actually clog the drain.
  4. Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  5. Brush and floss as normal.
  6. Repeat this process 3-4 times per week.

Yes I have tried oil pulling.  I also have a few patients that are refusing periodontal treatment and would rather stick to coconut oil pulling instead.  This frustrates me so, let me give you my honest opinion.

It can kill germs.

Coconut oil is a lipid.   When the enzymes in your mouth try to digest this fat, some fatty acids are produced that can kill germs.  It usually takes between 10-15 minutes for this to start happening.  There have been limited studies that show coconut oil reduces the mouth bacteria Streptococcus mutans.  (a germ well known for causing cavities).  Other studies have shown a reduction in the occurrence of yeasts in the mouth that cause thrush.

It does NOT necessarily remove them

I’m all for killing germs that cause dental problems, but bacteria are very smart and they live in places that your toothbrush and floss can’t reach.  Imagine layers of germs way down below the gums.  There are thousands of them holding onto your tooth by the “glue” that attaches them to hard surfaces and each other.  They have built an amazing colony that looks kinda like a coral reef.  The coconut oil smothers the colony and all of the bacteria crystalize into tartar.  They are dead but they are still capable of causing disease.  This tartar must be removed by a professional.

It does NOT cure cavities

Your spit can do amazing things for your teeth!   Every time you eat or drink something that lowers the pH in your mouth, the enzymes, proteins and minerals in your saliva start to repair the outer layer of your enamel  As long as this demineralization and remineralization process is balanced, you won’t get cavities.  Your teeth have three layers:  The strong outer shell of enamel, the second softer dentin layer, and the inner nerve canal.  When the outer part of your tooth caves in and get a early cavitation, there’s still a chance that it can remineralize… but when that cavity develops beyond the outer shell of your tooth, it’s time to see a dentist.  Period.  It’s never been proven otherwise.

It does NOT grow bone back or cure periodontal disease

When the bone in the jaw gets destroyed by periodontal disease, no rinse or at home product is going to regenerate bone or remove the tartar and plaque deeply embedded in the tissue.  It just can’t.  These conditions need professional help.  When we see these problems, our goal for the patient is that the disease is stabilized and most surfaces in the mouth can easily be cleaned at home.

It does NOT replace good dental hygiene habits or going to the dentist

I’m concerned to read on several internet sites that people aren’t brushing or flossing after an oil pulling session.  As mentioned before, dead germs on your tooth are still in your mouth and can cause problems.  I am also worried that some entities are trying to convince others that they can save thousands of dollars in dental bills by using something that isn’t proven to reverse decay or periodontal disease.

It takes a LONG time

I can barely get people to brush and floss everyday yet consistently people tell me “I don’t have time”!  I would much rather someone spend 3 minutes mechanically removing the germs from their mouth rather than hoping this swish is going to replace proven habits that prevent decay and periodontal disease.


Ask a Dental Hygienist Video:


In a Nutshell

Long ago in India in a time and place where modern advancements and treatments for dental disease were not an option, this routine had much more value.  You also have to consider that they had completely different genetic makeups, diets and life spans were quite a bit shorter than ours.

I don’t love it for me but I don’t hate it for others so long as their teeth and gums are healthy and this is used in conjunction with great dental habits and regular visits to the dentist.


Research and Experts:

Only 7 small studies have really been done with oil pulling.  None of them (In my opinion) involved enough test subjects or time.

American Dental Association, … “Based on the lack of currently available evidence, oil pulling is not recommended as a supplementary oral hygiene practice, and certainly not as a replacement for standard, time-tested oral health behaviors and modalities. ”  (click here for full article)

J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7. “Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health.”

BMC Pulm Med. 2015 Oct 30;15:135. doi: 10.1186/s12890-015-0134-8. Two cases of lipid pneumonia associated with oil pulling

Healthline…”You shouldn’t use oil pulling as a replacement for your current oral care. You should still see a dentist regularly and brush your teeth at least twice per day.”

2006 study showing lauric acid to kill germs (bacteriocidal)

7 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Coconut Oil Pulling

  1. Nadia Uliana says:

    Thank you Charlotte, this is awesome. Thank you for taking the time to pull this together…very well thought out. I will be sharing this with my clients. Much appreciated.

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