I wrote about oil pulling a couple of years ago, before it gained mainstream attention in the news and on fashion blogs.
It is something I’ve been doing off and on for years and that I see noticeable effects from. I figured that whitening my teeth with charcoal would be my most controversial oral health habit, but some recent debate in the comments on an oil pulling post has convinced me otherwise.
What is Oil Pulling?
As I explained in a past post:
Oil pulling is an age-old remedy that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it is beneficial in improving gums and removing harmful bacteria!
The basic idea is that oil is swished in the mouth for a short time each day and that this action helps improve oral health. Just as with Oil Cleansing for the skin, the principle of “like dissolves like” applies, as oil is able to cut through plaque and remove toxins without disturbing the teeth or gums.
Essentially, oil pulling is just using a high quality organic oil as a mouthwash to help cleanse the mouth. Really, it could be called “oil-swishing” as the word “pulling” can be confusing but it refers to the idea that the oil is pulling bacteria out of the gums.
The oils that should be used for oil pulling are food grade and can also be eaten. Despite the fact that the oils can be consumed, some people get really upset about the idea of oil pulling and it has been a source of controversy in the media (isn’t everything a source of controversy in the media these days?)
Benefits of Coconut Oil Pulling?
When oil pulling, the oils (especially oils with naturally antibacterial properties) bind to the biofilm, or plaque, on the teeth and reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth. Streptococcus Mutans is one of the bacteria that is prominent in the mouth and it has been studied for its role in tooth decay and gum disease. Oil pulling has been shown to reduce the number of Streptococcus Mutans bacteria in the mouth, especially when done with coconut oil.
Some sources claim that coconut oil pulling can help everything from acne to sore throats and even heart disease, though I’ve never seen any scientific documentation of these claims. It is well known that good oral health practices can benefit the body in other ways, so it certainly may be beneficial as part of a good oral health routine. I certainly wouldn’t rely on oil pulling alone as a method to address any internal or serious medical problem, but I do find it helpful for keeping my mouth healthy and avoiding bad breath.
Coconut Oil Pulling Cautions
It is also important to use oil pulling as part of a comprehensive oral health regimen and not to use it as a replacement for normal oral hygiene and teeth brushing. My dentist was skeptical of many of the claims about coconut oil pulling being able to benefit the body internally, but said she considered it a safe alternative to mouthwash and didn’t see a problem with the practice when used in combination with other good dental hygiene methods.
Important Note: Some people report negative reactions to using coconut oil for oil pulling. Those with any type of topical or internal reaction to coconut in any form, should not use it for oil pulling or in any other way. In these cases, sesame oil would be a better alternative. As with this or any oral product, it is important to check with a dentist about any concerns or before using, especially if other dental conditions are present.
What Type of Oil?
Traditional cultures use sesame or sunflower oil for oil pulling but I personally prefer to use coconut oil for several reasons.
Coconut oil is effective in attacking Streptococcus Mutans bacteria which causes cavities. It is rich in medium chain triglycerides and high in lauric acid.
In my personal experience, coconut oil pulling is more effective at removing plaque and whitening teeth than sesame oil, although I don’t have any scientific studies that prove the difference.
How to Use Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling
- Put 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil into the mouth. I also pour a few drops of Brushing Blend or Essential Oil into the mix. (Just make sure any essential oil is safe to use in the mouth).
- Swish for 20 minutes. Apparently the timing is key, according to Dr. Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, as this is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spit out.
- Spit oil into the trash can. Especially if you have a septic system like I do… don’t spit into the sink! Do not swallow the oil as it is hopefully full of bacteria and plaque that are now not in the mouth!
- Rinse well with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better (my opinion). Occasionally, I swish with salt water which seems more effective but is also more work.
- Brush well. I prefer to brush with Brushing Blend or homemade toothpaste to make sure any remaining bacteria is removed.
Note: At the suggestion of a friend, I’ve also experimented with using MCT oil in place of coconut oil. MCT oil is a great option for those who don’t like the taste of coconut oil but still want the benefits. It is more expensive but I really like the combination of MCT oil and essential oils for oil pulling.
For more information on how I use oil pulling and on my other natural oral health resources, check out my oral health page.
Try Coconut Oil Pulling Chews
Since writing this post, I’ve discovered a way to simplify oil pulling with coconut oil by making mini coconut oil chews that melt in the mouth. Pre-making these with essential oils and freezing them is an easy way to have pre-portioned bites for oil pulling and has also made it easier for me to get my husband and kids to try it.
Have you ever used coconut oil for oil pulling? How did you like it? Share below!