In a nutshell (coconut shell), we can define oil pulling as the practice of swishing oil in your mouth to eliminate bacteria and improve oral hygiene.
You can think of the practice as a more natural alternative to washing your mouth with neon green Listerine that contains God-knows-what.
I first came across the practice of oil pulling a few years ago from a friend that was really interested in the study of Ayurveda.
But let me tell you…
After seeing it demonstrated and then trying it myself a few times — swishing that clear, viscous coconut through my mouth, fighting off a gag reflex, and feeling like my mouth contained something akin to the texture of a slug — I wasn’t immediately a fan for life.
But I’ve done quite a bit of research on the benefits of oil pulling for oral hygiene, and I’ve finally come around to incorporating it into my daily self-care routine.
Me at 7.15 this morning: Swishing coconut oil around my mouth while standing in the shower shampooing my hair and rubbing body wash beneath my armpits, loving it like it was the best thing since sliced bread.
So let’s look at some of the benefits of this practice:
Eliminate Bacteria in Mouth
Did you know there are roughly 7 gazillion types of bacteria that can live in your mouth and that 3 gazillion may live there at any given time? Okay, not a gazillion — by gazillion I mean 700 and 300 types respectively.
Bacteria can contribute to the decay of your teeth, so it’s important to keep them to a minimum. I speak for myself at least in saying that I hope the first and only time I’ve ever had a cavity removed is the last and only time.
One study that looked at plaque-induced gingivitis actually proved that oil pulling works. The study incorporated 20 adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis, in which 10 were placed in the oil pulling group and 10 were placed in the control or mouth wash group.
The result? While the mouth wash group also showed improvements in the total colony count of aerobic microorganisms, the more natural oil pulling approach showed the same level of improvement.
Reduce Bad Breath
That’s right. Next time you go on a first date, rest assured — swishing coconut oil through your teeth for a few minutes can offset your potentially unpleasant breath odor.
Unpleasant breath has a number of sources, but a lot of it comes from yucky bacteria. (See above!)
One randomized control trial, which looked compared the effect of both mouth wash and oil pulling on odor, found that the traditional Indian folk remedy of oil pulling was as effective as mouth wash at eliminating malodor and more cost effective.
As an aside, another great bad breath remedy is a tongue scraper. Check them out on Amazon — they’re like 7 bucks!
If you’ve never had a cavity before, consider yourself among the lucky few. I speak for those of us who have had at least one before and can say that it doesn’t rank high on my list of most pleasant experiences.
Cavities can form especially as a result of eating too much sugar or neglecting to floss and clean out food particles that can rot in your teeth.
Plaque can also cause cavities.
But fear not: oil pulling to the rescue!
Protect Your Gums
Gingivitis is a problem for a lot of people. Gingivitis goes hand in hand with gums that are swollen, red, even bleeding.
Fortunately, oil pulling can reduce the inflammation — including the redness and bleeding — by removing the bacteria in the mouth that inflames the gums.