It has taken quite some time, but oil pulling has finally gained some popularity in the U.S. It — including coconut oil pulling — is one of the best ways to remove bacteria and promote healthy teeth and gums.
In fact, it’s been shown to be even more effective than flossing. Learn about how it came about, its benefits as well as how to do it.
What Is Oil Pulling?
Used primarily in Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling — known as gandusha in Ayurveda — is a fantastic oral detoxification procedure that’s simply done by swishing a tablespoon of oil (typically coconut oil, olive or sesame oil) in your mouth for 10–20 minutes.
Oil pulling works by cleaning (detoxifying) the oral cavity in a similar way that soap cleans dirty dishes. It literally sucks the dirt (toxins) out of your mouth and creates a clean, antiseptic oral environment that contributes to the proper flow of dental liquid that’s needed to prevent cavities and disease.
Most of us cannot even imagine what life would be like without brushing and flossing our teeth every day. However, in the scheme of things, brushing teeth is relatively, new since the nylon bristle toothbrush didn’t become part of our normal American experience until the late 1930s, and many people don’t floss on a regular basis as is.
It’s important to remember that, in spite of the fact that most people in American today were all raised with toothbrushes in our mouths, our ancestors didn’t brush their teeth with toothpaste for thousands of years. And, as far as archeological evidence suggests, most people throughout history lived until a ripe old age with most of their teeth intact and in a strong, healthy state.
Why didn’t their teeth rot?
Well, first of all, they ate real food and didn’t consume processed sugars and grains filled with phytic acid, which destroy tooth enamel. Secondly, they took care of their teeth through natural means like chew sticks that they rubbed against the teeth, as has been found in Egyptian tombs dating to back to 3000 B.C. Third, depending on the culture and region of the world, many people also practiced oil pulling.
To date, there are only around 33 oil pulling research studies reporting on the health benefits of oil pulling. Although it is unfortunate that science has taken so long to take this ancient art seriously, it is encouraging to see the literature database grow. I’m excited to read more as researchers catch on to how oil pulling can help transform someone’s life.
The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, for example, highlighted a study that reviewed holistic approaches to oral health and discovered that oil pulling is one of the most effective natural health solutions known to scientists that prevent tooth decay and loss. Praised for curing more than 30 systemic diseases, the authors of this study have some profound things to say about this ancient natural healing practice:
Oil pulling is a powerful detoxifying Ayurvedic technique that has recently become very popular as a CAM remedy for many different health ailments. Using this method, surgery or medication could be prevented for a number of chronic illnesses. The oil therapy is preventative as well as curative. The exciting aspect of this healing method is its simplicity.
Ayurveda advises oil gargling to purify the entire system; as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organ such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine, similarly to reflexology and TCM.
I really like this passage because it highlights how the detoxification effect that oil pulling has on the entire body reaches far beyond oral health. This is especially important for people who have conditions that contraindicate brushing, such as mouth ulcer, fever, indigestion, those who have tendency to vomit, asthma, cough or thirst.
In addition, I found these five studies showing how sesame seed or coconut oil pulling can help a wide range of oral health issues:
- According to researchers from the Department of Pediatric Dentistry in Tamil Nadu, India, oil pulling reduces Streptococcus mutans bacteria — a significant contributor to tooth decay — in the plaque and saliva of children. In the authors’ words, “Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health.”
- As uncovered by researchers from the Department of Pediatric Dentistry in Chennai India, oil pulling significantly lessens aerobic microorganisms in plaque among children with plaque-induced gingivitis.
- From the same researchers in Chennai, oil pulling has been shown to be as effective as mouthwash at improving bad breath and reducing the microorganisms that may cause it.
- Further research published in the Nigerian Medical Journal found that coconut oil pulling can decrease plaque in those with gingivitis thanks in part to its lauric acid content.
- As far as bad breath — aka halitosis or oral malodor — researchers found that “oil pulling with sesame oil is equally efficacious as chlorhexidine in reducing oral malodor and microbes causing it. It should be promoted as a preventive home care therapy.” Chlorexidine is a disinfectant and antiseptic used in oral health.
Why Coconut Oil
Being a staple in India, it’s no wonder why many Ayurvedic medicinal practitioners would naturally gravitate toward sesame while practicing gandusha. However, I would like to suggest using beneficial coconut oil instead.
Why? Because coconut oil has been shown to:
- Balance hormones
- Battle candida
- Improve digestion
- Moisturize skin
- Reduce cellulite
- Decrease wrinkles and age spots
- Balance blood sugar and improve energy
- Increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol
Because it’s highly absorbable, you can experience many of these benefits simply by oil pulling. Make sure to use unrefined coconut oil to ensure there are no additives to it. Unrefined coconut oil is pure, natural coconut oil that won’t contain any harmful unnatural substances.
