What is Oil Pulling? Does it actually work?

A dental hygiene student, Jody Beeler, writes about her curiosity regarding oil pulling as a home-care regimen.


By Jody Beeler

For many years, liquid rinses from over the counter or from natural ingredients have been used to clean the mouth of bad bacteria, minimize plaque buildup, and have been said to help overall oral health. I recently was introduced to a new trend called “oil pulling.” Oil pulling is where coconut oil or sesame seed oil is swished in the mouth for 20 minutes whether in four increments of five minutes throughout the day, or 20 minutes straight and repeated every day. After reading a few different articles, it has made me curious about all the benefits, how it works, and has interested me to try it out myself with the help of my parents.

It has come to my attention that oil pulling is an old Indian folk remedy used to detox the body. There are actually two different styles of oil pulling — kavala and gandusa. Kavala is a process where you hold the liquid rinse in your mouth for a few minutes, and then swirling it around the mouth and spitting it out. This style is repeated at least two or three times and last up to four minutes.

Gandusa is a style where you hold the liquid rinse in your mouth for at least four to five minutes then spit it out and repeat. Hot water with herbs, honey, and also milk are some of the natural products used to help clean, whiten, and remove toxins from the gums, teeth, and body. Research has offered several different benefits regarding oil pulling with coconut oil, saying it strengthens the teeth, rids the body of bad toxins, reduces gingivitis, prevents cavities, and whitens teeth, while also reducing plaque production. Although it is not scientifically known to do these things, it has been found to help reduce headaches, hangovers, and support general detoxification of the entire body.

Oil pulling with coconut oil is more like the kavala style, but you swish the entire time without the two minutes of holding the liquid in the mouth before swishing. It is known as an all-natural mouthwash, and you are to do it when you wake up in the morning after drinking a glass of water. All you need is a big spoonful of coconut oil and enough time to complete the process.

It is better if you don’t eat before you begin the oil pulling, allowing it to pull toxins from the body before the mouth has been introduced to any substance. Attempt to swish the coconut oil for 15 to 20 minutes, covering every area in the mouth. It is easy to do when you have distractions to keep you occupied during the process; otherwise you will get bored quickly and spit it out prematurely. When finished oil pulling, spit it into the trash can, because spitting it into the sink will clog the sink up. It’s not proven, but it is said that if the oil is a yellowish color it is working and pulling bad toxins.

I chose to do a study of my own. I asked my mother and father to dedicate 20 minutes in the morning to perform the oil pulling procedure and to report back to me after two weeks with their findings. Two weeks later, my mother stated that she “couldn’t really tell a difference.” When I asked her to elaborate, she told me that the 20-minute time frame was very hard to continue every day and that she doesn’t see herself continuing the process any longer.

She concluded that the only positive thing about oil pulling was it made her teeth feel smooth and it took longer for the dirty, fuzzy feeling to occur to the surface of her teeth during the day. She said that prior to participating in the oil pulling study she brushed daily around noon to prevent the “fuzzy” feeling on her teeth. She said during the study, that she could go longer without brushing because the “fuzzy” feeling didn’t occur until much later in the day, around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. Other than the polished feeling, she couldn’t tell any difference in her energy or oral health.

My father didn’t participate beyond the third day due to the time commitment and that he didn’t see the value.

In conclusion, there was not enough article information or scientific information for me to determine if oil pulling was beneficial. As a result of the feedback from my parents, I believe this is a time-consuming procedure and noticeable benefits are lacking. I do not believe oil pulling is something I would recommend to any of my patients and don’t see myself participating due to the time commitment and lack of noticeable benefits. Proper everyday brushing as well as flossing is and will be adequate enough for my oral health.

Jodyfayebeelermsh Jody Beeler is a junior in Dental Hygiene at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and will graduate with a bachelors degree in May 2016. Her home base is in Paducah, Ky. She can be contacted at Jodybeeler@siu.edu.


  1. http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/06/health/oil-pulling/?c=&page=2
  2. http://www.oilpulling.com/
  3. http://laurenconrad.com/blog/2014/05/healthy-habits-what-is-oil-pulling/
  4. http://wellnessmama.com/7866/oil-pulling-for-oral-health

More in Student Hygiene