When I first tried oil pulling just a couple of years ago, few had ever heard of it. Now, it’s popping up all over the news, the Internet, and even the radio, and many have recently become devotees to the practice. While there has been a lot of buzz around it lately, oil pulling is far from new. In fact, it’s been used for centuries and is part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Oil pulling involves swishing a spoonful of oil around your mouth each day. The oil emulsifies and saponifies, aiding in a mechanical cleaning process as you move it around your mouth. Many believe this practice pulls toxins from the body and remedies numerous overall health problems.
Ayurvedic practitioners claim that oil pulling draws toxins out of the body and aids the lymphatic system, leading to resolution of health problems ranging from allergies, hormonal imbalances, and migraines, to cancers and diseases of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. Unfortunately, there is scant scientific research regarding these claims at this time, although there are many who testify that oil pulling has solved their health issues, and it has been used for thousands of years for those very purposes. Furthermore, there have been studies showing a correlation between bacteria in your mouth & serious illness. Streptococcus mutans in the mouth, for example, can lead to pneumonia or meningitis, so it makes sense that eliminating these kinds of bacteria from the oral cavity could reduce the risk of some diseases. Perhaps in time, researchers will discover more to support the role oil pulling can play in overall health.
There are many research-supported dental benefits to oil pulling. My teeth feel cleaner when I oil pull. I also used to have dark stains on my teeth (possibly from balsamic vinegar?) that would not brush off, and oil pulling removed the stains, leaving my teeth whiter and brighter. Studies have found oil pulling to lead to improvements in oral health. A 2009 study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research compared oil pulling to using chlorhexidine mouthwash and found it to be equally effective in reducing plaque-induced gingivitis and lowering bacterial counts. This is good news, because antiseptic mouthwashes can raise blood pressure, increase the chance of heart attack and stroke, and kill off healthy bacteria, making oil pulling the safer alternative. Oil pulling every day can:
- Lead to fewer cavities
- Prevent gingivitis
- Strengthen the jaw, gums, and teeth
- Whiten teeth
- Counteract bad breath
- Decrease dryness of mouth, lips, and throat
Oil pulling should not replace daily brushing & flossing and routine dental cleanings, but should instead be a supplement to your oral care regime or an alternative to chemical mouthwashes.
But doesn’t it taste gross?
The idea of putting a spoonful of oil in your mouth is indeed unappealing to many. I prefer to use organic coconut oil because it tastes good and isn’t at all slimy like some oils. Sesame oil and olive oil are other good oils to pull, but I’ve found them to be much less palatable. Even my 5-year-old is happy to swish a small spoonful of coconut oil around his mouth for a minute or two! Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, and researchers from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland found coconut oil to be effective against the bacteria that cause tooth decay as well as other bacteria and yeasts, including those that cause oral thrush. Perfect Coconut Oil is 100% pure, organic, unrefined, and not bleached and deodorized like many other brands of coconut oil. The coconuts used are grown without pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides — perfect for oil pulling, because we are trying to remove toxins from the body, not add more of them!
How do I do it?
There are several variations in technique floating around the Internet. I have found that you don’t need to do it perfectly every time to reap benefits, but the more you do it, the greater the effects. At first, you may be only to pull for a minute or two. Don’t worry, you will build up to the full amount of time quickly.
- Pick a time of day when you will consistently have time to pull, and when you won’t need to talk to anyone. I choose morning, right after I brush my teeth.
- Put a spoonful of oil in your mouth. Start with a half spoonful if you’re feeling reluctant or have a tendency to gag.
- Swish the oil around your mouth. You don’t want to gargle it, just move it around and push and pull it through your teeth. Your coconut oil may be solid at first, in which case you’ll need to chew it a bit (or melt it in a cup if you prefer).
- Make sure to avoid swallowing any of the oil. If your jaw hurts, you’re swishing too vigorously. Slow down & swish more gently.
- Continue for 10-20 minutes, or as long as you can tolerate. This is a great time to check emails, empty the dishwasher, or even just sit quietly.
- When you are done, spit the oil into the trash or compost. Don’t spit into the sink or your drains could become clogged over time.
- Rinse your mouth out with water.
It may seem strange at first…
…but as you become accustomed to this practice, you’ll probably come to enjoy it and even look forward to it. Oil pulling can be very meditative, a wonderful opportunity to care for yourself, to just sit and relax. Even if you’re busy and always on the go, you can find time in your day for this – you can oil pull while doing many of your daily activities. I’ve actually found being unable to talk for a bit has made getting ready in the morning a more peaceful experience. My son is surprisingly cooperative when I can’t talk (or yell!) at him and often he giggles uncontrollably trying to decipher my hand signals. Once you start benefiting from it, you’ll want to keep at it. Your teeth and mouth will feel cleaner and healthier, and you may start to experience other positive health effects too. Give it a try!