When I first read about oil-pulling, it set off just about every skeptic alarm bell in my brain.
See, I’m a hippie, tried and true. I was raised by hippies and spent my childhood burning sage in dry river beds while dancing to the rhythmic pulse of a spiritual drum circle. But now I’m all grown up, and as it turns out, I’m a scientist. So I love my natural, holistic, alternative therapies. But I need them to make good logical sense, too.
And when I first read about oil pulling? Well, it didn’t make so much sense.
Oil pulling is the ancient Ayurvedic technique that basically involved swishing a tablespoon of cold-pressed oil around in your mouth every morning for 20 minutes. Because purportedly, this swishing will pull the “toxins” out from all over your body, drawing them into the oil and therefore cleansing your whole system. Which heals your gums and whitens your teeth. Because the oil pulls the “toxins” out of your tongue.
So, no. That doesn’t make any sense.
But at the time I was investigating all this, I was pretty desperate. I’d just had a baby, and that had left me with pregnancy-induced gingivitis (which occurs in roughly 50% of pregnant women). My gums would sometimes bleed, and my teeth were super sensitive. And due to an out of control coffee and green juice habit, my teeth were abysmally stained.
So yes, I was desperate. And that desperation led me to dig deeper. I read testimony after testimony of people who had restored their oral health using oil pulling, and I just couldn’t help but wonder. Was there something to this? Was there something more, maybe something scientifically sound, going on there?
Yes! What I finally found, to my delight, was a totally plausible explanation of how oil pulling might actually impact oral health in a positive way. Essentially, a rational explanation for all these amazing and seemingly-mystical results. It goes like this:
Plaque accumulates along the base of your teeth, causing little pockets to form under your gums. These pockets become home to harmful bacteria. The bacteria produce toxins (real ones, not “woo woo” mystical ones) that irritate your gums, causing inflammation and bleeding. This is gingivitis. It’s basically a factory of toxicity in your mouth, happily tucked away up under your gums, overloading your immune system with bacterial exotoxins and endotoxins every single time you swallow.
And how does oil pulling fit in? Well, that’s an interesting question.
It appears that the key to successful oil pulling is in the duration of the swishing. See, oil is viscous, so it’s “sticky.” And it spreads. Given enough time (like, say, a full 20 minutes), it will slowly seep all the way up into those bacteria-filled pockets. Tooth brush bristles can’t get up there. Toothpaste is foamy and runny, not sticky at all, so it won’t get up there. Mouthwash isn’t viscous at all. But oil – oil creeps into every nook and cranny. It seeps in everywhere, and then as you swish, it’s drawn back out. Oil pulling is the only way to reach, and dislodge, those harmful bacteria that are buried so deeply under your gum line.
So, are we dealing with mystic body detoxification? Or simply a sticky oil that’s able to go where no cleanser has gone before? Or maybe a better question – does it really even matter?
I was curious enough and convinced enough to give oil pulling a try, and I am so glad that I did. Oil pulling completely cleared up my gingivitis, and it absolutely whitened my teeth, all in under two months. I could hardly believe it!
But I couldn’t deny it.
So whether you’re a tried-and-true crystal twinkie, or a die hard rationalistic skeptic, it doesn’t really matter. If you want to improve your oral health, then oil pulling can help you. Period.
How to Try Oil Pulling:
- Every morning, first thing in the morning, before brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth out, measure one tablespoon of virgin cold-pressed sesame, coconut, sunflower, or olive oil (sesame and coconut are the most reputed).
- Swish this oil around in your mouth, letting it pass over your tongue, your gums, and all your teeth, and trying your best to move it between each tooth, for a full 20 minutes. I usually do this while I make breakfast and get dressed.
- The oil will turn white and frothy. Don’t gargle it or you’ll risk swallowing it. When the 20 minutes is up, spit it all out.
- Gargle, preferably with salt water, and thoroughly rinse your mouth out. Brush your teeth as normal. Go about your day.
- Repeat daily for a minimum of 30 days, but ideally 45-60 days.
Good luck, and here’s to your oral health!
Sayward Rebhal is a writer, a mother, a mover and a maker. Author of the Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, Sayward also works as a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and blogs about all things socially conscious, totally fabulous.