Two months ago, I started oil pulling consistently. I’d been meaning to develop an oil pulling habit for years, having heard about the many health benefits it provides, but for some reason kept putting it off. We’ve all been there – our good intentions inevitably get swallowed by the everyday necessities of life, and those positive health steps we plan to take gradually get swept under the metaphorical rug.
So, one morning I was scrolling through Pinterest, and I saw yet another image singing the praises of oil pulling to the world. That was the tipping point: I had 5 minutes on my hands, so I quickly researched how much oil I should use and for how long, and took that small but significant dental leap.
And with that small step, I’ve ingrained oil pulling firmly into my daily routine. Every morning, I get up, make breakfast, wait 15-20 minutes, then plunk a globule of coconut oil in my mouth and get swishing. After completing the routine, I was another 5 minutes, brush my teeth, and my oral health is infinitely better than it was the day before. Easy as that.
In this post, I’ll quickly explore some of the key reasons why oil pulling is the bee’s knees. Then I’ll provide an easy step-by-step guide to developing your own healthy oil pulling habit.
What are the health benefits of oil pulling?
There’s a lot of hearsay surrounding the act of oil pulling, with one health claim seemingly more grandiose than the next. And while many of these rumors are simply untrue, there’s actually a solid collection of scientific evidence to confirm some of the more important health benefits associated with oil pulling.
Firstly, there’s abrasion to think about. Every time you brush your teeth, those harsh plastic bristles are not only scraping away the plaque and other nasties – they’re also scraping away at the teeth themselves. Your teeth can only regenerate their protective enamel coating at a certain rate, and those who brush 2 to 3 times per day (as recommended by most dentists!) run the risk of eroding their tooth enamel over time. This means that bacterial infection is more likely to develop, as the parasitic microorganisms living in your mouth can access the inner part of the tooth much easier.
The beauty of oil pulling is that it mechanically removes plaque and bacterial buildups from the mouth without any of the harsh abrasion experienced from tooth brushing. The bacteria which can cause bad breath and tooth decay have membranes that are fat soluble, meaning that a good long swish with some high-quality oil can weaken their molecular structure and prevent their buildup.
Another great benefit of oil pulling is that it acts on areas of your mouth and teeth that brushing can’t get to. Often, only a thorough (and painful!) cleaning at the dentist is enough to remove plaque buildup in the nether regions of your oral cavity. By swishing oil around in your mouth on a regular basis, however, you’re cleaning out those hard to reach spots without all the pain and bleeding that comes with a visit to the dental hygienist.
Here’s what the research says about the health benefits of oil pulling:
- Oil pulling effectively prevents gingivitis and removes plaque. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Denture Research asked 20 teenage males with poor oral hygiene to do oil pulling twice a day, for 10 days. When the 10 days was up, researchers found that the oil pulling group had significant reductions in both plaque and gingivitis, comparable to strong commercial mouthwash (which is riddled with nasty chemicals and mouth-drying alcohols).
- Oil treating fights Streptococcus mutans, one of the leading causes of oral disease. A 2008 study used oil pulling once a day for 2 weeks to demonstrate a significant reduction in S. mutans, while a 2011 study found that oil pulling was not only effective against S. mutans, it also exhibited a powerful antimicrobial effect against the fungal marauder Candida albicans.
- Oil pulling treats halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath. Another 2011 study compared two weeks of oil pulling to two weeks of using a common commercial mouthwash, finding that oil pulling was just as effective in treating halitosis as the mouthwash.
Convinced that oil pulling is the real deal? You should be. Here’s how to make your oil pulling habit stick.
How to do oil pulling
Once I began oil pulling I quickly discovered just how easy it is. And the beauty of oil pulling is that life doesn’t come to a standstill while you’re doing it – you can absolutely multi-task while oil pulling, provided that multi-tasking doesn’t require actually speaking to someone!
Here’s my tried-and-true method of oil pulling:
- At least 30 minutes after eating, shovel approximately one tablespoon of extra virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil into your mouth. The exact quantity of coconut oil doesn’t matter too much, as long as it’s around a tablespoon.
- If the coconut oil is below room temperature and therefore a bit hard, allow your mouth a minute or two to melt it.
- Set a timer for twenty minutes (or just look at the clock and make a mental note!), and begin slowly swishing the oil around your mouth, making sure to direct it into those hard to reach places that get ignored during brushing.
- Read a book, do some work on the computer, or simply relax while the oil works its oral magic.
- After 20 minutes, spit the coconut oil out. Be sure to avoid swallowing the oil – it’s now a waste product, as it contains all of the toxins and dislodged bacteria from your mouth. Avoid disposing of the oil down the sink, as it can harden in the pipes and make your plumber all grumpy.
- Wash your mouth out with warm water to get rid of the oil residue, then after waiting 10-15 minutes, you can brush your teeth as you normally would. Often, if I oil pull in the morning, I’ll forgo brushing then but still brush my teeth in the evening. Studies agree that, while effective, oil pulling is best supplemented with at least occasional brushing.
That’s it! Simple, right? Do this every day for two weeks, and you’ll certainly see results. Your teeth will feel cleaner, your breath will feel fresher, and you may even notice your teeth have become a shade or two whiter!