Benefits for Oil Pulling | Zero waste + How-to

Benefits for Oil Pulling | Zero waste + How-to

So you are going zero waste and looking for natural alternatives to the plastic bottles of antiseptic mouthwash you find at the grocery store. Now, there are many homemade mouthwash recipes online and some of them look like they might be pretty good replacements. But there is an easier option out there that doesn’t require any preparation on your part. And I don’t know about you but anything that requires little to no work on my part is always welcome. I’ve got enough to do in my day as it is.

Have you heard of oil pulling?

It’s exactly how it sounds! It’s an ancient technique of swishing oil in your mouth much like a mouthwash and the oils “pull” the bacteria out. It’s a safe, simple, and effective alternative to conventional mouthwashes. Oil pulling is completely natural, free of chemicals and alcohol, and creates zero waste on the environment.

If you are completely new to oil pulling then you’ve come to the right place! We will be going over what oil pulling is, the benefits for oil pulling, and how to do it plus a little trick I use to make oil pulling even easier to get into your daily routine.


What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling, also called Kavala Graha or Gandusha, is a part of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine practiced in India for over 3000-5000 years. According to the ancient text, Charaka Samhita, Ayurvedic practitioners used oil pulling to cure about 30 diseases ranging from headaches to asthma to diabetes as well as oral health. For years it was used to prevent decay, oral malodor (bad breath), bleeding gums, dryness of throat, cracked lips and for strengthening teeth, gums and the jaw. It was used in tandem with chewing sticks and herbs for oral health. (1)

Sesame oil was traditionally used as well as various herbs like licorice root, hawthorn berry, and amla. However, many people now opt for coconut and sunflower oil as popular alternatives because of their pleasant taste but any oil can be used. (add more if needed)


The Benefits for Oil Pulling

Using oil pulling for dental hygiene is an effective alternative to mouthwash.

So does oil pulling actually work?

Well, yes and no. Unfortunately, there has been very little scientific research done on oil pulling. Some of the claims made about oil pulling are true whereas others are not.

As far as when it comes to oral health, enthusiasts claim that oil pulling will detox and trap bacteria in the mouth promoting healthier teeth and gums. The whole idea is to use a similar substance to eliminate the oil soluble toxins from the mouth. And of what little research has been done, these claims are not too far off. This is what oil pulling can do:

Can Kill Harmful Bacteria in the Mouth

The microbiome of your mouth encompasses about 700 different type of bacteria with half of those being present at any given time. Most of these bacteria are, in fact, indigenous to the mouth and even varies depending on location. (2) Of all those bacteria living in your mouth, only a few of them are actually harmful.

A few studies done have shown that oil pulling can reduce the population of those harmful bacteria in your mouth. One two-week study by the Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry  in 2008 took 20 adolescent boys of similar age with half using a chlorhexidine mouthwash and the other group using sesame oil. Both groups swished for 10 minutes every morning before brushing and samples were taken from saliva and plaque. After one week both the mouthwash and the oil significantly reduced the amount of harmful bacteria found in the samples. (3)

Another more recent study by the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice in 2016 used 60 participants randomly selected and broken up into three groups. The groups swished with water, chlorhexidine mouthwash, and coconut oil. The results showed that the groups using the mouthwash and coconut oil had significant reduction of harmful bacteria in the mouth compared to the group that used water. (4)

A 2009 study from the Indian Journal of Dental research specifically looked at the effects of oil pulling on gingivitis also found similar results with both the mouthwash and oil. The reduction in the plaque index, gingival scores, and total colony count from oil pulling therapy was just as effective as the mouthwash. (5)

Naturally, reducing the amount of harmful bacteria found in your mouth can help to prevent tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease.

Oil Pulling Is Safer Than Mouthwash

bottle of generic antiseptic mouthwash

Generic antiseptic mouthwash

According to askthedentist.com, using mouthwash is one of the biggest dental mistakes used by dentists and patients alike. Why is that?

Mouthwash Destroys Your Oral Microbiome

Think of mouthwash like antibiotics. There is an entire ecosystem of bacteria in your gut and this population, like your mouth, comprises of mostly harmless or even helpful bacteria. The problem with overusing antibiotics is that it destroys all your gut flora indiscriminately. This population keeps the harmful bacteria in check among many things and when it is eliminated, it gives other microorganisms free reign to reproduce at greater speeds. Hence why people tend to develop problems like vaginal yeast infections after taking antibiotics.

Mouthwash does the same thing to your mouth. And like your gut, these harmless bacteria help to keep the bacteria that cause tooth decay, gingivitis, and bad breath in check.

Mouthwash Dries Out Your Mouth

Proper saliva production in your mouth is extremely important because it supports the process of remineralization, which helps you to prevent cavities and even reverse them. Mouthwash disrupts saliva production. Toothpaste contains anionic compounds that are meant to kill bacteria that remain after brushing. Mouthwash has a high alcohol content that has cationic compounds that neutralize the ones in the toothpaste. The reaction from these compounds creates a drying effect and even some people experience pain from this reaction.

