Oil Pulling: What The Hell It Is, Why The Hell I'm Doing It, And How The Hell To Do It

It supposedly whitens teeth, cures thrush, and just makes you an all-around healthier-seeming person if you can get through it without vomiting.
Publish date:
April 24, 2013
coconut oil, teeth whitening, Ayurveda, oil pulling

On a regular day of Google searching and procrastinating, I found myself in a state of Wikipedia-induced medical paranoia. One thing led to another, and BAM! I was convinced that I had oral candidiasis/thrush. (Spoiler alert: I don’t--awesome!) But go on, Google it. It’s disgusting.

I don’t remember how I started to focus on my tongue. Probably after brushing my teeth at night, bored and vain while looking in the mirror. During the following days, I asked everyone around me if they could please-oh-please show me their tongues, and then I realized that my tongue was a regular pale pink color. I had freaked out for nothing, once again. Thanks, Internet.

However, this moment of panic led me to discover an intriguing practice: oil pulling.

Oil pulling supposedly makes your teeth whiter and your general health better. Some websites also mention that it's good for detox and rejuvenation. I mean, why not try it then? Bring it on!

So, oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic treatment that simply consists of swishing high-quality oil in your mouth for 20 minutes, without swallowing it. Easier said than done. Anyway, the process is supposed to attract and remove bacteria, toxins, and parasites that live in your mouth or lymph system. Yay!

I had a bottle of coconut oil waiting to serve some culinary purpose, but I figured that it might as well serve BEAUTY. You can practice oil pulling with sesame or sunflower oil, too, but I’m glad that I had coconut oil, because it's said to be particularly healthy.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature (erm… Canadian room temperature). So I had to chew through the oily bite until it became liquid. For the first two minutes, I must admit, I felt like puking. Also, it’s weird to keep something in your mouth for a long period of time without swallowing (I totally know where your mind just went).

It's also surprising to find out that coconut oil doesn’t taste like coconut. I was expecting something fun and tropical. But nope--just oily, with no particular flavor.

It’s been a week since I started oil pulling, and I've kinda gotten used to the texture.

Wanna try?


  1. Grab a chunk of solid coconut oil. I take a full teaspoon. (It is suggested to take a tablespoon, but shhh, I’m not there yet; I’m building my tolerance.)
  2. Put it under your tongue and wait for it to melt.
  3. Start swishing it around while doing the dishes, some boring housework, or miming stuff to your roommates. You have to do it for 15-20 minutes. At first it seems like forever. However, you can start by doing it for five minutes, and then progressively do it for longer every time. Don’t gargle--ew. Just push it around in your mouth.
  4. Spit it out in the garbage (not in the sink, it could clog the drains). The “dirty” oil is said to be full of bacteria and other nasty stuff; that’s why you don’t swallow it.
  5. Rinse mouth with warm water.
  6. Drink a giant glass of cold water with a slice of lemon.

Now, I bet you want to know: Are my teeth whiter? Did I gain superpowers?

Well, it’s hard to say. I mean, I don’t have superpowers (yet) but I’m not sure about my teeth. I think my gums and my tongue are pinker? Maybe?

According to the Internet, it can take up to a month in order to see the results. That’s why I’ll keep doing it for a while.

I think I even like it; it somehow feels cleansing. Like, my mouth really feels great after I do it. Maybe it’s all in my head? Maybe it’s the giant glass of water that I chug afterwards? I’m not sure, but I feel like it’s great to have a somehow healthy morning routine.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep praying to the coconut gods.

Have you tried oil pulling? What have your results been like?