Oil pulling has grown in popularity over recent years, as word about the benefits of it have spread. The practice is simple enough; swishing a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil through the teeth for several minutes, then expelling the oil and rinsing the mouth well with water.
Dental caries or cavities are largely caused by bacteria in the mouth, which eat sugars and carbohydrates and produce lactic acid. This acid attacks the teeth and soft tissues in the mouth. It is these bacteria, as much as food residue, that we try to get rid of when we brush and floss our teeth.
These bacteria are drawn to oil, and once they’re in it, it holds them almost as a magnet holds iron filings. This is why it’s called oil pulling, because it pulls the bacteria out of your mouth and into the oil.
Oil pulling has only recently been introduced to Western culture, but it has been a part of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Ayurvedic is one of the oldest systems of medical treatment in the world, dating back over 3,000 years in India.
Any vegetable oil will work, but coconut oil is particularly suited to this, because of it’s high lauric acid content. Lauric acid is lethal to many bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other harmful microorganisms, and it’s roughly half of coconut oil. Coconut oil also has a flavor that many people find pleasant.
Coconut Oil Pulling
To pull with coconut oil, start by drinking a glass or two of water, to get your salivary glands working. Then take about a tablespoon of coconut oil into your mouth, and when it liquifies, swish it through your teeth, working your way through them systematically.
20 minutes is considered optimum, but some people begin at 5 minutes when they’re just starting out. When you’re done, it should be a milky white with the bacteria and biofilm that it has absorbed. Just spit it out into a trash can. Spitting it into a sink or toilet will just cause clogging problems. Then rinse your mouth out well with water and spit that out to get all of the oil out, and enjoy the clean feeling in your mouth. This isn’t intended to replace brushing and flossing, but it’s a wonderful addition to your oral health regimen.
The swishing does not need to be vigorous; if your muscles are getting sore after a few minutes, you’re working too hard. Do try to avoid swallowing the bacteria-laden oil; if you are feeling the urge to swallow, you’re likely using more oil than you need. Spit it out and try again with less. After pulling, be sure to rinse well before you eat or drink anything.
It makes sense, medically. We know that the mouth is a primary gateway for bacteria to get into our bodies, and expelling many of these harmful bacteria means that our immune systems don’t have as many to fight against. There have been some clinical studies done, with promising results, but not enough for us to consider the technique well-researched yet.
There have been many claims made about the benefits of oil pulling by its practitioners, from whitening teeth to an improvement of overall health. We cannot validate all of those claims here, but there is no evidence to deny any of them, either. Until more serious studies have been done, the best that we can do is try it for ourselves and see what results we get for ourselves.
A special thank you to Mr. Weinstein at Remedy Daily for writing this article on the topic.