Coconut oil pulling or swishing is an oral therapy and a type of Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian system, which has thousands of years of existence. Oil pulling is a process of swishing approximately one tablespoon of coconut oil or any other oils like sesame, olive or sunflower in your mouth for about 20 minutes and then spitting it out. Coconut oil pulling is primarily done to remove mouth bacteria for healthy teeth and gums.
Ayurvedic text Chakra Samhita mentions oil pulling as Kavala or Gandusha and claims to cure 30 systemic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, migraine, etc. (1)
Primarily, coconut oil swishing has been associated with maintaining oral hygiene by preventing gingivitis, tooth decay, plaque, oral malodour or bad breath, cracked lips, throat dryness and strengthening of gums, teeth and jaws.
How does coconut oil pulling work?
So far, dentists and researchers are not well convinced with the coconut oil pulling benefits on health since there is not enough scientific evidence supporting this Ayurvedic oral therapy.
But we cannot ignore the numerous coconut oil benefits on health, and this fact alone stands well to support this hypothesis. Coconut oil contains Vitamin E and Lauric acid, which has antioxidant, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
Most of the microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell. This cell is covered with a fatty membrane or lipid, which is the cell’s skin. So, when you perform oil swishing, these cells meet with the coconut oil, rich in fats, adhere naturally with each other.
Coconut oil pulling benefits
1. Fights plaque and plaque-related gingivitis
When U.S. National Library of Medicine established the fact that sesame and sunflower oil reduce plaque-related gingivitis, they moved on to research coconut oil pulling.
A group of 60 young people in the age group of 16-18 years were subjected to coconut oil swishing in their daily routine for 30 days period. Researchers saw substantial reductions in plaque and gingival indices from day seven only. The results got better with the passing of days (2).
Coconut oil contains 90% saturated fats and out of which 2/3rd is medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs include 40%-50% Lauric acid which has proven anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects.
2. An excellent alternative to Chlorhexidine mouthwash
Most of us use mouthwash to maintain good oral hygiene. But do you know that mouthwash can also kill good bacteria in your mouth along with harmful bacteria?
Other side effects of mouthwashes include colour stains on tooth crowns or caps.
On the other hand, coconut oil pulling could be the best natural substitute for any mouthwash. A study (3) suggests that coconut oil pulling had same effects of Chlorhexidine mouthwash in the reduction of Streptococcus mutans bacteria count in the mouth.
3. Helps in the reduction of halitosis
You must have understood coconut has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties because of Vitamin E & Lauric acid content. Morning rinsing with coconut oil will work like magic in bringing down oral malodour or halitosis.
You will not even have the odour of coconut in your mouth for a longer duration since it is a sweet oil and smells better than sesame oil, which has similar benefits when it comes to oil pulling (4).
4. Helps in teeth whitening
There is minimal scientific evidence of coconut oil pulling, but per Ayurvedic texts and people general experience, prolonged practice of coconut oil mouth rinsing or swishing results in teeth whitening.
It is, however, to be noted that coconut oil pulling must be practised along with daily brushing routine.
Why is coconut oil the best for Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling can be carried out primarily with three different oils like coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil and sunflower oil. Among this four option, I would go for coconut oil pulling for several good reasons.
- Coconut oil reduces Streptococcus mutans bacteria count which is the primary cause of tooth decay and halitosis.
- Sesame, olive and sunflower oils do not taste good. Also, sesame oil has a powerful aroma which may last throughout the day in your mouth. On the other hand, coconut oil has sweet smell and taste which do last longer.
- Coconut is a superfood, and its oil has several benefits on health other than oral benefits. Starting from maintaining healthy heart to helping in curing diseases like Parkinson’s & Alzheimer.
What type of coconut oil is suitable for oil swishing?
Refined coconut oil, which is readily available in any store, does come at the cheap price tag but it carries several harmful chemicals in it. Also, chemically treated oils are rich in Omega-6, which is bad for our health.
You should go for virgin coconut oil or cold compressed coconut oil since they are 100% organic.
Instructions for performing coconut oil pulling
- Put a teaspoon of coconut oil into your mouth. It should be done first things in the morning after you wake up, even before drinking water.
- Swish for at least 20 minutes. The time is of utmost importance as it should be long enough to break through plaque and bacteria, but not long enough for the body to re-absorb the toxins.
The coconut oil will get thicker and milky in your mouth as it gets mixed with the saliva. Initially, 20 minutes oil pulling might be painful. You can start by doing it for 5-10 minutes and then increase it day by day.
- Spit out the oil. Don’t swallow the oil in your mouth as it is full of bacteria and toxins that were previously present in the mouth. The mixture will look creamy-white when you spit out. It will also be double in volume during this time.
- Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better. Gargle a few times with warm water until all remaining oil gets out of your mouth.
Use salt water to rinse at this point for an extra clean mouth.
- Brush your teeth as you would typically do after you are done with coconut oil pulling.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to do oil pulling?
Ayurveda advises oil pulling in the morning on an empty stomach before brushing your teeth. Recent studies say it should be done first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything.
Who can practice coconut oil pulling?
Anybody above the age of five years can practice. For children of five years and above can only use a teaspoon (5 ml) of coconut oil for swishing. People with dentures should remove them and practice it.
A woman can practice oil pulling even during periods and pregnancy.
How much time gap is required to eat or drink after oil pulling?
No time gap is required. Make sure to brush after oil pulling.
How much oil for oil pulling?
While doing oil pulling, the entire oil should become thin, like water, and no oily feeling should be left. When that happens, we would have utilised oil as the whole for oil pulling.
The process is completed within 15- 20 minutes in most people. If you put more oil into the mouth, it will take more time to turn into white. Spending so much time on oil pulling can be tedious.
What should be the body position while I practising it?
Sit straight with your chin pointing upwards and make sure that oil is pulled in between teeth and touches all portions of the mucous membrane inside the mouth.
What problems arise during oil pulling?
- Oil does not become watery or thin even after 30 minutes, and it appears the oil is absorbed and reduced in quantity – If the saliva in the mouth in insufficient and the mouth is dry, the oil will not become watery.
In most cases, it happens in the morning. Under normal circumstances, oil will not get absorbed in the mouth. The main reason is lack of adequate salivation due to lack of fluids in the body. Take a break, drink sufficient water, allow 30-45 minutes to pass and then restart the process.
- Nose block due to the collection of mucus – First clean your nose thoroughly and blow out all the mucus. Clear your throat too. Then start with oil swishing.
- Coughing or sneezing – If you feel like sneezing or coughing, your mouth should be covered with a tissue so that the oil in your mouth doesn’t get sprayed around. Take a deep breath and try to relax.
- Phlegm gets mixed with the oil in the mouth – If it is inconvenient to continue oil pulling because some phlegm has got into your mouth, spit it out and restart.
- An urgent need to answer nature’s call – It is good to finish your toilet needs before you start with oil pulling.
What are the side effects of oil pulling?
Certain sickness may get worse if you carry out oil pulling depending on climatic conditions, food, water, air or even the mental state of a person.
But this need not be assumed to be the side effects of oil pulling. In short, there are no side effects or risks of oil pulling on healthy human being.
Can a person who treated with other medicine do oil pulling?
There are no such restrictions that if a person is taking other medicines or taking some other treatment, must not practise oil pulling. More so by doing it during other therapies will help combat the side effects of the medication or treatment taken.
One should not consider as coconut oil pulling as an alternative to daily brushing or even cleaning tongue. Oil pulling shall be carried along with whatever is required to maintain good oral health.
People dealing with oral issues must consult dentist or professional Ayurvedic practitioner before trying out coconut oil pulling.