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Will Oil Pulling Fix my Sensitive Teeth…or is it Just a Hoax?

A few thoughts ran simultaneously through my head the first time I read about oil pulling:

  1. What a crackpot idea
  2. Um, gross!
  3. This is not something I will ever try

Yet here I am, trying yet another gross crackpot idea that has to do with food!

Oil Pulling Does it Work

Oil pulling is the practice of putting unrefined oil in your mouth and swishing it around for 10-20 minutes, then spitting it out.

See what I mean? Gross!

It supposedly has all sorts of benefits, according to Dr. Google and the Internet, many of which have nothing to do with the mouth. (Actually, I Swagbucks search to earn bucks on Amazon, do you?)

For me, I’m looking to achieve some mouth-related relief from oil pulling, which seems slightly less crackpot to me if only because clearly the oil is in the mouth, so could perhaps have an effect there.

A few circumstances collided to result in my oil pulling attempts, in case you were wondering what in the world changed my mind:

  1. I’ve been having some serious tooth sensitivity to cold (air or liquid) and sweets, like dates or heavy frostings, probably because of the tax on my body from pregnancy and breastfeeding, and maybe because of no. 2…
  2. I keep forgetting/running out of time or hands to brush my teeth. I blame blogging, babies, and the fact that I’m not a morning person.
  3. Renee Harris, boss lady at MadeOn Hard Lotion and a friend of mine, issued a challenge to pull oil for 30 days, and she kind of personally asked me if I was going to do it. *peer pressure* 
  4. I realized oil pulling was something I could try without buying anything new or doing a bunch of research or time making a recipe for something, so….

I’ve been doing it faithfully every day for about 9 days now (confession: I missed at least one day, maybe two, but this is a pretty good track record for me!)

Oil Pulling

Oil Pulling Tips from a Rookie Perspective

  • You will definitely think it’s gross at first. Give yourself a few minutes, get busy doing something, and you’ll forget about it/get used to it.
  • You might feel like your mouth is going to get too full as saliva joins the oil. Gross, again. Don’t swallow, whatever you do. Just trust me – your mouth won’t continue to add saliva the whole 20 minutes, and you won’t drown. Trust me.
  • Solid coconut oil, while it does melt rather quickly in the mouth, doesn’t quite melt quickly enough. Grossness factor elevated. If you can, put a jar of unrefined coconut oil on your stove while you cook and let it melt, since the liquid form is ever so much more palatable. (Here’s one source for quality coconut oil (use the code STEWARDSHIP to get 10% off).
  • Figure out when to do it so that no one has to talk to you. Oil pulling is apparently best done in the morning, but if that’s not possible, don’t sweat it. I’ve used two different times to make it work: during a shower and while working on the computer at night, after everyone has gone to bed.
  • We are always running out of spoons around here. I’ve tried to use a clean one to pull oil, since I have to dip it in the coconut oil, and then after I swish water around my mouth, I use the same spoon to take my cod liver oil. See how much I overthink efficiency? Just thought I’d share.
  • You are supposed to brush your teeth right after pulling oil, which is good (see no. 2 above).
  • Set a timer so you don’t have to think about how long it’s been (or get caught up in what you’re doing and “pull” for too long!).

Update: Ten Years Later

I’ve now been oil pulling for ten full years, on and off, and I’m still a fan. In fact, I am a human experiment, as you can read about in my post on getting my wisdom teeth out without going under OR any pain meds.

I tend to oil pull now in the shower, and I have a jar of coconut oil in my bathroom (with a butter knife) to remind me and make it easy. Habits stick better if we make them obvious and easy! (Thanks to James Clear of Atomic Habits for those tips.)

The whole “solid coconut oil in your mouth is yucky” thing is something I’ve gotten over. I’m tougher now. 😉 

One of the additional learning opportunities I had about oil pull was Bruce Fife’s talk entitled “Benefits of Oil Pulling for Greater Oral Health and Whole Being Wellness,” . Bruce is the author of Oil Pulling Therapy, and I share notes including the history of oil pulling, how Dr. Weston A. Price proved that the health of the body is very related to the health of the mouth, Fife’s oil pulling tips, and a word from some naysayers in my other oil pulling post.

