Will Pulling Coconut Oil Whiten Your Teeth?

by Annie Crawford

You're starting school, a new job, a well-paid internship, or maybe a new relationship—and you're worried that fermented grape nights and black coffee mornings took their toll on your bright smile this summer. You're asking yourself does coconut oil really whiten teeth—cause taping weird bleaching strips to your teeth sounds pretty icky. Everyone and their mother is talking up coconut oil as the way to polish up your smile. Even Kylie Jenner uses coconut oil for white teeth, so the claims have reached Kardashian-level magnitude. What's the real scoop?

Eating coconut oil will not whiten your teeth, although it will probably taste delicious. The hype around white teeth is the result of "pulling" coconut oil through the teeth for about 20 minutes each day. Oil pulling is an oral hygiene component of Ayurveda, "a holistic system of medicine which evolved in India some 3000-5000 years ago," according to the National Institutes of Health. The practice involves swishing anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of oil (coconut, sesame, or other) around the mouth. It is said to cleanse bacteria from the mouth, freshen breath, and whiten teeth. Terrific, right?

Not so fast.

Despite thousands of years of use in traditional medicine, the American Dental Association stands firmly on the no endorsement bandwagon. The organization states there is not sufficient research or evidence to back claims. And they want you to know—you should brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily, and they don't endorse any alternative shenanigans. Hmph.

OK, so the ADA isn't throwing the proverbial dentist chair into the ring, but that doesn't mean there aren't health benefits to be had. A cosmetic dentist for Health Magazine states that if oil pulling is done daily, it could remove some tooth stain. Could is worth a shot in my book!

With that said, do you want to give it a try? Of course! Here's the good news: swishing coconut oil through your teeth really can't hurt you, unless you swallow every spoonful of coconut oil you put in your mouth—and get high cholesterol as a result—you will probably be okay. I tried oil pulling a few days in a row and I have to say, I liked it!

I can attest to the weirdness of putting a spoonful of oil into your mouth. Not only on a physical level, but a mental one, too. I have strategized for most of my life on how to reduce the amount of oil going into my body, so shoveling it in each morning seemed counterintuitive. But healthy fats are—apparently—not just good for a balanced diet, they're also good for oral health. Slide a spoonful in, and after a few seconds in the warm haven of your mouth, the oil will liquify. The is peculiar, but also strangely comfortable. Then swish. No need to be too aggressive, it will make your mouth muscles sore. Remember slow and steady wins the race. Build up to 20 minutes if you want. Just be sure not to swallow!

I was lazy with my experiment, but Bustle author Jane Brendlinger braved it out for a week so you can live vicariously through her should you decide coconut oil pulling/swishing isn't for you.

Hot tip. Don't spit your swish down the drain. Either spit used oil into a compost bucket or in the trash. All that oil will build up and potentially clog your pipes. If it happens, remember that coconut oil liquifies at 76°, so get ye some hot water and clean dem pipes. Happy swishing, y'all.

Images: Foundry/Pixabay