Oil Pulling: Passing Fad or Worth Trying?

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There’s nothing quite like rolling out of bed in the morning and taking a daily spoonful of coconut oil. I’ve been practicing this growing trend for over a week now and, so far, I like the results.

Are you interested in whiter, cleaner teeth without paying big bucks for laser teeth whitening? Then oil pulling might be for you, too.

History of Oil Pulling

Oil pulling originated in India and parts of Asia as a folk remedy as part of the Ayurveda practice. Ayurvedic medicine is thousands of years old and native to India. Oil pulling is a simple process. Put a tablespoon of edible oil in your mouth and start swishing it around between your teeth.

Practitioners do this for as long as 20 minutes a day, but don’t worry, that’s not a requirement. Many believe that this practice whitens teeth, reduces inflammation and even claim bacteria levels lower with oil pulling.

What Oil Is Best?

My first thought when choosing an oil first went to cost. Yes, this is about health and not my budget, but the two are often interconnected. All three of the following oils have similar cost ranges, so you can pick the one that works best for you without spending extra cash.

The favorite of the oils, coconut has the added benefit of lauric acid. Although there’s been no confirmation from the health board, lauric acid is believed to be an antimicrobial, infection-fighting fatty acid. Personally, I think it has a better taste, too.

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Sunflower and sesame oils are other popular options, and sesame is really the traditional oil. All of these options are thought to have similar abilities when it comes to fighting plaque and bacteria.

I opted for coconut oil because I always have it at home. The health benefits with coconut oil are abundant enough that I’ve replaced most of my cooking oil with coconut oil, anyway. From a cost benefit and taste benefit, it’s also easy to swap coconut oil out for olive oil in many recipes requiring temperatures above 375 F, the smoke point of olive oil. Once olive oil reaches its smoke point, you’ll end up with toxic chemicals in your food.

The Routine

Good news. There’s no need to dedicate a large amount of time to this process. Start with just five minutes a day. Choose one of the oils listed above, put some in your mouth and start swishing.

How much oil should you use? It depends. If you’re new to this, start with around a teaspoon and work your way up. Longtime practitioners recommend a tablespoon, once you’re used to the sensation.

If you feel like you might gag, this is not normal. You’ve probably used too much oil. Spit it out and try again with half the amount. Also, you’re not supposed to feel any soreness or pain from this, so if your jaw gets sore from swishing for five minutes, slow down.

A few words of warning: Do you like plumbing bills? Neither do I. Don’t spit oil down your sink because it’ll eventually lead to a clog. Just spit the oil into a trashcan.

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At best, this is a supplement to modern dentistry (not a replacement!) but I’ve enjoyed the results. My teeth do feel cleaner and this practice has also increased my awareness of oral health care. I’ve even started swapping oil pulling for gum chewing. Now that’s a good habit.

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