Now, back to the rookie evaluation:

What Does Oil Pulling Do?

Donielle of Natural Fertility and Wellness saw me gabbing about oil pulling on Twitter (where I microblogged my first disgusting attempt) and wondered if it was okay for me to do this because I was still nursing Jonathan at the time. Although I’m really only interested in stronger, healthier teeth and gums and getting rid of that sensitivity, apparently oil pulling is supposed to support drainage pathways in your entire body. This seems odd to me…

Here are some other claims about what oil pulling can help:

  • headaches
  • bronchitis
  • thrombosis
  • eczema
  • ulcers and diseases of stomach, intestines, heart, blood, kidney, liver, lungs
  • women’s diseases
  • growth of malignant tumors
  • chronic sleeplessness
  • source

This is where I get skeptical. But fascinating, nonetheless.

Oil Pulling Does it Work

Is Oil Pulling Effective?

Of course the biggest question has to be, “Does it work?”

My tentative response is, “Yes, but more research needed.”

You see, I really WANT this to work quite badly, because my teeth hurt. And it’s gross and makes my husband think I’m getting even weirder, so it would be nice to get the reward for my hard work.

In that light, I’m just not a very objective observer.

My data:

  • I swished cold water around my mouth immediately before and after pulling oil, and there was a marked difference afterward – less pain.
  • Teeth whitened? Who knows. I hardly ever see myself in a mirror these days…
  • Drainage pathways? You know, I just realized something. I thought the ol’ armpit stink I mentioned Monday was pretty much taken care of, but yesterday – after I missed a day or two of oil pulling – I was more stinky than usual. So maybe I was draining toxins via my mouth while I was “pulling” and then back to the ‘pits when I wasn’t. Then again, maybe I was just desperately in need of a shower (see how much you’re learning about my lackadaisical personal hygiene this week! Sheesh!).
  • I might – might! – have less tooth sensitivity in general. I haven’t winced in pain since I started, but I’ve also probably been babying the side that hurts the most. Pain is so subjective and difficult, for me at least, to measure from day to day. Flossing still presented a problem on certain teeth.

Buying Options

Virgin, unrefined coconut oil tastes like coconut where refined does NOT. As long as your refined oil is from a trusted source, you could use that if the coconut taste bothers you.

How about you? Anyone willing to jump on the crackpot bandwagon with Renee and me (we’re fun people to hang out on a wagon with) and try oil pulling?

Is There a HOLISTIC Dentist Hiding In Your Town?

Robyn Openshaw over at Green Smoothie Girl spent months calling every holistic dentist she could find in the U.S! She learned what services each of them provide, and made a special guide so you can find a holistic dentist who uses practices that are non-toxic, so you can avoid heavy metals, root canals, radioactive x-rays, and more. She’s made all the information she gathered available for free in one amazing resource, The Insider’s Guide to Holistic Dentists.

Is There a HOLISTIC Dentist Hiding In Your Town?

Robyn Openshaw over at Green Smoothie Girl spent months calling every holistic dentist she could find in the U.S! She learned what services each of them provide, and made a special guide so you can find a holistic dentist who uses practices that are non-toxic, so you can avoid heavy metals, root canals, radioactive x-rays, and more.

She’s made all the information she gathered available for free in one amazing resource, The Insider’s Guide to Holistic Dentists.

Other oral health posts:

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

28 thoughts on “Will Oil Pulling Fix my Sensitive Teeth…or is it Just a Hoax?”

