Oil pulling is a great way to increase your oral health care and get better reports at the dentist. Adding in this simple habit to your morning and evening routine can help you cut down on cavities, get whiter teeth, and have overall healthier gums.
Here is everything you need to know about oil pulling:
What is Oil Pulling?
If you’ve never heard of oil pulling, you are not alone. This practice has been around for close to 3,000 years. However, it is a method that has just recently started to gain popularity. Oil pulling actually comes from Auyrveda, which is a traditional Indian medicine system.
The name “oil pulling” does not always give the most accurate picture of how the process works. In fact, you are not pulling anything. You simply take a tablespoon of oil, swish it around your mouth anywhere from 5-20 minutes, and spit it out.
The process is very similar to using mouthwash. However, oil pulling is much more effective the longer you swish the oil around your mouth. It is recommended to start with one minute and gradually work your way up to 15-20 minutes. You can use almost any oil for oil pulling. This includes sunflower, olive, and sesame oils. Most, though, prefer coconut oil because of its milder taste.
How Does Oil Pulling Work?
Unlike most home remedies, oil pulling has had proven results. It has been shown to reduce plaque and gingivitis and kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. But, you may be wondering how simply swishing oil in your mouth can do all of that.
One way is by adhering to the fatty membrane of harmful microorganisms. When the oil comes in contact with the fatty membrane, they attach to each other. The microorganism is then expelled from your mouth when you spit out the oil. Other bacteria is removed during the swishing process and dissolves in the oil.
If you choose to use coconut oil for your oil pulling, you get the added benefit of lauric acid. Lauric acid is an antimicrobial agent that helps kill harmful bacteria. Having an excess of bacteria in the mouth can lead to cavities, plaque, and gingivitis. So employing an oil that can kill these microorganisms can be extremely beneficial.
Is Oil Pulling Safe?
For most individuals, oil pulling is a safe and effective way to clean your mouth and remove harmful plaque and bacteria. There are a few considerations when starting this process, however.
First, though it may seem obvious, never use oil you may be allergic to. Even though you are simply swishing the oil around, if you are allergic to coconut, for example, you could cause an allergic reaction. Choose an oil that is mild in flavor and works for you individually.
Oil pulling has been shown to have numerous benefits on your oral hygiene. It is not, however, a substitute to brushing and flossing. Oil pulling acts as an aid to your normal oral hygiene routine, not a replacement. Brush and floss twice a day while incorporating oil pulling for maximum results.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
Now that we have established what oil pulling is, let’s explore the benefits. Though not all of the benefits have been scientifically proven, here are a few that have been:
Kills Harmful Bacteria
Though you may not realize it, our mouths are filled with bacteria. At any given time, your mouth can host up to 350 different types of bacteria. That statistic alone is concerning and one that was a call to action for me to try oil pulling.
As previously mentioned, the fat in the oil adheres to the fatty membrane of bacteria. This allows the bacteria to be expelled when you spit. In multiple studies, bacteria in the mouth was significantly reduced with the use of oil pulling. These results occurred in as little as one week. Decreasing bacteria in your mouth aids in oral hygiene and is a preventative measure against certain oral conditions.
Helps Prevent Cavities
Unfortunately, most of us have had a cavity or two within our lifetime. Though we may not think much about them, cavities are literal holes in our teeth. These can be painful and damaging to our oral health. Cavities can have multiple causes including inadequate oral hygiene, bacteria buildup, or a diet containing too much sugar.
In addition, plaque has also been known to cause cavities. Plaque covers the teeth and is made up of bacteria, saliva, and food particles. When the food particles are broken down by the bacteria, an acid is released. This acid erodes the tooth enamel and can even cause your teeth to decay.
The Role of Oil Pulling
To reduce the risk of cavities, we see oil pulling again being effective in removing harmful bacteria. Some studies have even found oil pulling to be just as effective as mouthwash. Removing bacteria may not completely eliminate the risk of cavities, but it is a great step in preventing them.
Reduces Bad Breath
Most of us experience bad breath from time to time. About 50% of the population deals with a more chronic form of bad breath called Halitosis. Bad breath can be caused by a lack of oral hygiene, gum disease, or infection. It can also be caused by tongue coating, which is bacteria trapped on the tongue. Treatment includes brushing, or in some cases, an antiseptic mouthwash like chlorhexidine.
For a more natural way, however, to rid yourself of bad breath, try oil pulling. In some studies, oil pulling has been shown to be just as effective as the traditional treatment of chlorhexidine. It attaches to the harmful bacteria and allows you to spit it out when done swishing.
Aids in Gum Health
Another bacteria-causing condition that many face is gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to swollen gums that are sore, red, and bleed even at the slightest touch. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria located in the plaque found on the teeth. As mentioned before, oil pulling is effective at removing harmful bacteria. Therefore, it can help prevent or even stop gingivitis or gum disease.
