Coconut Oil Pulling – Does it work?

Coconut oil pulling for whiter teeth - a 7 day test

Coffee and red wine have a lot to answer for, my teeth are looking lacklustre indeed. I suffer from sensitivity and teeth whitening products are painful. Coconut oil pulling has a bit of a cult following, with many friends of mine swearing by its whitening properties, with others claiming additional dental hygiene benefits too.

Despite a past failed attempt at coconut pulling – my BFF unceremoniously shoved a whole tablespoon of coconut oil into my mouth prompting me to heave it back out instantly – I have decided to try again, with a commitment of 7 days, to see if it really does work.

The science is mixed on its efficiency, some dentists agree it does have great rinsing properties and perhaps whitening too but with many agreeing that it will not reverse tooth decay.

Choosing Coconut Oil

I chose organic, cold pressed and unrefined coconut oil as this is it’s most natural state i.e. no bleaching or chemical treatments.

How to ‘pull’

  • Pulling is basically swishing like you would with mouthwash.
  • I have found a tablespoon way too much in the past so I use a teaspoon.
  • The coconut oil is solid but once you put it in your mouth and start the pulling motion it will melt quickly.
  • Aim to do 20 minutes of pulling once a day.
  • When you have finished do not spit it down the sink as you will clog your pipes, instead spit it in the bin and then rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.

The 7 Day Trial

Day 1

Remembering how energetic my gag reflexes are, I opted for a teaspoon of coconut oil, which going in still felt like a tablespoon. At first, you don’t know whether to chew or swish but it melts so quickly that you can soon start pulling. I set the timer for 20 mins on my iPhone and began the washing up to take my mind off it.

I made the rookie error of swishing too vigorously and not long in I began to get serious jaw ache. It subsided once I had calmed my swishing down.

Quite quickly I began to miss all the things I could do freely with my mouth, like breathe, eat, drink and talk! I became so thirsty I had to really concentrate on not swallowing the oil or sticking my head in the washing up bowl.

The constant thought in my head: ‘It must be nearly 20 minutes, surely…’ I caved and checked the time. Nope. 8 minutes and 24 seconds! Raaaah not even half way.

My mouth became absolutely full to bursting point, as my saliva added to the mix. Not sure if I broke the rules but I had to spit some out into the bin, just to get my mouth back down to normal size so that I could continue.

I was relieved when the timer buzzed and was pleasantly surprised how quickly the second half had gone. I spat the oil into the bin, rinsed my mouth, drank and gallon of water and ran to the bathroom to take a look.

Nope still yellow!

I laughed at my silliness, knowing full well it will take longer. Although my teeth felt super smooth, as though I had just brushed them and the taste of coconut disappeared quickly.

My reminder is set for Day Two – I am determined to see this week through!

Day 2

It’s a 34-degree day at 10 am, here in Melbourne, and I wasn’t paying too much attention as I snapped up the jar and ripped the lid off, sloshing melted coconut oil everywhere. It was pure liquid!

I continued the routine of swishing whilst washing up and I found myself able to switch off from the oil in my mouth and the cravings for freedom to swallow. Although I was perhaps a bit too in tune with it and relaxed so much that I stopped swishing at one point!

Overall the pulling was much easier and I didn’t need to check the clock until 17 minutes in, a clear improvement.

Day 3

It is still hot here and so I am trying to navigate liquid spoonfuls into my mouth sans spillage. Today I successfully balanced switching off with active swishing and I didn’t check the timer at all.

I have had lots of red wine and coffee recently so I made a concerted effort to swish more actively but as soon as you do too much your jaw tells you.

Checked my teeth afterwards expecting miracles but it was hard to say definitively, especially as after a while staring at my teeth I started to convince myself they had whitened.

Day 4

Today went without a hiccup. Still not any whiter, though.

It is tempting to skip one of my two coffees a day or the evening bottle glass of red wine I have, to help it along, but that would be cheating. Besides, some days I really need that wine!

My teeth do feel amazing, though, and call me a grub but I don’t usually use mouthwash as it makes me feel sick, so perhaps coconut oil is the answer.

Day 5

Ok, I think I can finally say they do look a bit whiter. It is not a blinding Hollywood smile but overall, they have a lighter appearance, something I feel would quickly disappear if I missed a day or two of oil pulling.

But is it worth the rigmarole and slight grossness? that’s the question I keep asking myself.

Day 6

I will never enjoy the feeling of the oil going into my mouth, I have decided, but I guess there is a kind of acceptance of doing it now they are looking whiter.

Day 7

The lipstick test!

Last week, before I started oil pulling, I tried to wear my brand new NARS lip pencil in a smashing red/pink hue, but sadly it made my teeth look horribly yellow. So now after a week of oil pulling, I can actually test whether my eyes are deceiving me….

The Verdict

Yay, it worked! My teeth are definitely whiter than the week prior, I would guess by at least 2 shades. Importantly, I haven’t changed my eating or drinking habits and even enjoyed a few glasses of red wine, so all in all I’m impressed.

The drawback is definitely the time taken to pull the oil and the feel of the oil itself. With many teeth whitening pens and strips on the market, it is tempting to resort to those for a quicker fix. However the additional benefits of the coconut oil, for me, were evident:

  1. My teeth felt cleaner and smoother
  2. The oil removed stubborn debris from between the teeth (presumably with the pulling motion)
  3. The overall sensitivity of my teeth has diminished slightly
  4. It neutralises breath odours rather than masking with mint mouthwash

In all honesty, I cannot do that for 20 minutes per day, every day, but to avoid undoing my week’s work, I am gong to use it as a 5-10 minute mouthwash every few days to maintain the whiteness and overall hygiene of my teeth.

Try it and let me know if it works for you or share any tips you have for making the routine easier!



Ps. The NARS lip pencils have been a favourite of mine for years, see a comparison with them here.

Coconut oil pulling is said to whiten your teeth, but does it work? Find out the results from a 7 day trial.

Disclaimer: the outcome for me was my honest experience and the same results may not be achieved by everyone, we are, after all, different. It is definitely worth a try in my opinion, though! Good luck x

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