You know how I’ve mentioned my aversion to clothing trends a time or two? Well, I have that same reaction to health  trends. I’m a major skeptic when it comes to the latest “miracle cure” for this or that, and I rarely even bother to give them more than a cursory glance.

But when Mandy told me about this thing called oil pulling that had the potential to whiten your teeth, freshen your breath, and maybe, possibly even heal cavities (what??!), I was more than a little curious.

Growing up, we ate very healthily. We didn’t have a lot of money, and not infrequently, dinner was beans, sometimes with cheese, sometimes not when money was especially tight. Sure, we ate lots of other things, and we were by no means destitute, but our meals usually consisted of some sort of protein and vegetables (my gag reflex still triggers when I even think about the beets we were required to eat at least one of when they were served at dinner). We never kept candy, donuts, or soft drinks in the house and only ate them as special treats.

Unfortunately, I won the bad teeth lottery, and, despite my mom’s care with our diet and our oral hygiene, I have a row of super attractive aluminum fillings up and down my molars on my top and bottom teeth. Things got better when I got braces (straight teeth are easier to keep clean? makes sense to me!), and I didn’t have a cavity from ages 13-23.

23 was the year I had Ezra, and I don’t know why (although I blame pretty much anything wrong with my body currently on either pregnancy hormones or childbirth itself), but my cavity-proneness returned with a vengeance, and by the time I had Simon 18 months later, I was back under the dentist’s drill (shudder).

Which brings us right back to oil pulling.

When Mandy mentioned that bit about healing cavities, it sounded way too good to be true. But it also sounded like it was worth a try.

Wait, Abbie. What’s worth a try? What is this oil pulling business of which you speak?

Simply put, oil pulling involves placing between 1-3 teaspoons of high quality oil (in other words: safe for consumption) in your mouth and swishing it between all of your teeth’s surfaces for 20 minutes.

Um, why?

Because the theory is that the oil is the right consistency/quality of substance to travel through the plaque on your teeth and “pull” out the toxins and bacteria that have built up in your mouth and are wreaking all manner of oral havoc—everything from teeth yellowing to cavities to bad breath to pain and sensitivity. And it does this without harming or disturbing your teeth or gums.

Sounds completely kooky, doesn’t it?

Here’s the deal, though: I’ve been oil pulling for a little over two weeks (although I’ve missed a day here or there), and I can already see/feel the following benefits:

1. My teeth are whiter and more consistent in color. I have great oral hygiene. I floss every single night and sometimes in the morning, and I brush a minimum  of twice a day. I don’t drink coffee or tea or smoke or do any of those things that yellow your teeth.  But my teeth still tend to get yellower along my gum line. Well, they’re by no means blindingly white (yet…I’ve heard tell of some pretty impressive results with continued use), but I have noticed a more consistent, whiter tone over all. That happened after only one week.

2. My teeth are less sensitive. They are not strongly so to begin with, but I do have one spot which has been causing me pain since I started using a particular brand of toothpaste with whitening qualities. I have continued using that toothpaste since beginning oil pulling (because it’s the only one in my medicine cabinet right now), and the pain has diminished considerably.

3. One of my cavities is going away. Y’all. I’m not even lying. Not to gross you out, but I had a dark spot accompanied by a small hole at my gum line on one of my top teeth. I could catch my fingernail in the hole. Ew. And I have other spots that are similar (DARN YOU, pregnancy hormones!). That hole? It’s going away. I can no longer catch my fingernail in it but instead can simply feel a bit of roughness where the crack once was and can tell that the dark spot has diminished.

4. It seems to be helping my skin. This is another claimed benefit of oil pulling, but I’ve read less about actual results. Still, I’ve noticed fewer breakouts and an improvement in the consistency of my skin over the past few weeks, even though I wasn’t expecting or looking for it.

So, why am I writing all of this after only 2-ish weeks? Because I’ve only been doing this for 2-ish weeks, and I can already see improvements.

You better believe that I’ll be giving you an update after 6 weeks or so.

So, just in case you’re wondering what it is I actually do, here’s the nitty-gritty:

Each day (usually during the morning), I place about a tablespoon of solid state organic coconut oil (that I purchase in a large jar from Sam’s Club) in my mouth and proceed to do all sorts of facial contortions which are not good for my 31-year-old, fine-line and wrinkle prone skin as the oil melts. Not gonna lie: those first five seconds are gag-worthy. But my personality derives a sort of masochistic pleasure out of powering through the grossness, and once the oil melts, it’s all good. Or at least, it’s not too bad. If you’re especially prone to gagging, put the oil the microwave for a few seconds, and then put it in your mouth to avoid the melty/gaggy part. Also, if 20 minutes sounds like a ridiculous amount of time to keep anything in your mouth, well, I agree. If that’s all you do. But I generally pull while doing laundry or dishes or picking up in the living room, and it honestly doesn’t seem long at all. After I’m done, I rinse my mouth out with warm water and maybe brush with water if I feel any oil residue (I don’t usually). I am still flossing and brushing per usual, but I have read that some people change their brushing/flossing habits after an extended period of using oil.

