Oil pulling is a 3,000-year-old technique used for oral health care that has recently received a lot of praise from health gurus and celebrities alike. Oil pulling involves swishing a tablespoon of organic pressed oil (i.e sesame oil or coconut oil—I chose coconut) in your mouth and pulling it through your teeth for 10-20 minutes. After time is up, you spit the oil out in the garbage (not down the drain, to avoid clogging) and brush your teeth. The process is best done in the morning, and on an empty stomach.
But does it live up to the hype? I decided to embark on a weeklong quest to put it to the test…
My experience on the first day was slightly discouraging.
The consistency of the coconut oil was hard for me to get past initially, and for the first 15 seconds it was a struggle not to gag. Once past pulling the oil through my teeth enough for it to liquefy the task became infinitely easier, though I did not make it the full 20 minutes.
A little deflated, I stirred up enough motivation to get through the next six days knowing that this holistic approach to dental health care could be beneficial to me! Oil pulling aids in the prevention of cavities, strengthens gums and teeth, and can even help whiten teeth (which I can now vouch for!).
It has also been said that this method can help other ailments thanks to its natural detoxifying properties including: acne, migraines, and TMJ (three things from which I suffer). Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic doctor, stated that “Removing bacteria and toxins from the body eliminates a great deal of stress that results in improved energy levels.” According to Dr. Fife, “oil pulling can help those with asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue, diabetes, migraine headaches, PMS, and chronic skin problems. Oil pulling works by detoxifying or cleansing the body. In this way, disease promoting toxins are removed, thus allowing the body to heal itself.” I was eager to see, at the end of the week, what kind of positive effects oil pulling would have!
Day 2 wasn’t much better than day 1. I had to remind myself that this is not a typical mouthwash routine- as it is done for an extended period of time. It’s important to keep the swishing slow and steady so as not to exhaust the jaw muscles. I found this to be a helpful exercise for my TMJ!
By the middle of the week, thankfully, oil pulling had become so routine to me that I was doing about 15 minutes each morning without difficulty or hesitation (and, no gagging!). Not only was it becoming easier by day 5, but I was starting to notice that my smile seemed brighter, and I was more awake in the mornings having added this process to my daily routine. Dr. Marc Lowenberg, a cosmetic dentist, explained that “the proof of efficacy of this treatment is something you can see and feel after several days of this treatment.”
As my weeklong experiment came to an end, despite my initial set backs, I came to the conclusion that oil pulling would definitely be added into my daily routine. The initial taste and consistency is something to get used to, but you adjust to this quickly. I did note that sesame oil was a perfectly acceptable alternative to coconut oil, but be wary that the taste is a bit more difficult to get past. One last thing that I have to be honest about, although a petty complaint for sure, was how difficult I found it to not talk for 20 minutes! Perhaps a good suggestion would be to try oil pulling while in the shower-although then I suppose I could complain about not being able to sing in there.
Bottom line: Though the first day or two may be hard to get through, this is definitely a worthwhile natural oral health remedy to try witha variety of other great health benefits as well!
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