You are here

Oil Swishing To Support Healthy Teeth and Gums

A while back, a colleague in northern California told me that he had started to ask most of his patients to practice "oil swishing" to support healthy teeth and gums.

Oil swishing - sometimes called oil pulling - is a simple Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing about one tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes once daily, typically in the morning.

Some practitioners feel that oil swishing has systemic effects and can actually help remove toxins from the body, thereby supporting all organ systems. I don't have enough experience with oil swishing to have an opinion on this, but in trying oil swishing with a handful of clients over the past year, I can definitely vouch for its ability to reduce plaque, support healthy gums, and neutralize acids that contribute to dental cavities.

In experimenting with oil swishing, I have found that I strongly prefer coconut oil over sesame and extra virgin olive oil. I prefer the pure white of coconut oil over coloured oils, as my guess is that long term swishing with coloured oils may contribute to staining. But the bigger reason is that I find that coconut oil leaves my mouth feeling refreshed after 15 to 20 minutes of swishing, whereas swishing with other oils that have a higher percentage of unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids tends to leave me feeling like I had something slightly rancid in my mouth.

Most practitioners, including my friend in California, have their clients swish with oil first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. They believe that this allows for optimal systemic effects. I follow this practice, but I also like to oil swish a second time later in the day, typically after dinner, as my primary goal in oil swishing is to help keep my teeth and gums free of natural food acids.

If you're not sure about what type of oil to use, you can experiment to see which one feels best for you. Feel free to review my guide on choosing healthy oils, which explains how varying percentages of the three main classes of fatty acids found in oils affect their stability when exposed to air, heat, and light.

The virgin coconut oil that I have used for many years can be found at the following pages

Premium Virgin Coconut Oil (32 Fluid Ounces)

Please note that our virgin coconut oil is different than most coconut oil that is made via fermentation and with heat. Our coconut oil is made by grating fresh coconut meat into pure coconut milk, and then by centrifuging this coconut milk until the oil has separated out of it. This process allows for the best overall nutritional value, aroma, and texture.

Additional Notes:

If you can't oil swish for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, even just a minute or thereabouts should help neutralize food acids in your mouth, thereby reducing your risk of developing cavities.

If your coconut oil is solid, it's fine to scoop a spoonful into your mouth, as the oil will turn to liquid within a few seconds - coconut oil is liquid above 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

Though I find that most people do well swishing with one flat tablespoon of coconut oil per session, it's fine to use less than this - you should go with whatever amount is comfortable for you.

Once you are finished swishing, it's best to discard the oil and brush your teeth as you normally would.

Though I don't know the long term effects of oil swishing on amalgam and other types of fillings, I haven't heard of anyone who oil swishes regularly having trouble with loose fillings. If you have any doubt about the integrity of your fillings, it's best to have a dentist evaluate them; it may also be prudent to oil swish just a few times a week, perhaps every other day.


Join more than 80,000 readers worldwide who receive Dr. Ben Kim's free newsletter

Receive simple suggestions to measurably improve your health and mobility, plus alerts on specials and giveaways at our catalogue

Please Rate This

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (44 votes)
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.


15-20 minutes seems excessive, especially if 1 minute is beneficial.

I think that 15-20 minutes will thoroughly cleanse your mouth of all or nearly all of the harmful bacteria that may be present, a lot more than 1 minute will. By the way, does anyone with amalgum fillings do it? I'd like to but other other people have been concerned about them coming out as a result of pulling.

I did this consistently for about a year and I had 12 amalgam fillings. It never caused them to get loose or chip. I felt much better (migraine sufferer)
We were finally able to go to a wholistic dentist to remove and replace the amalgams which I wish I would've done years ago!!

About 4 months ago my dentist finally agreed with a prior dentist that I needed a root canal. But, since I don't do a root canal (because I don't want any toxins to be trapped under my tooth and fester and later spread throughout my body), I immediately considered just having the tooth removed and begin using another mini-denture (partial). I already have four partials, one in each corner of my mouth. But then I decided to try to fight the infection cavity, and I began by oil pulling over an hour a day. I add to the oil, baking soda, and small amounts of various essential oils (peppermint, eucalyptus, sea buckthorn, rose oil and clove) along with some Himalayan sea salt, organic cooking tumeric, vitamin C powder from Ben Kim, and I have even mixed in a little bit of bone broth powder and collagen protein powder. Additionally, I occasionally slice up a piece of garlic and lay that flat against the tooth while I sleep - I figure nature's anti-biotic shouldn't hurt. I haven't been back to the dentist lately, but the tooth is not painful. This regime of mine is an experiment, and so far all seems OK.

Sounds like an awesome experiment. I have a cavity on one of the teeth supporting a bridge and am oil swishing to see if I can get rid of it that way. I would like to avoid a costly procedure.

Swishing for one minute is a "better than nothing" option. I've found that 15-20 minutes give me the cleanest-feeling mouth. I put a spoonful of coconut oil into my mouth just before getting into the shower. After I spit it out, I brush my teeth and feel fantastic--a great way to start the day. And the feeling of freshness lasts a few hours, even after I eat breakfast. The coconut oil also seems to limit the amount of staining my teeth get from coffee and tea. It feels icky at first, especially if the oil is solid, but it liquefies after a second in my mouth.

Why spit it out after swishing? Why not just swallow it? I will not use fluoridated toothpaste.Period. My wife found a recipe for coconut oil and baking soda toothpaste with a few drops of peppermint extract to help with the flavor somewhat. I've been using it for a month or so now and my teeth and gums feel better than they have for quite a while.


Swallowing the oil is not a good idea. It is thought that there are a lot of toxins and bacteria pulled from the teeth and gums with swishing, the purpose is to get the toxins out of your body not swallow them back into it. That is why spitting it out is best.

I agree with Sierra that is in not good to swallow the oil due to toxin buildup from the swishing. I would like to add that it's best to spit the coconut oil into the garbage can rather than into the sink, as the oil could harden in pipes and cause a blockage.

I always wondered about clogging drain pipes and where else to spit it. Thanks!

I've read to spit the coconut oil in the trash! You're right in that it would probably clog up the drains and pipes by solidifying again!

Last year I had an abscessed tooth and was going to have to have it pulled. They were not going to be able to pull it for a couple of weeks due to infection. The pain was unbearable and it was the weekend so I decided to oil pull with coconut oil. Within three days the pain was gone and has never returned. I continue to oil pull. Saved me a couple hundred dollars.