Want to hear the kicker? I’ve even gotten (certain members of) my family into it, so this Sunday, for example, Shaun, Ezra, and I spent 20 minutes grunting and using hand signals to communicate, which apparently looked like so much fun that Della subsequently spent 2 minutes attempting to tell me that she had to go potty while her mouth was closed. Awesome. (Simon is willing to hold the oil in his mouth for a whopping 2 minutes if asked but he’s not completely on board this wild oil pulling train yet).


{This picture makes me laugh every time because a) Ezra wanted to do oil pulling with me b) even though I told him that he could spit it out early, he wouldn’t even consider it until I did, and c) a few minutes after he wrote this dour observation, he amended it to say, “This is  notbad at all!” So, apparently, even my 7-year-old doesn’t think that pulling is that “horibal”}

A couple of notes: if you want to join in on the craze, be sure not to swallow the oil (even though it’s totally digestible) since there’s the possibility of your body’s reabsorbing the toxins that the oil has (hopefully) removed from your mouth. Also, when you spit it out, be sure to use the trash can instead of the sink since the oil returns to its solid state at room temperature and can clog your pipes.

So, what do you think? Do I sound like a witch doctor? I would go on and on about how this is not the kind of thing I normally do or write about, but honestly, whether you think I’m nuts or not, I’m pretty happy with my results thus far.
Even if all I ever get is whiter teeth without harsh chemicals, I’m good to go.

Have you tried oil pulling? Any results?



  1. I really, really wanted to try oil pulling but I always read that you shouldn’t do it if you have fillings/crowns. I too won the bad teeth prize in my family and have a mouth full of metal. It makes sense though that they would only fall out if there is an underlying problem which you would want to know about anyway. I’m glad to discover someone else who has fillings and who’s doing it. I’m going to the store here later and I’m going to get me some coconut oil and finally try it!

  2. I started oil pulling with that same oil and always had to fight down the gag reflex until I got it liquified, however, I bought a higher quality oil from the food co-op and it doesn’t make me gag at all.

  3. I have been oil pulling for about 6 months and have had the same results…whiter teeth, decreased sensitivity, clearer skin, but also it has broken up some chronic congestion in my sinuses. I had a wisdom tooth pulled a couple months before I started oil pulling. When the dentist put the numbing shot into the roof of my mouth it sent a wave of pain and a bitter taste up into my nasal area. In turn I got some serious chronic congestion. Oil pulling broke that stuff up and got rid of it! Every morning after oil pulling I would hack up a bunch of green junk until finally it was completely gone. I love oil pulling and it has become part of my daily routine…most days. I have read that it is best to do it first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. So I try to get up early and do it before the day really starts. Some days I don’t quite make it. I also read that you should brush your teeth right after to brush and wash away any residual toxins. Oh, and I always put my jar of coconut oil in a sink full of hot water for a few minutes so that it is already melted. And in the Texas summer, my coconut oil stays in liquid state.

  4. I think I will give this a try! I was at the dentist yesterday, oddly enough, and while nothing is bad, I do have sensitivity on the right side and the sharp edges on my teeth by the gum line where the less protected parts of my teeth are appearing. (Apparently, they used to think that was caused from brushing too heavily, now they just think it wears out there a bit… sort of like shock absorbers wearing out on your car… from the pressure of chewing. And, of course, receding gums contributes to the problems (I just accidentally typed “receding bums” which brings about a whole other blog topic, doesn’t it?? ) 🙂 ).

    Is coconut oil the one most recommended for this? (or the only one recommended? Just curious about the history.)

  5. I did read on another blog that it has caused some peoples fillings to come loose so I would be hesitant to try it.

    1. I read about that too and did some research. Here was a good answer that I found that set my mind at ease. https://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/hwnl_8-1.htm

      I found several others like it. Basically, what the answers I read were saying is that the only reason oil pulling would cause your fillings to come loose is if there is an underlying infection that it reveals. In which case, you would WANT the fillings out so that you could know about/fix the infection before it affected other teeth or the rest of your body.

  6. Abbie, your friend Leah Wansley directed me to read your post because I was posting about OPing this week on Facebook. I’m in the midst of trying it, too!! (I’m local to Leah, so if you are, we’re probably practically neighbors!)

    Anyway, I’m interested to keep up with your blog now & see how you feel about it in another couple weeks. I’m a little less than a week in myself.

    1. I don’t usually brush right afterwards. I just rinse my mouth with warm water. Honestly, I feel almost zero residue afterwards, so it doesn’t bother me not to brush.

  7. OH.MY.GOSH.

    I have been hearing about this, but hadn’t heard the full gamut of possibilities, which NOW have me considering it (can’t even believe I”m thinking it)!

    I have the exact same tooth history as you: no sugars in the house, healthy eating, lots of brushing: cavities galore. I’m 42 and already on my second crown (from teeth that had major fillings and, eventually, cracked causing what felt like labor pains 😛 )!! Pregnancy did my teeth no favors either, so, since child bearing it’s been one trip to the dentist after another…

    SO, the idea that I MIGHT be able to heal my teeth (I also think I have an impending cavity on my top back molar…how would they even FILL that back there??????), I HAVE to at least consider this…

    20 minutes though? Definitely think my gag reflex will be tested. Now, you said you can do it before or after brushing, right? And, there’s no oily residue after you spit it out?