In addition to reducing harmful bacteria, oil pulling can also reduce inflammation. Coconut oil even has anti-inflammatory traits. It may be even more effective at reducing the inflammation caused by gum disease, over other oils. In studies performed on individuals with gingivitis, oil pulling was shown to reduce plaque and improve the gum health in as little as one week.
Simple to Implement
Another benefit of using oil pulling to improve oral health is that it’s affordable and easy. Oil pulling takes one ingredient that is found in most households. Sesame oil has been traditionally used, but olive oil and coconut oil are also great options. Olive oil has the added benefit of anti-inflammatory properties. While coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Oil pulling is also simple to incorporate into your oral hygiene routine. In the evening, set aside 15-20 minutes to “swish” an oil of your choice while attending to other tasks. After moving the oil around your mouth for the allotted time, spit it out. Rinse out your mouth and then proceed with your normal brushing and flossing. Though rinsing after oil pulling is effective, it may not remove all of the bacteria captured by the oil. Brushing and flossing afterwards can remove additional bacteria that was loosened.
Benefits Not Scientifically Backed (as yet)
Though not backed by science, the following are benefits that several people claim to experience with oil pulling:
When oil pulling, many people have claimed that it left them with a brighter smile. Some believe that the oil can actually lift or pull stains from the surface of the teeth. This gives a whitening effect. There is no scientific evidence to support this, but there is little to no risk in trying it for a whitening effect.
Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory
Since oil pulling reduces inflammation in the gums, some believe it can reduce inflammation in the rest of the body, as well. As of right now, there is no evidence that oil pulling effects parts of the body other than the mouth. However, because of the anti-inflammatory properties of certain oils, it could be a possibility.
Detoxes the Body
Many people believe that oil pulling can “pull” stains off of teeth. Similarly, some also believe that oil pulling can actually pull toxins from the blood. Again, most benefits are seen primarily in oral hygiene and there is no science to support this claim.
Are There Any Side Effects to Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is relatively risk-free. There are, however, a few items to consider before starting the regimen.
One noticeable side effect to oil pulling is that you may develop a sore jaw. Though it is easy, oil pulling takes several minutes of effort to be effective. It is only natural that your jaw could be sore after attempting this the first few times. To combat the soreness, ease into the practice of oil pulling, rather than jumping in.
When you first begin this process, start by oil pulling anywhere from one to five minutes. From there, gradually increase your time. Your jaw will become more conditioned and comfortable with the movement. Lastly, start by only performing oil pulling a few times a week. Then, slowly increase the frequency, if desired.
Reaction to Oils
As mentioned, if you are allergic to a particular item like coconut or sesame, using that oil is not advised. With oil pulling, you are not ingesting the oil, but it can still cause an allergic reaction in your mouth. With oil pulling, a variety of oils can be used. Choose a mild-flavored one that will be safe for you to use in and around your mouth.
Some oils, like coconut oil, are solids at room temperature. Because of this, it is best not to spit the oil in the sink after oil pulling. Consistently putting the oil into your sink could cause your pipes to clog and lead to a back-up. Instead, spit the oil onto a paper towel and discard, or spit directly into a trash can.
One of the best benefits of oil pulling is that it is ridding your mouth of harmful bacteria. Because of that, it is important that you don’t swallow the oil during or after oil pulling. If you find yourself having the urge to swallow, chances are, you have put too much in your mouth. Simply spit out the oil and start the process over with a smaller amount.
Is Oil Pulling for You?
If you are like me and have struggled with improving your oral health and hygiene, oil pulling may be worth a shot.
When it comes to things that I put on and in my body, I would much rather try a natural method. That is what first attracted me to oil pulling. Here is a method that involved using an ingredient I already had in my kitchen. It can rid my mouth of harmful bacteria and prevent bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. I didn’t have to buy another prescribed item with ingredients I could not pronounce.
There are many effective toothpastes and mouthwashes on the market. These, however, can be expensive. With oil pulling, I’m using an ingredient that I already own, in small amounts, only a few times a week. By needing such a small amount, the oil last for several months without having to be replaced.
Give Oil Pulling a Try
Lastly, with all of the benefits associated with oil pulling, it is one process that can’t hurt to try. With the exception of allergies or a weak jaw, most people can safely perform oil pulling with no risks at all. All of the resources are already located in your home and it is a treatment that can be stopped at any time.
Results often come quickly, with most people seeing improvement within a week. And if you discover it’s not for you, you’ve invested little time and no money. So if you are looking to improve the health of your mouth and brighten your smile, why not try oil pulling? Use it in conjunction with your favorite electric toothbrush.