Can ‘Coconut Oil Pulling’ Whiten Your Teeth Naturally?

coconut oil pulling for white teeth

Yellowing teeth are a natural consequence of aging, eating, and drinking. Can you lighten the yellow discoloration of your teeth naturally? I think that the answer is yes!

I’m going to give you ‘the good news’ and a little lesson in tooth yellowing from the non-dentist perspective of a dermatologist.

Why is a dermatologist talking about yellow teeth? Because I’m getting old. - Dr. Bailey!

I also drink coffee, tea, and red wine, as well as eat lots of fruits and veggies that stain teeth. Yellow teeth are not something I want, so I’ve done what I can over the years to fight the process.

  1. I go to my dentist every 6 months – usually.
  2. I use a Sonicare tooth brush and whitening toothpastes.
  3. I’ve tried my dentist's dental whitening system.

The peroxide-based bleach from this system made my teeth sensitive, but helped a little. It all works, but my teeth are more yellow than I want - I'm fussy and I want them white.

This month, I’ve been on a writing sabbatical in Australia. My friend Lorraine who lives here told me that she was told at "a health farm" (love the Aussie lingo, the translation is "a spa") that coconut oil pulling would whiten teeth. The person she learned this from had

"the whitest teeth you have ever seen." - Lorraine, my dear Aussie mate

I had to explore this idea. It turns out the naturally anti-microbial lauric acid in coconut may be able to whiten teeth. I gave it a try and oh yes, this method works on my teeth!

After swishing coconut oil in my mouth for 2 days, my pearly whites were indeed pearly white. I want to share what I learned with my readers. - Dr. Bailey

The Common Reasons Your Teeth is Yellow:

can coconut oil pulling whiten your teeth naturally

The outer color of your teeth is due to a thin layer of white enamel over a yellow thicker layer of dentin. Everyone’s teeth start out with slight color differences in their enamel.

Teeth changes with age that cause yellowing:

  • The thin layer enamel thins even more and changes with age.
  • Dentin gets yellower with age and shows through the enamel more.

You can’t do much about that. This is called intrinsic discoloration.

The good news is that there is also extrinsic discoloration that plays into the yellowing of your teeth. Coconut oil seems to help that for my teeth!

Extrinsic tooth yellowing occurs based on what you put in your mouth.

Common causes of extrinsic tooth yellowing, according to Professor Wikipedia, include:

  1. causes of yellow teeth
    Poor dental hygiene with plaque, calculus, and bacteria.
  2. Tar from smoking.
  3. Foods rich in carotenoids or xanthonoids (these are good for you!) like carrots etc.
  4. Drinks like coffee, tea, red wine, cola and sports drinks.

Based on Lorraine's 'health farm' experience, I gave oil pulling a try. It definitely freshens the mouth and whitens teeth based on my experiment. There are also claims that oil pulling cures other maladies like heart disease, inflammation, acne etc. I can’t comment on that, but it does whiten teeth and freshen the mouth nicely. 

Wanting to know more about coconut oil pulling, I asked Professor Google and was led down a fascinating 'rabbit hole' of information on oil pulling.

Facts about Oral Oil Pulling

benefits of coconut oil for oral health
Dental research from India shows that 'oil pulling' reduces
  1. bad breath.
  2. mouth bacteria associated with tooth decay and gingivitis.
Below are interesting quotes from the first reference describing oil pulling.
The concept of oil pulling is not new. It has been discussed in the Ayurvedic text Charak…It was Dr. Karach who popularized the concept of oil pulling in the 1990s in Russia. Oil pulling therapy can be done using edible oils like sunflower or sesame oil.  
For oil pulling therapy, a tablespoon (teaspoon for young children) of sesame (or any edible oil – I recommend coconut oil) oil is taken in the mouth and sipped, sucked, and pulled between the teeth for 10-15 min. The viscous oil turns thin and milky white.
It is claimed that the swishing activates enzymes. The oil should not be swallowed as it contains bacteria and toxins. Oil pulling has been used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy to prevent tooth decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums, dryness of throat, and cracked lips, and for strengthening the teeth, gums, and jaws.

Also interesting is that most of the microbes in the mouth are covered with a fatty membrane. According to Chicago cosmetic dentist, Dr. Jessica T. Emery (founder and owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft), these microbes adhere to the oil you are swishing in your mouth. It is another big reason NOT to swallow the oil!

I can tell you as a western trained allopathic physician, oil pulling is a nice practice to add to the litany of other self-care tasks on our to-do list. Fascinating!

Oil Pulling for Better Oral Hygiene and Whiter Teeth

  1. use 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for dental health and pulling
    Brush your teeth
  2. Swish 1 TBS of coconut oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. I swished it around my teeth and tongue and gargled with it (that was harder).
  3. Spit out the oil when you are done – don’t spit it into your plumbing though!!! Coconut oil will turn solid and you will eventually get to invite the plumber over. Spit the now milky and microbe-rich oil into a plastic bag and chuck it in the trash.
  4. Rinse your mouth with warm water before you drink anything.
  5. Repeat 3 to 4 times a week.

Some sources say to brush your teeth after pulling, but I don’t; I do it in the morning or before bed. My pearly whites are now whiter than they ever were with a dental bleaching system.

Can coconut oil pulling help with mouth sores from geographic tongue?

I also have geographic tongue (thanks dad for the genes for that one) and it is better and more comfortable too. Based on my little experiment with coconut oil pulling, I’m a fan! If you try it, tell me how it goes for you.

Natural botanical oils have a range of benefits that have been used for years and are again becoming popular.

best omega enriched face oil to heal skin

It is one of the reasons that I created my Omega Enriched Booster Face Oil. I formulated this oil for my same Aussie friend Lorraine. She had purchased a really expensive face oil at the same "health farm" and I knew I could make a more effective oil for much less. During that same visit I created the oil and Lorraine was my test subject - she loved it! 

I blended a base of beautiful organic carrier oils including:  

  1. kukui nut oil,
  2. sunflower seed oil,
  3. jojoba oil,
  4. castor seed oil,

I added 3 well-loved botanical oils:

  1. rosehip seed oil, 
  2. pomegranate seed oil,
  3. argan oil,

then finished with 3 surprisingly effective therapeutic oils:

  1. cypress oil,
  2. borage oil, and
  3. sea buckthorn oil.

The end result is an oil that heals and maintains skin barrier, is loaded with strongly anti-inflammatory gamma linoleic acid (an essential omega fatty acid that your skin can't make on its own), antioxidants and barrier healing natural compounds. 

On days when my skin feels thin, creepy, and dry, this oil is the perfect solution. - Claire B

Click here to learn more about my Omega Enriched Face Oil


  1. Asokan S, Rathan J, Muthu MS, Rathna PV, Emmadi P; Raghuraman; Chamundeswari. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7.
  2. Asokan S, Emmadi P, Chamundeswari R. Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian J Dent Res. 2009 Jan-Mar;20(1):47-51.
  3. Asokan S1, Kumar RS, Emmadi P, Raghuraman R, Sivakumar N. Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: a randomized controlled pilot trial. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2011 Apr-Jun;29(2):90-4. doi: 10.4103/0970-4388.84678.
  4. How dental professionals can respond to 'oil pulling' patients, DentistryIQ, March 21, 2014