A few years ago I started a quest to radically change my oral health. Though I’ve always had some bleeding when I flossed and my share of unpleasant dental experiences (braces, wisdom teeth removal, overcrowding issues), I had never had too many issues with the health of my teeth until my early 20’s. Those first two years after I was married, I had 11 cavities! I had never had a single cavity before then, so this was seriously bizarre. Honestly, it may have been that my dentist, a friend’s dad who I trusted, was overly cautious when it came to cavities, but I really think it had more to do with being on the pill, which I quickly got off. A story for another day. All that to say, my mouth was not in great shape, and I realized that the best way to prevent more cavities or any other serious dental issues was to take my oral health into my own hands. That’s when I stumbled upon this idea of oil pulling.
What is oil pulling?
The mouth is home to billions of bacteria and toxins, which cause gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health problems. The crazy part is that the problems don’t stop at your mouth. As it turns out, good oral health really is key to good physical health. Think of your mouth as the foci of infection.
Dr. Weston Price became convinced of this idea throughout his studies. In one study, Dr. Price took the fragments of extracted teeth from root canal patients and put them under the skin of rabbits. These rabbits developed the same diseases that had been plaguing his patients. In patients who suffered heart attacks, the rabbits bearing their teeth also suffered a heart attack within a few weeks! These are pretty incredible results. Rabbits also developed heart disease, arthritis, and other diseases. (Source)
Because the mouth is the foci of infection, by flushing out the toxins of the mouth (via oil pulling), you are helping your immune system avoid toxins that might lead to other health issues. Oil pulling additionally strengthens your gums, keeping your teeth protected and preventing less bacteria from embedding.
The act of oil pulling is pretty simple. You put 1 Tbsp. of oil in your mouth. Coconut, sesame, and sunflower oils are all good options. (I prefer sunflower for it’s neutral taste and consistent liquid form.) Swish the oil in your mouth, pulling it through your teeth, for 20 minutes daily. Some suggest doing this twice a day. Because you are pulling out toxins, it is paramount that you do not swallow. After the allotted time, spit the oil into the trash (not the sink), rinse, and then brush your teeth.
My understanding is that it is best to oil pull at the start of the day because this is when you have the most toxins accumulated in your body. Also, because you have not eaten yet, you are less likely to gag, should that be an issue for you. That said, oil pulling any time of day is better than not at all!
I actually logged my progress when I started oil pulling two years ago:
Day 1 (1/30/12) – It wasn’t as terrible as I had imagined, though a lot of saliva did accumulate to join the oil. I kept as busy as I could while swishing it. This may have been my most productive 14 minutes of the day – lots of dishes washed, load of laundry started, kitchen cleaned. At 14 minutes I involuntarily spit it out – glad I was outside at this point… not really sure what happened.
Day 2 – Well I guess yesterday I didn’t swish it around enough to make it foamy. Today it was foamy, rather than oily when I spit. Not as awful as I thought it would be, though it will take some getting used to.
Day 6 – I have yet to make it a full 15 minutes. Some is better than none!
Day 8 – Though I don’t notice any differences yet, I did go to the dentist, who told me that oil pulling is probably the reason I had less “bad” bacteria on my teeth. (She looked at my plaque under a microscope. Pretty crazy!) Good to know.
Day 10 – Finally made it the full 15 minutes.
Day 13 – I finally made it to 20 minutes!
I show you that because it is a process of getting used to having oil and saliva accumulate in your mouth, not swallowing, and building up to 20 minutes. You probably won’t “enjoy” this the first day, but hang in there! I will say that now it is no big deal for me, but it really takes time.
Improving Your Oral Health
You can minimize tooth decay, prevent it entirely, and even heal it once a cavity has formed. Oil pulling is just one way to do this! I know that that may sound bizarre because it isn’t at all what we’ve been taught. I’ll say it again: You CAN minimize tooth decay, prevent it entirely, and even heal it once a cavity has formed.
If you’re like me, you’ve always heard that though brushing and flossing will help, some people are just born with bad teeth. My friends, I have learned that so much of oral health has to do with your lifestyle and diet! We have been taught that tooth decay is not curable, let alone reversible, but that just is not true. (Source)
Oil pulling is just one way to help heal decay and optimize your oral health. It is not the solution. It is simply one piece to a healthy body. But every piece matters!
What results should I expect?
Certainly improving your oral health can help your overall health. I cannot guarantee you will see these results, though I will say that I feel healthier. For what it’s worth. What you may notice though is a change in the environment of your mouth. I noticed my breath felt fresher, and the freshness lasted longer. Also, less plaque seemed to accumulate, and the plaque that was there was softer. My teeth also appear to be whiter. I love the feeling of a mouth fresh from oil pulling! Add in some extra pearly whites for a bonus! It’s totally worth those 20 minutes!
If you are suffering from diseases like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or countless others, oil pulling has been shown to help patients. Each tooth is associated with an area of your body. Therefore a problematic tooth can lend to a problem elsewhere in the body. With a root canal, there is almost always another issue going on in the body. Here it gets a little more complicated, but the short explanation is that even when a tooth is pulled, nerve remnants remain. It is simply impossible to extract the entire tooth. That means that there is still harmful bacteria in your mouth. By oil pulling, you are helping to remove some of these toxins from your body, rather than allowing them to seep further into your bloodstream. (Source)
Words of Caution
One. I am not a medical professional. Please seek the advice of a doctor should you have concerns.
Two. If you have loose fillings, please visit your dentist before trying to oil pull.
Three. As for any pregnant and nursing moms out there, be mindful that oil pulling is a form of detox. There is no research study to my knowledge that firmly proves that oil pulling is or is not harmful to the baby. Many detox methods are generally thought to be safe if you began them prior to pregnancy; however, still be mindful and use caution. Personally, I feel comfortable oil pulling during pregnancy and nursing, but this is a personal decision.
That’s oil pulling in a nut shell. How many of you have tried it? Anyone willing to jump on board?