Oil Pulling may seem like the latest trend, in with a roar and out with a whimper, but it is a practice dating back thousands of years, having originated with Ayurvedic medicine (a traditional Indian system). This oral therapy involves swishing approximately 1 tablespoon of oil (coconut, sesame or sunflower oil are most common) in your mouth for up to 20 minutes and then spitting it out.
It’s a form of detoxification that pulls the bacteria out of the mouth with healing benefits. Recent studies show that oil pulling helps against gingivitis, plaque, and microorganisms that cause bad breath. According to Jessica T. Emery, DMD most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell. Cells are covered with a lipid, or fatty, membrane, which is the cell’s skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other. Voila! The bacteria cells are literally “pulled” out of your mouth.
Oil pulling may help lessen the overall toxic burden on your immune system by preventing the spread of organisms such as Candida and Streptococcus (common residents in your mouth) from your mouth to the rest of your body, by way of your bloodstream.
Here are some other positive side effects derived from this oil pulling:
- Prevention of lip, mouth and throat dryness
- Whitens teeth
- Possible remedy for jaw soreness and TMJ
- Relief of migraine headache
- Inflammation reduction
- Relief from sinus congestion
- Hormone imbalance corrections
- Reduce or eliminate rashes and skin issues
Now that you are either intrigued, convinced or just want to improve your overall oral health here is the technique to safe and effective oil pulling:
Use coconut oil. While you can get the same bacteria-fighting benefits with sesame or sunflower oil, coconut oil has the added benefit of lauric acid, which is well-known for its anti-microbial agents. I have also found coconut oil to be the most palatable and it is a pantry staple in my house.
Start with just 5 minutes a day. Twenty minutes of swishing is a long time, and while the longer you pull, the more bacteria you’ll remove, 5 or 10 minutes will still offer some benefit. A gentle swishing, pushing, and sucking the oil through the teeth is all that’s required. I usually swish for 10 minutes first thing in the morning as I am preparing my kids’ lunch and breakfast.
Don’t swallow. The purpose is to detoxify and pull all that bacteria OUT of the mouth and body. Swallowing any of this will defeat the purpose and actually do more harm as you will ingest those toxins. I find a tablespoon to be too much so I usually pull with 1-2 teaspoons which does not make you gag or want to swallow the oil. Also, don’t spit it down the sink, as the oil could clog your pipes. Just discard the used oil into the nearest trash can or keep an old glass jar with lid under the sink to spit into each day. Discard in the trash when jar is full.
Oil pulling is not meant to replace traditional oral hygiene. You still need to brush your teeth afterwards and floss. You may find, however, that adding a regular oil pulling practice to your oral hygiene routine may make your biannual dental cleanings easier as you’ll have less plaque build up and fewer or no cavities.