Is Oil Pulling While You’re Pregnant Safe?

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

Oil pulling is an ayurvedic practice where you swish around an oil such as coconut oil for about 15-20 minutes in your mouth. Allegedly it will pull all of the toxins out from the rest of your body through your mouth. It’s supposed to improve not only your oral health but the overall health of your entire body.

Are you curious as to whether this practice is safe to use as a mouthwash when you’re pregnant?

coconut oil

Fortunately, this ayurvedic practice of oil pulling is safe to do while you’re pregnant because it is similar to rinsing with any other mouthwash. The only difference is that you’re using oil as the medium to rinse with and you’re also “rinsing” for a much longer period of time. Rinsing out your mouth is not harmful to your health nor your unborn child.

However, there is one instance where it can be dangerous and that is if you swallow the oil that you were pulling with. That is the only time that oil pulling can be dangerous while you’re pregnant. Although if you don’t swallow it, no harm can come to you nor your fetus.

What makes oil pulling safe during pregnancy?

What makes oil pulling safe is the fact that you’re not consuming nor ingesting a substance. In other words, you’re not incorporating something into your body, which can also potentially integrate itself with your unborn child.

What you’re doing is merely rinsing with said oil for about 15-20 minutes and then you spit it back out. You didn’t drink any of it nor did you eat any of it so nothing was introduced into your body systemically. Everything that you rinsed with came back out and your body absorbed none of it.

Essentially, if you didn’t take anything into your body it is equivalently impossible for your unborn child to have taken in anything either! Does that make sense?

Aside from that fact, if you believe in the alleged theories of the health benefits of oil pulling, their claims would also support it. What this ayurvedic practice of oil pulling is meant to do is to pull toxins out of your body. In other words, the oil pulling subtracts substances from your body and does not add to it.

The event is a net negative and not a net positive, meaning that you lost some things from your body by performing this ritual. If anything the oil pulling probably “pulled” some bad toxins out of your baby.

But is it even effective?

It is of our opinion that oil pulling is effective in reducing bleeding gums (gingival bleeding) and plaque because we’ve personally witnessed some of our patients utilizing it with good results.

As a case in point, we have a patient at our office who we’ve been taking care of for the past 4 years. She has four bulky crowns on her upper front teeth that would bleed profusely at every cleaning appointment. We tried to convince her to use a medicated mouth rinse but she went against our suggestion and tried coconut oil pulling instead.

x-ray of crowns on upper front teeth
x-ray of patient’s upper front crowns

Surprisingly when she came back at subsequent cleaning appointments, she had significantly less bleeding with the gums around her crowns. We were pleasantly surprised by the improvement of her gum health by oil pulling but at the same time we needed to make sense of why it was effective.

The alleged theory of oil pulling being able to pull toxins from various organs of your body to detoxify you is simply impossible. We could not believe in such a thing… However, after much contemplation we came to the conclusion that oil pulling helped improved the gums because of its buffering capacity.

Oil pulling’s buffering capability

Coconut oil pulling helps to reduce gum bleeding because it has an alkaline pH of around 7-8. Essentially what happens when you “oil pull” is that you’re buffering your mouth to raise the pH from an acidic level back up to a more neutral level.

You’re also rinsing for a fairly long period of time of about 15-20 minutes. That gives it a substantial amount of time for your mouth to become de-acidified. You can compare that to regular mouth rinsing where you only rinse for about 30-60 seconds total.

According to Jackson Ave Dental, the bacteria in your mouth start to thrive when the acidity in the mouth drops below the critical pH level of about 5.5 which is fairly acidic. That claim is substantiated by this research study which shows that magic does happen below a pH of about 5.5.

Since the coconut oil is a lot more alkaline than the critical pH level, it basically neutralizes the acid and brings your mouth back up to a neutral level. A study by the West Virginia University School of Dentistry showed that rinsing with a variety of common mouthwashes such as Listerine and Act can protect the mouth by buffering the acidity by raising the pH back to neutral levels.

Mouth rinses saliva buffering chart
Credit: UWV Dental School – chart of buffering capacity of mouth rinses

We can extrapolate the same concept and apply it to oil pulling because what it essentially does is buffer the mouth. The mouth rinses in the study was only used for about 60 seconds before testing the pH level. In the case of oil pulling, you’re rinsing for a solid 15-20 minutes which is an eternity in comparison.

Reason why it is an opinion and not a fact that oil pulling is effective

When we make the claim that oil pulling can help improve your gum health, it is our opinion and not a fact because the official statement by the American Dental Association (ADA) is that there is not enough sufficient evidence to support the health benefits of it. (We at afterva support full transparency.)

The ADA does not recommend using oil pulling as a routine oral hygiene practice. Instead they say that you should brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth.

We agree that oil pulling is NOT a substitute for brushing and flossing because nothing can replace that. You should continue your regular oral hygiene routine. However, we do still need an explanation for why we do see an improvement in gum health with some of our patients who practice it. Our theory that it works based on buffering seems fairly logical to us but you may feel free to disagree.

Most of the scientific research studies out there do say that it may potentially help but further studies are needed to determine efficacy.

Nonetheless, if you’re wondering if we personally oil pull, we do not do it because we find it to be impractical. We can barely convince our patients to brush for a whole two minutes but in order to oil pull, you have to rinse for a whole 15-20 minutes and that is a VERY long time. To be frank, who has the patience and time for that? We’re honestly pretty surprised by the people who have the tenacity to do that every single day.

The only time oil pulling is dangerous

Oil pulling during pregnancy is a fairly safe practice as long as you do it correctly. If you simply spit it back out after rinsing with it, no harm can befall you nor your fetus.

The only time it can be harmful is if you swallow the oil that you were pulling with. According to the ayurvedic practitioners, that oil contains all of the toxins that you just pulled out of your mouth so you’re supposed to spit it back out. If you swallow it then you’re reintroducing it back into your body which is not what you want.

In addition to that, it is not healthy for you to be consuming so much excess oil. It makes sense if you think about it carefully. If you’re rinsing with oil multiple times a day and you’re swallowing all of it, that is a lot of additional fat that you’re taking into your diet.

Basically, as long as you don’t consume any of the oil you’re using to rinse your mouth with you should be safe.


Oil pulling is a safe alternative for mouth rinsing to use during pregnancy as long as you don’t swallow any of it. You’re essentially just rinsing with the oil and spitting it all back out so none of it actually gets incorporated into your body systemically. In other words, none of it should even reach the child that you’re carrying.

The plus side of doing it is that it may potentially improve your gum health by reducing the plaque and gingival bleeding.


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