Coconut oil is made by pressing or extracting the oil from coconut meat—the white flesh inside the shell.
You can use it as cooking oil for frying and baking or as a spread similar to butter. Some people even like to melt it to drizzle on their popcorn.
Coconut oil can also be applied topically to improve the health of your skin and hair.
And one surprising way you might not have thought of: using coconut oil as a safe and effective alternative to mouthwash.
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient method of oral hygiene that comes from the Ayurvedic tradition in India.
Here’s how you do it:
- Measure out a tablespoon of coconut oil.
- Swish the oil around in your mouth like a mouthwash.
- Making an effort not to swallow any, continue swishing for 15-20 minutes.
- Spit it out in the trash (oil can clog your drains).
- Rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth as usual.
If you can’t comfortably hold the oil in your mouth for 15 minutes, start with 5 minutes and work your way up.
This is typically done as a daily morning routine on an empty stomach.
How Does Oil Pulling Help?
When you swish oil around your mouth, it “pulls” bacteria and other debris away from your teeth and gums. The lipids in the coconut oil will attract and bind with the lipids in the bacteria’s cell membranes, “pulling” the bacteria into the oil mixture. This is also why it’s advised not to swallow any of the swished oil, as you will ingest any bacteria or microorganisms that have been pulled from your mouth.
- reducing pathogenic bacteria
- preventing cavities
- preventing plaque buildup
- reducing gingivitis
- reducing bad breath
- strengthening oral and jaw muscles
- whitening teeth
- improving general health
How is Oil Pulling Different from Mouthwash?
While coconut oil can kill some types of bacteria, the primary function of oil pulling is to remove bacteria and other debris from your mouth rather than to kill them.
Most commercial mouthwashes contain chemicals like alcohol or fluoride that can harm your teeth and gums. This can effectively kill bacteria, but you can only safely hold them in your mouth for a limited time.
Since coconut oil can be swished around for 15-20 minutes without causing any damage, it provides a gentler way to fully clean your mouth and remove bacteria from all the little spaces and crevices that might be missed quickly 30-second swish.
Oil pulling with coconut oil is not intended to replace your daily brushing and flossing of your teeth, but it can be a helpful addition to your oral hygiene routine. You can also try other oils such as sesame or olive oil, although coconut oil seems to be the most popular choice.
Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns about your oral health or want more personalized advice on the best care for your teeth and gums.