Mouthwashes Might Even Cause More Cavities

As stated before, mouthwash has a drying effect on the mouth and saliva is needed to prevent those harmful bacteria from growing. In part, this is because saliva serves to disorganize the bacteria that cause decay (remember that bacteria usually live within specific regions of the mouth) and deposit minerals into the teeth.  

Also, back to the earlier statement, mouthwash kills all the bacteria in your mouth and this microbiome works as a checks and balance system that keeps the harmful bacteria from growing out of control. But furthermore, this ecosystem also aids in the remineralization of your teeth along with your saliva and this is a crucial part of reversing tooth decay.

Mouthwash Doesn’t Actually Correct Bad Breath

For all the same reason that it doesn’t help with cavities, mouthwash also robs your mouth of the saliva and good bacteria needed to combat bad breath.

Mouthwash Might Lead to the Formation of Ulcers

Because of the drying reaction between the toothpaste and mouthwash, it impacts the protective layer in your cheeks. Conventional mouthwashes might also create ulcerations, the formation of a hole in the tissue.

Using the Right Type of Oil Might Also Add Extra Benefits

photo of a split coconut and a jar of oil in the middle
Image by moho01 from Pixabay

Sesame oil was the traditional oil used but coconut and sunflower oil are very popular alternatives. I highly suggest using extra virgin coconut oil and for a number of reasons.

One, coconut oil contains a high amount of lauric acid in it’s fatty acid makeup (50% of it to be exact). Lauric acid has been shown to kill harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. (6, 7)

Two, it improves digestion. Coconut oil aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. Now, it is suggested not to swallow the oil after oil pulling but it’s unavoidable to swallow a little bit of it while swishing. So why not make it an oil that will help your gut as well?

Three, coconut oil reduces inflammation. A study done by International Immunopharmacology showed that extra virgin coconut oil reduced arthritis in rats from the polyphenolics in the oil through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. (8) Another study from Pharmaceutical Biology suggested that virgin coconut oil obtained without chemicals and using a low heat had anti-inflammatory and analgesic  properties as well. (9) This property of coconut oil might improve overall gum health and reduce gingivitis. (10)

Four, coconut oil is great for dry, chapped lips. And again, you will get some of the coconut oil on your lips from swishing. So why not help those beauties out too?

And the fifth reason, is that coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 C). But I will explain why that is super helpful later!


Oil Pulling | How-to

There are many different ways to do oil pulling depending on the condition you are trying to cure but for oral health, the most widely used one is to take a few teaspoons to a tablespoon of oil (enough to fit comfortably in your mouth with room to move it around) and swish vigorously for 3-20 minutes. The goal is to get the oil in between and around the teeth but not to swallow it. The longer I think the better. But if you’re jaw becomes tired like mine did the first few times, 5-10 minutes is probably best to shoot for.

Now many enthusiasts will suggest adding some essential oils to the oil itself (tea tree, peppermint, rosemary, and sweet orange oil to name a few) but I do not use them myself. Essential oils ingested has to be done very carefully and I just don’t think it’s worth the risk of possible problems. But if you choose to use EOs, please do so carefully.

The best time suggested to do the oil pulling is first thing in the morning before you eat or drink but anytime is a great time to do this. I usually do mine while I am showering so that I can be doing other things while I’m swishing. After you are done, simply spit that oil into your trash. Do not spit down the drain as the oil might clog your pipes over time. And rinse your mouth out with water thoroughly after. It is suggested to do this anywhere from 2-5 times a week.

You can also brush your teeth after doing an oil pull like I do but some people prefer to wait a little while so as to not disturb the flora in their mouth afterward. Just do not use oil pulling as a replacement for brushing, flossing, or any other part of your oral hygiene. There is a reason why the Ayurvedic practitioners used oil pulling along with chewing sticks and herbs.

Do not use coconut oil if you are allergic to coconut. In that case, sunflower or sesame oil are great alternatives.


molded solid coconut oil in the shapes of stars with the silicone mold slightly behind them and glass jar next to them.
Oil pulling chews are very easy to make and can be molded into fun shapes!

Coconut Oil Pulling Chews

Here’s a great way to get oil pulling into your daily hygiene routine. Make coconut oil pulling chews!

Not only does this take out the process of measuring out the oil every time you do an oil pulling sessions but it makes it possible to store these in your bathroom (unless you keep your house above 76 degrees) and grab what you need as you’re getting your shower started. If you keep a warmer house then you’ll have to store them in the fridge and grab what you need before going to the bathroom. Here’s how to do it!

  1. Take either a silicone candy mold or ice cube tray
  2. Measure out the amount you need and melt the coconut oil.
  3. Take 2 tsp. or 1 tbsp. of melted oil and fill each cavity with the desired amount.
  4. Put the tray in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes
  5. Pop out the solid coconut oil and store in a jar with a lid.

If you wish to add EO, mix it into the melted coconut oil before filling the mold. That’s it!


I hope you found this post helpful. If you have any questions or personal experience about oil pulling, please leave me a comment below. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Happy Pulling!



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