In recent years, the many health benefits of coconut oil have become common knowledge. From boosting the immune system, fighting inflammation, reducing the risk of diabetes and treating myriad skin issues, to name only a few of the benefits, coconut oil seems almost like a miracle.
Well, you can add oral hygiene to coconut oil’s miraculous and growing list of benefits.
What is Oil Pulling and How Does it Work?
Used primarily in Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling is a terrific way to clean teeth and strengthen gums, all by swishing a tablespoon of oil (typically coconut oil, sesame or olive oil) in your mouth for 15-20 minutes.
Oil pulling detoxifies your oral cavity by literally “sucking” the toxins and bad bacteria out of your mouth, leaving behind a clean oral environment which promotes healthy teeth and gums. This traditional remedy has been used for thousands of years to treat:
- Tooth decay
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Whiten teeth
- Soothe throat dryness
- Prevent cavities
- Heal cracked lips
- Strengthens gums and jaw
The History of Oil Pulling
Most of us cannot even begin to imagine starting or ending our day WITHOUT brushing and flossing our teeth. This healthy hygiene habit was drilled into our heads by our parents who stood by the sink, watching us brush, making sure we spent enough time and got every inch of our mouth clean.
But teeth brushing is a relatively new concept. Consider the fact that the common nylon-bristled toothbrush didn’t come onto the scene until the late 1930s! This means for thousands of years our ancestors did not brush their teeth with toothpaste. And yet, archeologists have found countless human remains dating back thousands of years with teeth still very much intact. Even on the remains of humans who had lived to a “ripe old age.”
How is this possible? Why didn’t our ancestors’ teeth rot?
For a couple of reasons.
The first, and perhaps most obvious reason, is that our ancestors ate real food that didn’t contain processed sugars and grain that destroy tooth enamel, among other things. Secondly, they practiced good oral hygiene by using chew sticks, which were rubbed against their teeth. These sticks have been found in Egyptian tombs dating to 3000 B.C.!
And finally, depending on the culture and region of the world, many ancients also oil pulled.
Oil Pulling Research
While our ancestors new the benefits of oil pulling, and those in the natural health circles have caught on in recent years, traditional science and medicine have been reticent to even consider oil pulling as something legitimately good for oral health. To date, there are only a handful of oil pulling research studies, but still, it’s promising to see more information coming to light.
For instance, the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine recently highlighted a study that reviewed holistic approaches to oral health. The study’s author reported that oil pulling is one of the most effective natural health solutions known to scientists that prevent tooth decay and loss saying, “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.”
Other studies have shown oil pulling’s ability to treat oral health issues. For example, researchers from the Department of Pediatric Dentistry in Tamil Nadu, India, found that oil pulling reduces the Streptococcus mutans bacteria – one of the biggest culprits of tooth decay – in the plaque and saliva of children. In the author’s words, “Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health.”
Researchers from another Department of Pediatric Dentistry, this time in Chennai, India, reported that oil pulling can greatly reduce aerobic microorganisms in plaque among children with plaque-induced gingivitis. These same researchers found that oil pulling is as effective as mouthwash in reducing the microorganisms that cause bad breath.
Why Use Coconut Oil?
The studies referenced above specifically tested the effects of sesame seed oil on patients who oil pulled. This makes sense as sesame seed oil is a common staple found in India. So why am I sharing the oral hygiene benefits of coconut oil specifically?
Because, beyond cleaning your mouth, coconut oil has been shown to:
- Balance Hormones
- Kill Candida
- Improve Digestion
- Moisturize Skin
- Reduce Cellulite
- Decrease Wrinkles and Age Spots
- Balance Blood Sugar and Improve Energy
- Improve Alzheimer’s
- Increase HDL and Lower LDL Cholesterol
- Burn Fat
Because coconut oil is highly absorbable, you can experience many of these benefits simply by using oil pulling.
How Does One Oil Pull, Exactly?
Although oil pulling takes a bit to get used to, it’s quite simple to do.
The best time to oil pull is in the morning upon rising and before you brush your teeth or dink anything.
Take one to two tablespoons (use less when just starting out) of coconut oil in your mouth. Some people do not like the feel of a solid chunk of coconut oil in their mouth. Though it quickly melts, if you find this feeling unappealing, you can warm the oil in the microwave first. Swish around your mouth and between your teeth as you would mouthwash for 15 – 20 minutes.
Be gentle. When you swish with mouthwash you typically only do so for 15 – 30 seconds. But oil pulling requires you swish for much longer. Be gentle so you won’t wear out your cheeks or jaw.
When finished, spit out the oil in the trash or a dedicated jar with a lid. Do NOT spit in your sink or toilet as this is a surefire way to cause a clog.
Rinse your mouth with warm water and brush normally.
You can significantly improve the health of your teeth and gums if you oil pull three to four times per week.