I’m not even remotely suggesting that we should follow a trend simply because Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley have been practicing oil pulling and extolling its virtues. I have actually tried this strange sounding thing called oil pulling, way before it showed up in celebrity buzz columns. So what the heck is it and is it as weird as it sounds?
Well, from personal experience, it is definitely a strange sensation at first. Swirling a teaspoon or even a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil around your mouth for 15-20 minutes? Pushing a viscous fluid between your teeth and swishing it around your gums—yes, kinda odd but simple and easy to get used to. Why are the beautiful and talented Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley making this part of their life, every day?
Oil Pulling is very far from being a recent fad. It is an ancient Indian technique that is said to be 3,000 – 5,000 years old and a part of Ayurvedic medicine. Hadn’t you wondered how people cleaned their teeth before the invention of the modern toothbrush? I’ve actually pondered that and imagined twigs and leaves and hand-loomed cloths, but basically really bad teeth and breath. (But I digress!) What do proponents of oil pulling claim that it does?
Oral Hygienic Benefits of Oil Pulling
- whitens teeth
- rids mouth of bacteria
- prevents cavities
- improves gum health
- dissolves dental plaque
Overall Health Benefits of Oil Pulling
- improves headaches and migraines
- improves asthma
- helps regulate hormone imbalances
- alleviates skin conditions such as psoriasis
- improves arthritis
- pulls congestions and mucus from throats
- loosens up sinuses and sinus congestion
- helps detoxify body
- poor oral hygiene directly affect chronic illness
- relieves a hangover
The How-To’s of Oil Pulling
- Buy organic, high quality, unrefined coconut oil or sesame oil made for eating (not a beauty or topical oil). The coconut oil may be solid based on the temperature of its environment.
- Practice oil pulling first thing in the morning before eating or drinking. Perhaps, do it in the shower (if you can swirl and shampoo at the same time!)
- Begin with a small amount (1-2 teaspoons) and work up to a larger amount (1 tablespoon). Measure out the coconut oil or the sesame oil and spoon it into your mouth. The coconut oil, if in solid form, will melt almost immediately and that’s definitely a strange feeling.
- Swirl around your mouth for 20 minutes. Timing is everything in life and oil pulling is no exception. You want to swirl for as long as it takes to dissolve plaque and pull bacteria but not too long for it be reabsorbed.
- Allow it to touch every part of your mouth except your throat. Do not gargle or swallow! The oil will thicken slightly in your mouth.
- Spit the oil into the trash.
- Rinse mouth with warm water and spit.
- Brush teeth and scrape tongue with a tongue scraper, if you do that sort of thing.
Shailene expounds, “It’s amazing! It really makes your teeth whiter because the plaque on your teeth is not water soluble; it’s fat soluble. So the lipids have to dissolve in fats, which is why oil works in your mouth. I prefer sesame oil but they’re both good.” What do dental professionals think of oil pulling?
It seems that there is a wide array of opinions about oil pulling and whether it works. Dr. Marc Lowenberg, famed, highly-respected New York City cosmetic dentist, weighs in on the positive side and says, “There’s no downside. It’s probably the most harmless natural remedy.” He confirms Shailene’s claim that, “The toxins in your body are fat-soluble so they join with the oil and are removed when you spit it out. Since the mouth is loaded with plaque, it makes sense that there would be a reduction.” There’s also good news for bad breath sufferers: “A lot of bad breath comes from bad bacteria. Whereas mouthwash makes your breath better for around 10 minutes, if this really takes the toxins our of your mouth, your breath should stay fresher longer.”
On the other end of the spectrum, other dentists reject the idea that oil pulling can live up to all these claims. They believe that brushing and flossing should adequately take care of oral hygiene and that oil pulling should never take the place of brushing and flossing. In addition, some dentists question the evidence that plaque in indeed fat-soluble or that oil-pulling can remove it from the teeth. Anecdotal evidence is not widely regarded as proof in the medical community.
CNN reports: “A small study published in 2009 involving sesame oil and 20 adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis found that oil pulling reduced plaque and the bacterium Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium is cited as being a major cause of tooth decay and overgrowth of bacteria in mouth can also lead to gum disease. A larger study published in 2013, also using sesame oil, found similar results, summarizing that oil pulling had a significant effect on plaque and gingivitis. For coconut oil users, lauric acid, found in the oil can be a benefit. It is known for its antimicrobial properties, such as the ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and yeasts.”
Things to remember when oil pulling:
- do not ingest the oil
- do not replace brushing and flossing with oil pulling
- start off with a smaller amount and work up to a larger amount
and by the way,
and more on Gwyneth Paltrow:
Happy Swishing and Swirling!