  1. Yes, oil pulling is AMAZING for sensitive teeth! My teeth are super sensitive, to the point I was using a whole tube of Sensodyne each week, until I heard of oil pulling. I did it for a few days and at first I found the opposite thing happened; the teeth seemed to be more sensitive. However, I realized I was still using Sensodyne for brushing afterwards. So what I did was, I continued the oil polling but I switched to regular ‘original’ Crest. That was 5 or 6 years ago. Today I swear by this ritual. I use olive oil for oil pulling and Crest for brushing, and now I can even eat ice cream again. AND…My teeth are always super white. I also don;t get migraines anymore, my sinuses are clear, and I have lots of energy. I’m a 50 y/o guy with large teeth, and having nice clean white teeth is the main reason (I think) I might look so young (well, that, and that fact that I act so immature, hehe). Anyway, for anyone who wants to know, yes, it works, but drop the sensitivity toothpaste, and make sure you do this daily!

      1. My pleasure! It was great to read your article, but further to this, if I can help anyone else on this planet live a better life in any way, shape, or form, I like to speak up. I’ve shared oil pulling with many people who suffer from sensitive teeth, and who use tons of sensitivity toothpaste (which seems to worsen the issue), and it always ends up working for them, too. NOTE: Oil pulling should NOT be used as an alternative to dental care; it is meant to compliment dental care. Here I’ll also mention that when I do go to the dentist for cleanings, there’s barely any work for them to do, and the cleaning is not painful either because my teeth are just not sensitive anymore. Thanks again for your lovely article. ~Ronan

  2. Hi, Can I do oil pulling even I have a lots of filligs?
    Does oil pulling strengthen your enamel?
    Does remove cavity?

  3. I love oil pulling! I’ve done it every day first thing on a morning for years! Absolute blessing

  4. I’d like information specifically about oil pulling for a two year old. My husband and I are trying to avoid taking our daughter in for oral surgery and would like to get her cavities fixed as soon as possible. My daughter doesn’t know how to swish and spit, what are some other ways she can still benefit from coconut oil? Also, how is the cod liver oil used? Thanks!

    1. Marlyn,
      I would think 2 is too young for this because she’s almost surely swallow it. Cod liver oil is a supplement/food that you just consume. Here’s a bit on our family: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/10/22/fermented-cod-liver-oil-our-experiences/

      You might want to read Rami Nagel’s book “Cure Tooth Decay” for little ones with cavities. A healthy diet is a great defense. I hope you figure it out for your little gal!!

      🙂 Katie

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  7. I can’t seem to find information about oil pulling while breastfeeding. I’m currently breastfeeding my 4 month old. I want to start oil pulling, but not if my body will go through a detox process for the first few days… wouldn’t this affect the milk?

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Audrey,
      I honestly can’t remember if I have any sources on this, but I oil pulled while breastfeeding and all was well. I think any detoxing happens IN the mouth and the oil pulls the toxins out, not like other forms of detox where junk could affect the milk. BUT that’s just my conjecturing! You’d want to check Bruce Fife and his book – maybe he has a website too. He’s the guru!

      Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  8. I know this is an old blog entry but I just started oil pulling a couple days ago and I have noticed that, much later in the day, my teeth and gums are pretty sore; like it hurts to chew things. Do you think this is something that will go away? Is it normal? Why is this happening? I can’t think of any reason that would coincide with this phenomenon. It’s not so unpleasant that I will discontinue but I was just curious to know if anyone else experienced this. I’m really curious about the biology behind this because I’m kind of a biology nut 🙂

    1. Hi! I think that is a good sign!! I also get sore gums after oil pulling (so ironic that I am pulling with sesame oil now as I receive this email reply!), and I think it might have to do with the fact that it’s a rigorous mouth work out. Like how your muscles are sore the next day after jogging strenuously. The more often I do it the less the gums are sore.

      If I skip a few weeks and then oil pull, the sore gums come again. So, I don’t see it as a problem at all. Oil pulling is like yoga for the mouth!

      Also, if there is gum detox going on, as research suggests, maybe the soreness is from all the work the gums did to dispense of the toxins, like squeezing out the debris. I don’t speak in scientific terms here, but I find that having little analogies and imagery works well for me and my English lit type brain. Ha!

      1. Wow, thanks for replying so quickly! I think that maybe expelling the toxins is what has my gums sore, as I am a lazy “swisher” lol. I’m also having some dull pain in my sinuses but that might have something to do with just getting over a cold.

