Coconut oil pulling is generally safe, but it could be considered unsafe in the following scenarios:

  • You have an allergy to coconuts or coconut oil.
  • You swallow the coconut oil following the pulling process. When you finish oil pulling, be sure to spit out the oil that has collected bacteria in your mouth. Swallowing it may result in stomach discomfort or diarrhea.
  • You totally replace all toothbrushing, flossing, and other oral care with coconut oil pulling. For proper oral hygiene, brush twice a day — once after breakfast and once before bed — floss once a day, eat a healthy diet, and see your dentist regularly.

Keep reading to learn more about coconut oil pulling and how to do it safely.

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic oral hygiene therapy. Although there may be other purported benefits to using oil pulling, this alternative therapy is meant primarily to remove bacteria and stimulate saliva production.

Oil pulling is basically swishing oil — such as coconut oil, sesame oil, or olive oil — around your mouth. As you swish the oil around your mouth, it is “pulled” between the teeth. When you are done, you spit out the oil.

Many people suggest that oil pulling can improve oral health with minimal risks.

In fact, a 2007 study on oil pulling indicated that there were no adverse reactions to any hard or soft tissues of the oral cavity. But it’s important to note that this study used refined sunflower oil, not coconut oil.

Recently, coconut oil has become popular for oil pulling because it:

  • has a pleasant taste
  • is easily available
  • has high amounts of antimicrobial lauric acid

A few studies have looked at which oil is best for oil pulling. Some have indicated that coconut oil is a good choice:

  • A 2018 study concluded that for reducing the severity of gingivitis, coconut oil pulling is more effective than oil pulling with sesame oil.
  • A 2016 study found that for reducing the bacteria associated with tooth decay (Streptococcus mutans), coconut oil pulling was as effective as the prescription mouthwash chlorhexidine.
  • A 2009 study highlighted the strong bactericidal properties of lauric acid.
  • A 2017 study indicated that the lauric acid in coconut oil, when mixed with alkalis in saliva, reduces plaque adhesion and accumulation.

If you’ve used mouthwash, you know how to oil pull. Here’s how:

  1. First thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, put about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth.
  2. Swish the oil all around your mouth for about 20 minutes.
  3. Spit out the oil.
  4. Brush your teeth as you regularly do.

Consider spitting out the oil into a tissue and then throwing it in the trash to avoid oil building up and clogging your drain pipe.

Although typically not dangerous to your health, you might experience a few minor side effects from oil pulling. For instance, at first, putting oil in your mouth might make you feel a little nauseous.

Other potential side effects may include:

These side effects tend to diminish as you become used to oil pulling. For example, the sore jaw and headache may be caused by the rigorous motion of swishing the oil, which you may not be accustomed to doing.

Oil pulling with coconut oil is a simple way to possibly reduce potential cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath.

Coconut oil pulling is generally considered low risk, but it could be unsafe if you:

  • have a coconut allergy
  • swallow it after the pulling process
  • use it as your only oral hygiene method

If you’re considering the addition of coconut oil pulling or any other alternative therapy to your dental regimen, discuss it with your dentist before starting.