I Tried Oil Pulling for a Week and This is What Happened

Written by Dr. Reuben
Published: 22-01-2022

Celebrities and wellness bloggers have been raving about it for some time. But is this trend all what it promises to be?

If you’ve been brainwashed into diffusing essential oils to improve your mood, appetite, and overall health like me and Sophie Cachia (aka The Young Mummy) in recent months, you’ve probably already heard of this ‘new’ trend called oil pulling.

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The art of oil pulling – or as I like to call it, ‘gag on coconut oil so you look like a hipster pulling’ – is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that basically involves swishing a heaped tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes. It is best done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and before you brush your teeth or have a sip of any liquids (yep, that includes coffee. Sorry mums.)

The health benefits are said to be amazing. It can draw out toxins in your body, aid with teeth whitening, improve gum health and overall oral hygiene. But don’t ask us, wellness advocates have been promoting the morning ritual for years and now even the celebrities are backing it.

In a recent post on Instagram, Aussie model Rachael Finch shared a video of her pulling with a little ‘how to’ guide and her 217K followers were sold (well, a lot of them).

OK, OK… I’ll give it a go!

Always one to try a fad, I gave oil pulling a try for a week to see what the fuss is about.

The first morning I gave oil pulling a go, I was pumped. I had my jar of organic coconut oil ready to go the night before and had my first mouthful as soon as I woke up.

20 minutes seems like a long time, but I swished the good stuff around in my mouth while I was getting my two kids ready for daycare and myself ready for work. I made toast, prepared coffee (for when I was done, of course!), made beds, packed bags, cleaned the kitchen, fixed my bed hair… and then….

I won’t lie. The sensation of the oil is a little, erm, different. A few minutes I could manage, but 20 minutes lingered a little too long and the more I swished, it seemed as though the amount in my mouth increased. Well, it is melting after all.

I was glad to spit it out.

My day progressed as normal, but by the end of the day, I had a headache. Like one of those horrible detox headaches you get when you limit sugar or caffeine in your diet. Nothing I did or took helped it go away.

Then came day two…

Day two pretty much went the same way. I swished while getting ready and this time I knew what to expect, so there was no gagging.

I felt a little more energetic, but who’s to say if it was to do with the actual oil pulling? Two days is too early to tell I think.

But two days, lead to three, four, five… and before I knew it, seven days had passed with me oil pulling every morning.

Did I feel any different? Apart from that slight detoxing feeling the first day, not really. Were my teeth any whiter? Well, no. But perhaps I needed to do it longer than one week. Who knows?

Macro and Melrose Coconut Oils are said to be the best to work with when oil pulling. I used Melrose (right). Images: Woolworths

The experts know, that’s who!

According to Melbourne-based cosmetic dentist Dr Reuben Sim from Dental Boutique, oil pulling is a controversial trend within the dental industry and something he gets asked a lot from patients wanting to be a little health hipster like me.

“While the online world would have you believe oil pulling is a ‘cure’ for everything – discoloured teeth, acne and even a hangover, the science behind this glam trend isn’t nearly as glamorous or effective to improve your oral hygiene as you may be lead to think,” says Dr Sim.

“There is little to no research and only a few published clinical studies that prove oil pulling is somewhat effective to improve oral hygiene and prevent dental problems such as bad breath, gingivitis, cavities and stained teeth.”

When it comes to the promise of whitening your teeth, oil pulling also offers little help.

“Many patients from Dental Boutique have visited our practice for professional, fast and effective teeth whitening treatments, having been disappointed with their oil pulling results in the past,” Dr Sim admits.

While there is certainly ‘no harm’ in oil pulling, Dr Sim insists there are better alternatives out there to achieve better oral hygiene and whiter teeth.

“It is important to discuss with your dentist your dental concerns and goals, before oil pulling because your dentist can help you manage your dental health and help you achieve your dream smile,” he says.

And from me? If you’re going to try it at home, spit the oil in a tissue and put it in the bin when you’re done. The rest of the house won’t be happy when the drains start to clog up because the oil has solidified.

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