adventures in oil pulling

i’ve been oil pulling for five of the last seven days and lived to tell the tale. 

to recap: oil pulling is the ancient Ayurvedic technique of detoxifying the teeth and gums by swishing oil (usually coconut) in the mouth on an empty stomach.

the first day’s five-minute stretch felt like nothing, so the second day i did 10 minutes, which was also fine.  lately, i’m hovering around 15 minutes and always hit a point where all i can think is I AM FINISHED.  THIS NEEDS TO GET OUT RIGHT NOW.

but 20 minutes is reportedly the golden length of time, since it’s long enough to break down plaque and tartar but too soon for the extracted toxins to reabsorb (who knew that was a thing?).

i do it as soon as i get up and while i still shake my head in disbelief at the heaping tablespoon of oil, i immediately noticed my teeth felt smoother and looked whiter afterward.  overall it seems easier to get my teeth and mouth cleaner, so i’m persevering despite the less-than-awesome nature of the activity. 

practices surviving this long have remained for a reason and i’m curious if i experience any long-term benefits, which include everything from preventing tooth decay to balancing hormones. has a great, less opinionated guide to the procedure.  

some things to note:


  • coconut oil melts at about 76 degrees Fahrenheit, around which California temperatures dance year-round.  so depending on your location it might be a fast-moving oil or a semi-solid weirdness.  both are challenging in their own special ways.  

the former because who wants to deal with precise pouring first thing in the morning?  and the latter because waiting for it to melt in your mouth is gross. 


  • i write my morning pages while swishing the oil and i highly recommend distracting yourself.  also, take deep breaths through your nose and don’t swallow. 

having the oil in my mouth reminds me of getting molds taken for orthodontia as a kid.  remember how the hygienist would leave you while the putty set and you thought you’d choke to death on goop stuck to the roof of your mouth via a gigantic metal slab, alone in a dentist’s chair?  oil pulling isn’t that bad.    

here’s a song to help you through.  "mind over matter" by young the giant, from fueled by ramen via youtube.


  • a friend who does oil pulling regularly politely suggested the technique works because it makes you salivate, thus rinsing out your mouth.  but her refinement prevented her from mentioning it also temporarily turns you into a salivating fool.  you’ve been warned.

trash not sink

  • once you’re finished spit the oil into trash, not down the drain, otherwise it will eventually solidify and clog your pipes.  try explaining that to your plumber….