Get Your Swish On: Oil Pulling

I have a certain routine and order of things I do to start off my day. I’m guessing most of us do. I always try to include a healing habit into my morning ritual to support my body for the upcoming day. At times the habit falls to the wayside and at other times it sticks. Here’s 1 habit though that has stuck and I thought I’d share with you.

Oil Pulling – What is it and Why?

I’ve been oil pulling for the past 2 years. I first heard about this ancient Ayuryedic dental technique on Facebook and have read a lot about this unique practice since. For those who aren’t aware, people have been oil pulling for thousands of years. Also known as kavala or gundusha, it began and still continues in India as a folk remedy and has since been picked up by people all around the world. The purpose of oil pulling is to draw out oil-soluble toxins and harmful bacteria in our mouths, primarily but not exclusively to improve our oral health.

The way oil pulling works is simple. We swish a bit of oil around in our mouths, (trying to push and pull the oil between our teeth), so bacteria gets stuck and dissolves in the liquid oil. Consequently, we’re removing a large amount of bacteria and plaque in our mouths each time we oil pull. Traditionally, oil pulling was done with sesame seed or sunflower oils. Nowadays, more and more people are using organic coconut oil. A benefit of using coconut versus other oils is lauric acid, (one of the fatty acids in coconut oil), which is proven to be antimicrobial, i.e., it can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.

For clarification purposes, there are actually thousands of different types of bacteria, (both good and bad), in our mouths at any given time. Streptococcus is one of the main harmful bacteria and a key player in plaque buildup and tooth decay. Having some plaque on our teeth is normal, but too much can cause all sorts of problems including halitosis, yellow teeth, gum inflammation, gingivitis and cavities. Given that inflammation can cause all sorts of health problems, it does make sense that reducing inflammation in the gums and mouth could lead to benefits of our overall health as well. This may account for the many people who oil pull and have reported improvements in health issues that have nothing to do with their mouths.

How should one oil pull exactly?

Here’s what I suggest. Take approximately 1 teaspoon of oil and start swishing it in your mouth. (Warning: Coconut oil exposed to room temperatures of 76⁰F or less will congeal. I don’t however let that stop me. I take about ¾ teaspoon of solid coconut oil and insert into my mouth. Within moments the oil will melt and I begin to swish. I know for some though the very thought of taking solid oil into their mouths triggers a gag reflex. For you folks, there’s an easy solution. Simply place the jar of coconut oil under a faucet of hot running water. Within less than a minute, there will be enough liquid oil to fill up your spoon.)

So, all this sounds relatively simple thus far I know. The challenging part for most regarding oil pulling is the recommended swishing time: 15-20 minutes. Then spit, rinse and brush. DO NOT swallow. (The toxins which have just been pulled from our mouths are contained within the saliva and oil. This is why it’s most important to spit out when time is up.)  After I’ve explained the procedure for oil pulling to certain friends and family, I can clearly see their expressions and hear their voices. “WHAT?? I don’t have time for that! I can’t swish anything for 15-20 minutes! I just won’t be able to.” There’s really no need to panic at the first glimpse of oil pulling and out-and-out decide you can’t or don’t have time. Let me break down how I was able to make oil pulling part of my everyday morning routine. (At this point, if I don’t get to oil pull I really miss it!)

My Assemblage for Oil Pulling Success

The most convenient time for me to oil pull is in the morning.  As a result, I keep a jar of coconut oil right in my bathroom vanity, along with a dedicated teaspoon and an oil pulling spittoon. (Since I don’t want to clog my bathroom sink by spitting post oil pulling saliva in it, I use small plastic bags for the collection.) Before oil pulling by the way, I electric tooth brush my teeth, floss, rubber tip, tongue scrape, etc. That's just me. Then comes the oil pull.

When oil pulling, I use an amount of oil that feels comfortable. I’ve read some who recommend using 1 tablespoon of oil when pulling. That for me is way too much. Also, I too initially found the 20-minute time period extremely lengthy. First, I’d never swished anything for that amount of time ever before. Second, what was I supposed to do for the 15-20-minutes while oil pulling? That just felt like too much time being wasted when I was trying to get ready for the day. That’s when it occurred to me. I could shower and oil pull simultaneously! For me, this novel idea opened the gateway to the oil pulling world!

In addition to:

• Having the coconut oil, teaspoon and spit bags accessible

• Using an amount of oil that feels comfortable

• And, oil pulling while showering,

the other accommodation I made to make oil pulling work for me was not forcing myself from the get-go to fulfill the 15-20-minute recommended time period. I simply wasn’t comfortable with that. So, I began with sessions that lasted between 5-10 minutes and slowly increased from there. I can now easily oil pull for the entire time suggested. (FYI…I’ve even developed the remarkable talent of being able to cough and oil pull at the same time!)

What have I gained from my oil pulling ritual?

Over the past 2 years, I honestly haven’t gotten many colds at all. When I have, they weren’t nearly as intense or long-lasting. I didn’t come down with the flu either despite deciding to forgo the shot last winter. (Knock on wood of course for this winter!) Moreover, my teeth are brighter and extremely healthy according to my dentist.

I had been quite remiss and neglected making an appointment with my dentist for the past 1 ½ years, (ordinarily I get a teeth cleaning every 6 months). Recently though, when I finally got myself to the him, despite my worries, all went very well. After the poking and prodding part of the gum-line examination, I had only 1 bleeding spot. This was due to the lack of inflammation of my gums which would have been unheard of previously.

There also was very limited tarter build up despite this being my life-long tendency. My dentist and I were both duly pleased and surprised with the examination results! Of course, he asked what I had done during the long time away to keep my mouth so healthy. I told him about my new oil pulling ritual. I’m not sure he had ever heard of oil pulling before, nor am I certain he considered it a possible explanation for my resounding mouth health status. What he did manage to say was, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” With my brighter than ever smile I replied back, “That I absolutely plan to do!”

(This article is dedicated to my lovely niece, Amanda, fellow oil puller and dental hygienist student!)


I invite you to try oil pulling for yourselves my friends and let us know how it goes by leaving your comments below! It's actually still quite early in the year for any of us to consider adding a New Year's Resolution to our lives!

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends, family and colleagues! Thanks and in great health!