    I’m trying it on my skin too…I’ve heard wonders for wrinkles…

    Geesh, the more I think of all the benefits I now know, how can I NOT try this…I try everything else LOL 🙂

    Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to hear the 6 week results!

    1. Yay! Hope it gives you great results. And yes, you can do it whenever…before/after/during (just kidding) brushing. And *I* don’t feel any oily residue afterwards, but if you do, it would be easy to just rinse it out with some warm water or brush afterwards.

  8. I’ve been hearing so much about this lately! I bought some coconut oil and tried it last week, but I don’t think I used enough. I haven’t tried since then, but I think I really will retry now! Everyone I know that has been doing this has been having great results!

  9. As for the wrinkle, fine line prone thing…..run a little of that oil on your wrinkly areas at night. It does wonders there, too!

    1. I’ve tried using on my skin a few times, but it never quite seems to absorb, and I end up feeling crazy greasy. I suppose I should just stick with it and see if my skin adjusts.

      1. I use coconut oil as a moisturizer and love it. I love how light it is. I can actually tell at the end of the day if there are parts of my body that I skipped putting some on after my shower. I used it all through my pregnancy taking special care each night to shmear my growing belly with the stuff; the end result was no stretch marks!

  10. Thanks for sharing! This is very intriuging, and I think I may just have to try it! My husband also has really bad genetic teeth, and he has several cavities that we are getting filled one at a time.. I know he’d be happy if it helped out!

  11. Just wondering when oil pulling do u do this in the morning before brushing ur teeth or after ?
    Or does it matter ?

    1. The best I can tell, it doesn’t matter. They just recommend rinsing your mouth out with warm water afterwards and maybe brushing the oil residue off (if you feel any…I don’t).

  12. I’ve been very, very curious about this for a while now. I did some extensive research several months ago to see if it was something I would be interested in trying, but then forgot about it and never attempted it. Now I’ve got renewed interest. I’ve gone almost 25 years without a cavity, and I’m all for preventing any from ever occurring if I can help it. And whitening my teeth have always been a struggle, not to mention the bad breath problems I’ve had off and on.

    Thanks for posting! I’m seriously thinking about trying this now. Please do let us know the 6-week results!

  13. I recently read another blog post about this and decided to give it a try. I’m only on day 3 and am so surprised by how clean my mouth feels afterwards. My initial thought was that it would leave me with a greasy day old pina colada-ish after taste. I have yet to make it to the 20 minute mark but I’m going to keep at it.

  14. Craze is right! I was surprised to read the title of your post, and more surprised that you would follow a fad. There is probably no harm, but people DO follow your lead, and this one is not based on any factual data, only anecdotal comments, like yours…

    1. I think the most important part of your comment, Susan, is “there is probably no harm.” I searched extensively before posting to make sure that there weren’t medically accepted incidences of oil pulling having hazardous or adverse affects on its users…and there weren’t, except in the case of allergic reactions.

      And actually, there *have* been studies done (by independent groups who were trying to show that it DIDN’T work) that show that people who do oil pulling have a 5-fold decrease in cavity/bad breath/stain causing bacteria in their mouths when using sesame oil and a 2-fold decrease when using coconut oil.

      And as to the faddishness of it, it’s actually a reeeeeally old custom that for some reason has come to light and become popular here. Will it fade away in popularity? Yes. But if it keeps working for me, I don’t mind that it was a fad that brought it to my attention.

      As far as anecdotal comments, you’re right. That’s all I have to offer, and I am writing them in response to questions that I’ve had from readers and *because* I want them to have the option of seeing if it works for them…after I first did the research to find out whether it was unsafe at all. I am guaranteeing nothing or making any definite claims other than some very casual observations of my own results.

      Ultimately, I’m posting for the very reason that you think I shouldn’t–because others might follow my lead and receive benefits of their own. If they do, great. If they don’t, no harm, no foul.

  15. Oh my gosh, until I read this there’s no way I would have ever tried it, but I hadn’t heard of the dental benefits. Now I’m scared that I’m going to give in and try…I have the world’s worst gag reflex and I can see it going very badly.

    1. Rebekah, if you have such a strong gag reflex, try melting the oil first. It’s really only the part where it’s kind of mushy while it’s melting that’s gross. 🙂

  16. I love oil pulling! My doctor recommended it for me when I had continuous tonsil and ear infections! It’s completely healed me! I have lived with ear infectionsy whole life, even the ENT doctor couldn’t figure me out! Me other doctor (homeopathic) had me use seaseme oil and get 1 tablespoon and swish for 10 minutes.
    He said for sure don’t swallow it cause it can make you very sick!

  17. I’ve been oil pulling (inconsistenly) for months. When I do, my teeth are whiter and my mouth feels so clean! I’m sure that if I could lay off the coffee and black teas, I’d see more dramatic results with the teeth whitening. I also have had fewer colds/sinus infections.

I love hearing from you guys!