What do you think about “oil pulling”? This is a question many of my patients have asked me about recently. I had heard about oil pulling, but did not know much about it myself, so I decided to do a little research and try it.
Oil pulling is not an easy task, but can be very beneficial for those who choose to do it. I will say that it should not replace your regular dental visits or daily brushing and flossing, and does not reverse the effects of tooth decay, but it is a wonderful supplemental therapy. The term oil pulling comes from the process of the oil being worked around your mouth by the pulling, swishing and sucking through the teeth (1). To my surprise, this type of supplemental therapy has been around for a long time, dating back almost 3,000 years.
How does it work? Oil pulling works by rinsing (swishing) with one or two tablespoons for about 15- 20 minutes. The solution should turn a milky white color. The oils pull the bacteria off your teeth and gums and out of all the little crevices in your mouth. After the 15-20 minutes is up, please be sure to spit out all of the solution, and rinse thoroughly with water, as it is filled with bacteria, viruses and other organisms.
Why do people choose to oil pull? It is a natural product with no chemicals or preservatives that helps reduce plaque related gingivitis as well as decrease halitosis and some people have said it has helped whiten their teeth. Some people have even stated that it “prevents” cavities. I’m not sure I would go as far to say you will never get a cavity if you oil pull, but it does help remove cavity causing bacteria.
What type of oil should you use? Refined coconut oil is the most popular and the best oil to use because 50% of the fat in coconut oil is comprised of the bacteria whooping ingredient lauric acid (1). Lauric Acid is known for its antimicrobial actions which inhibit Strep mutans which is the primary bacteria that causes tooth decay (1).
After doing my research I bought some new coconut oil for myself that specifically stated it could be used for skin care (pictured below). I was extremely nervous about having coconut oil in my mouth for 15 minutes. I thought to myself, how am I going to keep it in my mouth that long? I reminded myself of all the benefits and that I need to experience this myself before talking to my patients about it. So, I got my coconut oil with my tablespoon (1 was enough for me) and scooped it out, then proceeded to swish it around my mouth. I took advantage of my shower time in the morning to multi-task, which took my mind off the fact that I had a liquid in my mouth. I continued to swish for 10 minutes and progressed to 15 minutes by the third day. After I finished swishing, I spit it out in the trash (not in the sink) and rinsed with water. After I rinsed, I brushed my teeth and my teeth and gums had a glossy clean feeling that lasted throughout the day. I oil pulled three times last week and have been continuing since. I look forward to seeing the difference it continues to make and I will be sure to keep everyone posted on my continuous results.
For those who have considered trying oil pulling I say, “why not?” If you can handle the swishing and adding an extra step to your daily dental routine, then I would say give it a try. It is a safe and cost effective way to help decrease the bacteria in all crevices in your mouth naturally. If you like it and want to do it daily or 3-4 times a week that’s great, if not that is ok too, it’s not for everyone.
If you do choose to add oil pulling to your daily teeth cleaning routine please be sure to follow these guidelines:
- Swish gently– if your jaw or cheeks get tired within the first 5 minutes you may be swishing to vigorously, so slow down.
- Do not swallow the oil while swishing
- Once you finish swishing, spit oil into trash. -You do not want to spit into toilet or sink because over time it could clog your pipes.
- Do not drink anything before oil pulling.- Rinse well with water after and before consuming a beverage.
- Best to do 1st thing in the morning on an empty stomach and brush your teeth immediately after rinsing with water.
If you have tried oil pulling or have already made it part of your daily routine I would love to hear from you and what you think.