What Is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic ritual that dates back thousands of years and is used to clean and detoxify the teeth and gums. It also has the added benefit of naturally whitening your teeth, and evidence has even shown that it can be beneficial in improving gum health and removing harmful bacteria.

The practice of oil pulling dates back thousands of years from India, where they have used oil pulling as a daily ritual to clean and detox their teeth and gums. In the early 1990’s, oil pulling was introduced to the United States by a doctor named Dr. F. Karach, and has since become a health craze phenomenon.

Many of the people who do oil pulling as a daily routine swear by the health benefits that it provides, not only just for oral health, but for a host of other overall health related issues including skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, infections, hormone imbalances, headaches, liver problems and more. Several experts say that bacteria and infection can easily enter the blood through the mouth, it makes sense that using oil pulling to remove toxins can have a beneficial effect on overall health.

How Does Oil Pulling Work?

Oil pulling is very simple: take a spoonful of a vegetable base oil, usually sesame or coconut, and swish it around in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. The idea is that the oil will adhere to any toxins or bacteria in the mouth, under the gums, and between the teeth and “pull” them out. This not only removes any harmful bacteria from the mouth, but will leave a pleasant clean feeling and subsequently whiter teeth.

How To Do Oil Pulling:

First, you want to start with a high quality vegetable based oil. The two most common oils are sesame and coconut. Most people choose coconut oil because of the additional anti-bacterial properties it has, but it also has a nice mild flavor. Oil pulling is best done first thing in the morning before brushing your teeth, and before eating or drinking. You can even perform oil pulling after each meal if you are prone to infections, or just like a clean mouth.

Oil Pulling Instructions: 

  1. Put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into your mouth – I prefer to use an organic virgin coconut oil from Nutiva as it has a very mild coconut taste. I can’t handle putting a glop of solid coconut oil in my mouth, so I quickly warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds. Tip: Add a few drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil for an added anti-bacterial benefit.
  2. Swish around for 20 minutes – According to Dr. Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, timing is key as 20 minutes is long enough to break through the plaque barrier, but not long enough that your body starts reabsorbing the toxins. You’ll notice the oil start to become thicker and milky white as it mixes with saliva. Once this happens, you’re ready to spit it out.
  3. Spit oil into trash can – Try to avoid spitting the oil into the sink especially if you have a septic tank system. Oil isn’t good for pipes, so into the trash can it goes! Don’t swallow the oil either as it should now be full of toxins and bacteria. Yuck!
  4. Rinse your mouth out with warm water – The warm water will help dissolve any remaining oil left on your teeth and gums. I’ll swish some water around a few times to make sure I got everything nice and clean. You should feel refreshed at this point.
  5. Brush your teeth – After your oil pulling routine, you can now brush your teeth normally. I use my homemade remineralizing toothpaste for added oral health benefits.

I know, 20 minutes does seem like an awful lot of time in the morning, but I will do this as soon as I wake up and then shower and get dressed. By that time, 20 minutes will have flown by and I’ll be ready to spit it out and brush my teeth. If you don’t think you can do a full 20 minutes, just do as much as you can! Even 5 minutes will have mild oral health benefits, but a full 20 minutes is what you eventually want to aim for.

Personally, I really enjoy oil pulling and it makes my teeth whiter, brighter, and cleaner. I’ll even do it after eating a meal, just to get out any tiny food particles that may have gotten stuck in my teeth or gums. The oil really does ‘pull’ those items out, and you’ll be surprised at how much ‘gunk’ was in your mouth!

If you would like to learn more about the science done on the act of oil pulling, a great resource is Dr. Bruce Fife’s book “Oil Pulling Therapy“. He wrote a very comprehensive resource on the subject matter, and explains the added health benefits of oil pulling.

Another great scientific study on oil pulling is the Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics & Preventive Dentistry. 26(1):12-7, 2008 Mar

Have you ever tried oil pulling? If so, how did it go? Share your experience below!

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