Forget What You Think You Know About Brushing Your Teeth. Introducing Oil Pulling

Proactive Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

You brush and floss your teeth and are good about visiting the dentist to get your teeth cleaned and examined every six to eight months. So as far as dental hygiene is concerned, you’re doing everything you need to be doing in order to keep your teeth healthy. Right?

Well, have you considered adding oil pulling to your dental hygiene routine?

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is a dental hygiene method used in Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago and is still being practiced by many today. Oil pulling is called “kavala” or “gundusha” in Ayurvedic medicine.

If you are interested in oil pulling, you likely already have an oil in your kitchen that you can use.

All you have to do is take about a tablespoon (just a teaspoon for children) of coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil or sunflower oil and swish it around in your mouth, as if you are using mouthwash, for 20 minutes. The ideal time to oil pull is when you wake up in the morning, on an empty stomach. After 20 minutes, spit the oil out in the trash. It is not advised to spit the oil in the sink or toilet, as this may cause plumbing problems. After you spit, rinse your mouth and brush and floss as usual. Be sure to not swallow any of the oil. Children should especially be careful.

Oil pulling is reportedly best practiced in a sitting position with your chin held up. However, it is my belief that 20 minutes is a long time to sit still with your chin up in the morning when you have to get to work and maybe get kids ready for school! So you can still reap benefits of oil pulling as you wash dishes, pack lunches, shower or read your morning paper. You just won’t be able to talk to anyone or laugh!

There are several reports and studies that say the oil may pull toxins and bad bacteria out of the body, helping prevent an array of dental problems and even reduce the risk of several systemic diseases.

Oral cavity harbors billions of microorganisms, some of these contribute to the development or progression of systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, etc. Oral health and general health is interrelated,” according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

Oil pulling may even help remove toxic heavy metals.

According to the NIH, “[o]il pulling is believed to help in the excretion of toxic heavy metals by saliva. Oil pulling activates salivary enzymes which absorb toxins such as chemical toxins, bacterial toxins and environmental toxins from the blood and removed from the body through the tongue.”

It may also help whiten your teeth. Many people are attracted to this method of oral hygiene, because it involves using a natural product.

And since October is National Dental Hygiene Month, let’s educate ourselves about the reported benefits of oil pulling for our teeth.

Oil pulling may help prevent gingivitis (gum inflammation) caused by plaque.

The NIH reports that sunflower and sesame oil may help reduce plaque induced gingivitis. The sesame has compounds with antifungal properties, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in sesame oil may reduce free radical injury that can occur in the oral cavity.

Oil pulling may generate beneficial antioxidants that fight bad breath, tooth decay and more.

Oil pulling generates antioxidants which damage the cell wall of microorganisms and kill them. These oils will attract the lipid layer of bacterial cell membranes, and cause it to stick or get attracted, and pulled to the oil. During oil pulling, the oil gets emulsified and surface area of the oil gets increased. The process of emulsification of oil begins upon 5 min of oil pulling,” according to the NIH. “Thus plaque building bacteria responsible for dental caries, gingivitis, periodontitis and bad breath are removed from the oral cavity.”

One study found that there was a 20% reduction in bacterial count of the mouth after 40 days of oil pulling. So make sure to be consistent if you want to give oil pulling a try.

Oil pulling also reportedly helps keep gums pink and healthy and prevents them from bleeding. It may even help with dry mouth and throat, chapped lips and help strengthen oral cavity muscles and jaws.

Bear in mind that there is limited available research on the effect of oil pulling on oral hygiene.  More research should be encouraged. But the research that is available shows promising results. Furthermore, oil pulling is not currently recommended by the American Dental Association. However, the NIH concluded that “based on currently available research it can be concluded that oil pulling when performed as recommended, can be safely used as an adjunct to maintain good oral hygiene and health along with the routine tooth brushing and flossing with promising positive results.”

It never hurts to explore natural, alternative ways to take care of our health. But as always, consult with your doctor first if you have any concerns. And remember, a healthy mouth helps you maintain a healthy body.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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