        I’m totally going to stick with this because I’m convinced it’s doing something. I’ve had more energy, even just in the couple days I’ve been doing it. However, I think that might be causing me to not be able to fall asleep as easily the past couple nights either. Or maybe it’s all coincidental! In any case, I’m willing to give it a go for a couple months and see what happens.

        1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

          Tiffany,
          Sounds like a good plan! With any of this natural health stuff, it’s too hard to separate the different body systems and what might impact them to say what is really having an effect on your sleep, etc, so trying it for a while and observing is usually the way to go. Glad Carrie hopped in with such helpful insight! 🙂 Katie

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  10. So, from a skeptical/science perspective, the ideas behind detox are pretty much nonsense.

    That said, oil pulling has been studied, and the evidence so far indicates that it probably reduces plaque and gingivitis. So, it should improve your oral hygiene.

    Conventional medicine actually has very substantial evidence indicating that oral hygiene has a huge impact on your overall health. Flossing daily, for example, is supposed to increase your life expectancy by years. Impressive, right? Having good oral health is particularly important during pregnancy, actually, because of the impact on the fetus.

    Anyway, my point is that the scientific knowledge of this would support continuing it during pregnancy.

  11. I am also jumping on the bandwagon with you. Today is the first ever hearing of Oil Pulling and will be going to Whole Foods after work to get some coconut oil to begin tomorrow morning 🙂
    I will also be posting on FB to how this works.
    Your writing is great. Very down to earth and funny – keep it up!

  12. Just read about this, and was wondering if you were planning a “Follow-up” post~ I’m curious about your results almost 1/2 year into it (If you continued)

    Thanks~

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Lis,
      Sorry to disappoint…but once my teeth weren’t bugging me anymore, I didn’t have the motivation to keep it up. 🙂 Katie

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  14. I have been oil pulling since first reading this post, so going on 4 months now. Results that I can definitely report: I used to have an area where my gums had receded. I could feel it with my tongue. I can’t feel it anymore!!! And a few weeks ago my mom asked me if I had had my teeth whitened. She could not believe it when I told her no that it must just be the oil pulling. I can’t wait to go to the dentist in April and see what effect it has had on tartar build up. I’ll report back 🙂

  15. I’m currently oil pulling and reading about oil pulling at the same time. Neato.

    I had a killer toothache, I literally wanted to rip my tooth out with pliers. But my teeth are pretty, so I refrained. I had heard great things about coconut oil in regards to health and metabolism but came across oil pulling when looking up home remedies for toothaches. I’ve been doing it for the past two days about three times a day.

    The first time I did it, I literally dry heaved all over the bathroom, I’m acquiring a taste for it.

    Day one of my toothache was ridiculous – so much pain, extra strength pain killers and orajel could only do so much. It hurt to sleep, to eat, to function.

    Day two I woke up and noticed right away that it didn’t feel like someone was stabbing me in the mouth. I still had a little pain – sort of more like throbbing, but much better than the previous day. My tooth feels a little sensitive, but doesn’t have that horrible ache. It feels more like there is a little inconvenience in my mouth now.

    I’m fairly convinced that this works. I had read a comparison to motor oil. Oil in a car cleans and helps it run better – sort of the same dealio in our mouths. I’m hoping that when I get to the dentist next week they will ‘ohh and ahh’ over how wicked awesome my gums and teeth are, and that I healed an infection naturally. Either that or I’ll be getting a filling – But I’m okay with needles.

    I have been melting spoonfuls of coconut oil in the microwave though – Yay or nay?

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Amy,
      Yikes, so sorry I missed your comment for so long! I wouldn’t use the microwave myself, b/c it probably kills the Vitamin E in the oil, at least. If you scoop it solid, just chew a few times and it will be liquid in about 10-15 seconds. Now that’s it’s been another month…how is it going? 😉 Katie

  16. I also have several fillings which makes me nervous to try this. Anyone out there done this without losing their fillings? How often does this actually happen???

  17. Adele Hoffman – maybe use a smidge less? Keep it in the front? I had the “spit it out!” reflex myself! 😉 Katie

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