Print Edition: April 2, 2014
It’s 7 a.m. and you’ve managed to roll yourself out of the warm blankets of your bed. With messy hair and foggy eyes you make your way to the bathroom, splash your face with cold water, and let out a long and drowsy yawn. You reach for the jar of coconut oil on the counter, scoop out a generous tablespoon and into your mouth it goes for a good 10 minutes of swishing. Sounds normal, right?
If you’re like I was, the idea of “oil pulling” seems nothing short of repulsive. The thought of swishing oil around my mouth for any amount of time caused my gag reflexes to kick in and my face crumple up into a disgusted cringe. While the blue bottle of Listerine in my bathroom is much more familiar to me, the practice of oil pulling has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for oral health. Claimed benefits of the ancient treatment include the prevention of tooth decay and bad breath, general teeth cleaning, and even as an aid in overall health.
The process of oil pulling involves swishing around a tablespoon of oil in between and around teeth for 10 to 15 minutes. This swishing motion of oil acts to remove harmful bacteria by “pulling” it off teeth, cheeks, and the tongue. Once the allotted time is up, the oil should be spat out, and with it go bacteria and toxins. Ideally, oil pulling should be done on an empty stomach, as experts claim that this causes the oil pulling process to strengthen and intensify one’s metabolism.
Although any kind of oil may be used, a few have been proven to yield the most effective results in reducing plaque and gingivitis. Among the top toxin and bacteria “pullers” are sesame oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil. Studies have shown that sesame oil has high antibacterial activity while causing no staining or lingering aftertaste, effectively pulling off plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Like sesame oil, sunflower oil has been proven to reduce plaque. More impressively, sunflower oil pulling has been shown to effectively reduce gingivitis by almost 60 per cent.
Coconut oil ranks high as an effective pulling agent in the way that it targets bacteria known to contribute to tooth decay. By doing so, coconut oil can reduce cavities by inhibiting the bacteria from growing and creating acidic compounds on our teeth.
Beyond the scope of oral health, oil pulling also contributes to overall body health. When toxins and harmful bacteria trapped in the crevices of our mouths are pulled out and removed, they are prevented from spreading to the inside of our body and contributing to — or even causing — disease. The mouth is a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria, and removing harmful strains helps strengthen our immune system.
The most substantial long-term health benefit of oil pulling is its potential to cure arthritis. Surprisingly, many cases of arthritis in later age are caused by dental infections. The removal of harmful bacteria during oil pulling can prevent these infections, therefore lessening the risk of getting the joint disorder. Other studies have shown oil pulling to be an effective way of treating asthma and chronic migraines.
More and more health experts continue to join in the favour and praise of oil pulling. It may seem like a foreign (and even repugnant) practice to many, but studies have found the oral and overall health benefits to be just as effective, if not even more, than traditional mouthwash. The next time you have 10 minutes free and are feeling adventurous, why not give this proven effective treatment a go? Grab a tablespoon of your favourite oil, relax, and let the proven process go to work.