Another option is to use sunflower seed oil, but again, I recommend coconut oil pulling for all the reasons mentioned above. Plus, as researchers have dug deeper into coconut oil pulling in particular, they’ve found that it can fight Streptococcus mutans, gingivitis and more.
How to Do Oil Pulling
This is how I like to do coconut oil pulling:
- Make sure to oil pull first thing in the morning right after you get out of bed — before you brush your teeth or drink anything. Often it’s a great thing to do in the shower.
- Gently swish one tablespoons of coconut oil in your mouth and between your teeth for 10–15 minutes, making sure that you don’t swallow any of the oil. (Do this gently so you don’t wear out your jaw and cheeks!)
- Spit out the oil in the trash (not the sink so it doesn’t clog up the plumbing… ask me how I know), and immediately rinse your mouth out with warm water (use salt water for added antimicrobial properties).
- Finally, brush your teeth as normal.
- Voila, easy as that!
I recommend oil pulling three to four times per week with coconut oil and also adding essential oils to your mixture.
As you can see, oil pulling with coconut oil is a simple procedure with very effective results. If 10–20 minutes sounds like a long time, simply do oil pulling while in the shower or while driving to work in the morning. You can even do it while you do work around the house to help pass the time.
Next I want to share with you how you can use essential oils to take your oil pulling benefits to a whole new level.
Oil Pulling with Essential Oils
Essential oils carry some of the most potent antibacterial and antifungal properties on the planet, and they can easily and safely enhance the oil pulling experience. Additionally, as essential oils absorb into your oral mucosa, your body will enjoy the antioxidant and medicinal powers inherent in these potent compounds.
Here are two of my favorite ways to use essential oils during my morning oil pulling routine:
- For everyday use: Add 3 drops of wild orange, lemon or peppermint with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
- When battling an infection or sickness: Change it up a bit and mix clove oil, cinnamon oil or tea tree oil as a homeopathic remedy.
Is Oil Pulling Dangerous?
Here’s some common questions asked about oil pulling:
1. What age is good for oil pulling?
Since the oil swished around in the mouth and spit out, then there should be no harm in oil pulling even at a young age. Try a smaller amount of oil though, say about a half to one teaspoon. You want to make sure it’s comfortable, and it should be an enjoyable experience, not a dreaded one. If people don’t like it and they need healing for their teeth, then I would focus on adjusting their diet to heal cavities naturally.
2. Can I pull oil if I have fillings?
According to the Coconut Research Center:
Oil pulling will not and cannot loosen properly placed crowns or fillings. The only time oil pulling will affect crowns or fillings is if the teeth underneath have decayed and are full of infection. In this case, the foundation on which the crowns or fillings are secured to is badly decayed and unable to hold the dental material. Oil pulling removes bacteria, pus, and mucus. It cannot pull out porcelain, amalgam, or composite dental materials from the teeth.
The only reason that a filling will become loose is if you have a rot or infection in the tooth. Then you will want to address this issue to keep the infection from spreading to your body.
3. Why do I have to oil pull in the morning?
You don’t. The best time to oil pull is in the morning on an empty stomach, but you can certainly try other times during the day or before eating.
4. Why do I have to oil pull for so long?
When you oil pull, you are actually using up the oil in the process of swishing the oil. It will become watery and sometimes milky after about 15 minutes. If you pull with less oil you may notice it change texture sooner, but you want to make sure you have enough oil to really clean your mouth and teeth.
5. How long does it take to see a difference with my teeth and mouth?
Within one week, most people notice a cleaner mouth and change in their breath. Within a month, some people have experienced dental repair or healthier gums.
6. Are there any oil pulling side effects or symptoms?
Every person is different. Some people may have a release of mucous in their throats or noses, as the swishing can release sinuses and cause drainage. This is harmless, but if it is uncomfortable to you, then you may want to blow your nose before oil pulling.
Also some people experience jaw soreness. If this happens, try swishing more gently and don’t pull between your teeth as hard, or maybe cut back a few minutes down to 8–10 minutes and then build back up once you get adjusted to this exercise.
Occasionally, oil pulling can trigger the gag reflex in some people. If this happens, then try leaning your head forward just slightly and using a little bit less oil. Also warming the oil a little can make it thinner and less likely to cause any gagging.
7. Can I oil pull while pregnant?
Because you spit out the toxins that are “pulled” out when swishing, there should not be any harm in oil pulling while pregnant. In fact, it can be a soothing way to clean your teeth if you experience any gum sensitivity.
- Coconut oil pulling is a common Ayurvedic practice that can help you battle tooth decay, kill bad breath, heal bleeding gums, reduce inflammation, soothe throat dryness, prevent cavities and heal cracked lips.
- Coconut oil is the best oil to use because it contains lauric acid, which has proven anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Sesame oil and sunflower are also options, but I recommend coconut oil pulling the most.
- You can also incorporate essential oils into the process to enhance oil pulling benefits.
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