Having been immersed in the world of health for over a decade and now having worked in it for over a year, I will be the first to admit that there’s a lot of health fads that come and go – sweet potato toast, collagen, activated charcoal and turmeric on everything! A while ago (and still to this day), oil pulling was all the rage which is an Ayurvedic practice whereby you swish coconut oil around in your mouth for 15 minutes at a time as a means of whitening teeth and removing bacteria.
But even being the open-minded health nut that I am, I put up my arms and said a big “heeeelll no” to this trend. The thought of swishing around warm oil in my mouth that’s potentially carrying bacteria molecules that I could potentially swallow was repulsive to me! But naturally, I gave it a whirl and to no surprise at all, I only lasted 5 minutes and felt like I wanted to hurl!
Fast-forward a year later – here I am, swishing away with coconut oil in my mouth, about to tell you why I changed my mind and why you should try it too!
The reason why I’ve introduced it again recently was in efforts to slow down my receding gums (I’m one of those crazies that practically chews on their brush while brushing their teeth). However, receding gums can also be a result of built up bacteria so I wanted to make sure I was tackling that potential issue at the same time. I also introduced flossing 3-4X/week because I have a dentist appointment coming up and need to show them that I’ve been putting in the work … just kidding. But I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind!
Beyond the nitty gritty goals I’ve laid out for myself, what was most important with re-considering this health habit was re-introducing self-care practices. I tend to go through ebbs and flows with my self-care practices, depending on what time of year it is and what I’m going through. But no matter what, I listen to my body and the message it’s trying to give me through symptoms and I make sure to honour that. I’m definitely guilty of “not having enough time” for my self-care practices but it’s the greatest reminder how powerful they really can be after revisiting them after a mini hiatus.
If you dig deep into the health benefits of oil pulling, you might come across some articles saying it’s nothing but quackery, while others tout about its amazing abilities to whiten teeth, reduce plaque build up and more! Not to mention, there are currently 17 research studies on the health benefits of oil pulling and that number is only destined to grow! I’m not entirely surprised though, given that coconut oil is a superfood in itself, packed with medium chain triglycerides (which our body uses as energy instead of storing as fat) and is loaded with anti-bacterial properties to help kill bacteria naturally!
My take? If it feels good for you and you are reaping benefits from it, keep on doing it!
So how does oil pulling work, you ask? Essentially, it “pulls” bacteria out of the gums resulting in whiter teeth and less bad bacteria, meaning fresher breath, less plaque build up and less inflamed gums. I suppose it’s similar to mouth wash, however mouth wash actually destroys our good and bad bacteria altogether and can actually open the doors to undesirable things like bad breath. Some even say it binds toxins and bacteria and pulls them out of the body, resulting in health benefits throughout the entire body.
It’s important to use a high-quality food grade coconut oil when you do start oil pulling. When purchasing coconut oil, I would recommend organic coconut oil. You have the option to buy deodorized or non-deodorized coconut oil. There’s no difference in the health benefits, but the non-deodorized coconut oil is going to have a coconut-y taste (so it will be good for baking too) whereas the deodorized coconut oil will have a neutral non-coconut-y taste (people tend to like to use this for savoury cooking). I switch between the two for cooking and oil pulling, but it’s entirely up to you!
All that to say, I’ve been oil pulling religiously for about 3 weeks already and have noticed a considerable difference in the whiteness of my teeth and a decrease in my receding gums. My mouth has also never felt cleaner. That’s enough evidence for me that it’s doing a mighty job! I’m still trying to build the courage/stomach to tackle tongue scraping, but I’m still not over the grossness of that one, as much as I would love to reap the benefits!
What else can oil pulling do?
- Kill bad breath (by extracting bacteria out of the mouth and body)
- Prevent cavities
- Boost immunity
- Heal bleeding gums
- Improve acne
- Whiten teeth
- Reduce plaque build up
Are you up for the challenge? I thought so! Let’s get our swish on!
Oil Pulling Steps:
1. Scoop 1 tbsp of organic coconut oil with a spoon and put it in your mouth.
2. Set a timer for 15 minutes and start swishing, moving the contents around your mouth (the hard to liquid state is the “grossest” part – as you can tell in the picture below, where you’ll see a very uncertain and concentrated Rachel – but after that, it’s easy!)
3. Swish, swish, swish and make some cute faces while you’re at it!
3. After the 15 minutes, spit it out into a garbage can (not in the sink or toilet – it will clog your pipe once its hardens again)
4. Brush your teeth to collect any remaining bacteria
5. Repeat 3-5 times a week for best results
6. BONUS: Floss right after for an extra cleaning (especially helpful with receding gums!)
Note: Sometimes it helps to recruit an accountability partner to keep you on track with your health habits. My dear friend and fellow Holistic Nutritionist, Stephanie Sansen, have been keeping each other accountable by sending each other a text saying “swish swish” whenever we are getting our oil pulling on. It’s a gentle reminder to the other person to make sure they get their oil pulling on for the day!
Have you tried oil pulling? What are your thoughts? Did you notice any improvements in your oral hygiene?