In the words of the incomparable Lizzo, "I thought I needed to run and find somebody to love, but all I needed was some coconut oil."

There has been no shortage of unique health trends springing up over the last few years. One of the more obscure has been in the oral health department. While it used to be enough to floss every day and brush using natural toothpaste brands, some find that it may not be quite enough. Enter oil pulling, a practice finding (and pulling) its way into many peoples' oral healthcare routines. Here's what coconut oil pulling is and how you can incorporate it into your oral health routine.

What is Coconut Oil Pulling?

coconut oil and coconut with toothbrush

Oil pulling works similarly to an everyday mouthwash by removing germs and bacteria. However, oil pulling calls for edible oil, such as coconut oil, sunflower oil, or sesame seed oil, in place of traditional mouthwash. It takes longer than swishing mouthwash. The process can take anywhere from five to 20 minutes.

Thanks to chemistry, oil pulling isn't just a faux-replacement for over-the-counter mouthwash. According to Jessica T. Emery, DMD, owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft in Chicago, most of the organisms in our mouth that cause bad breath and a slew of other oral health issues consist of a single cell with a fatty protective coating. Oils that are popular for oil pulling are high in fat, causing a natural attraction between the oil and microorganisms responsible for bad breath. Once the oil is spat out, much of the bacteria goes along with it.

How to Oil Pull With Coconut Oil

woman using coconut oil for pulling

Coconut oil is widely-heralded as one of the best edible oils for oil pulling thanks to its lauric acid content, which Dr. Emery notes is well-known for its added anti-microbial properties. Coconut oil also has a light coconut taste that makes the process more bearable.

The process of coconut oil pulling is simple and very similar to how one uses mouthwash. First, take a tablespoon of coconut oil and place it in your mouth. Begin swishing just as you would with mouthwash. Work the oil into different areas of your mouth as you go.

The end goal of coconut oil pulling is to swish the oil around for 15-20 minutes. Swirling coconut oil around in the mouth for 15-20 minutes will be difficult for those not used to oil pulling initially. It's okay to start with a five-minute pull as you work your way into a new oral health routine.

After pulling, it's important not to swallow the oil. Unlike mouthwash, coconut oil should also not be spat down the drain because it can cause a clog. Instead, spit the used coconut oil directly into the garbage.

Benefits of Coconut Oil Pulling

woman with healthy smile

Just as a traditional mouthwash is not an oral health miracle, neither is oil pulling a cure-all for your dental care needs. Coconut oil pulling does not reverse the effects of tooth decay and should never take the place of regular routine oral health care. But, coconut oil pulling is a terrific supplement to your oral care regimen with incredible health benefits backed by science.

Coconut Oil Pulling Decreases Bad Bacteria in the Mouth

Multiple studies have shown a significant and measurable decrease in the number of bad bacteria present in the mouth after oil pulling daily for at least two weeks.

Cocnut Oil Pulling Helps Remedy Bad Breath

Studies found a significant decrease in the bacteria that can lead to bad breath and gum issues when oil pulling is used as part of an oral health routine.

Coconut Oil Pulling Can Help Prevent Cavities

Plaque buildup and poor oral hygiene lead to small holes called cavities developing on the tooth. Untreated cavities lead to further tooth decay and eventually the loss of the tooth entirely. Incorporating oil pulling into a healthy oral routine can help prevent cavities by reducing the number of bacteria in the mouth and plaque buildup. Of course, coconut oil pulling can't treat cavities and tooth decay that have already formed, and those should be treated by a dental professional promptly.

Coconut Oil Pulling Reduces Inflammation and Improves Gum Health

Once again, pesky plaque buildup is at the forefront of another oral health issue. This time it's in the form of inflammation and gum disease. According to this study, virgin coconut oil specifically was found to have moderate anti-inflammatory effects.

Coconut Oil Pulling Can Help Remedy Tonsil Stones

Those who've had to deal with tonsil stones know all the annoying problems they bring, such as discomfort, inflammation, and worst of all, bad breath. Much like mouthwash, coconut oil works to soften and loosen deeply-lodged tonsil stones, helping your body dislodge them on its own. Meanwhile, coconut oil pulling fights bad breath caused by bacteria and tonsil stone buildup.

How Often Should You Coconut Oil Pull?

coconut oil with dentist tools

How often one should oil pull depends on an individual's current oral health. According to Mark Burhenne, DDS, those with good oral health overall who are looking to add oil pulling as part of an ongoing oral health regimen should pull with coconut oil one to two times per week. However, those combating oral health issues such as gingivitis or tonsil stones can do an oil pull once per day as needed.

Best Coconut Oils for Oil Pulling

Jar with coconut oil and nuts on color background

Like most products on the market, not all coconut oils are created equally. It's essential to look for coconut oil that will be a good match for the oil pulling process.

When selecting oil for oil pulling, we highly recommend unrefined coconut oil as the best oil for oil pulling. Unrefined coconut oils will have a label featuring "virgin" within the name. Unrefined coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts with no alterations or chemicals added to the coconut. However, refined coconut oil goes through additional processing so it may be better suited for cooking purposes.

We recommend oil pulling with Nutiva, Amazon's bestselling organic, unrefined, virgin coconut oil. Nutiva coconuts are cold-pressed immediately after harvest for a high-quality pure oil with a light, subtle coconut taste you'll love.

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