Bringing it home with you #2: Oil Pulling


OIL PULLING is an ayurvedic 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 using oil to cleanse 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.

The benefits from oil pulling includes help with skin conditions, arthritis, asthma, headaches, hormone imbalances, infections, liver problems and more.

The concept is incredibly simple. Basically, a person swishes a couple teaspoons of a vegetable based oil (coconut, sesame or olive) in the mouth for 15-20 minutes and then spits it out and rinses well with warm water. Don’t gargle! When the oil becomes white, spit it out completely and rinse your mouth with warm water.  Oil pulling is best done in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. If you take a morning shower, you can swish while you are showering to save time. (Just be aware of spitting out the oil somewhere other than the drain).

How to do oil pulling:

1.Put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into the mouth. I prefer to use 2 teaspoons of organic coconut oil. I scoop it out as a solid and let it melt in my mouth before swishing (I don’t like the texture of solid coconut oil).

2.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.

3.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, toxins and pus that are now not in the mouth!

4.Rinse well with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better (my opinion). I swish a few times with warm water to get any remaining oil out of my mouth.

5.Brush well.

Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and has a milder taste that other oils and is my personal preference, though I’ve also seen it recommended by oral health experts.

A comprehensive resource on the topic is the book “Oil Pulling Therapy” by Dr. Bruce Fife.

There are some scientific studies that support the benefits of oil pulling, including those showing its benefit on different types or oral bacteria, on dental caries, on plaque/gingivitis and on oral micro-organisms:

S Asokan, J Rathan, MS Muthu, PV Rathna, P Emmadi, Raghuraman, Chamundeswari.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

TD Anand, C Pothiraj, RM Gopinath, et al. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteriaAfrican Journal of Microbiology Research, Vol 2:3 pp 63-66, MAR 2008. (PDF Link)

HV Amith, Anil V Ankola, L Nagesh. Effect of Oil Pulling on Plaque and GingivitisJournal of Oral Health & Community Dentistry: 2007 ;1(1):Pages 12-18

S Thaweboon, J Nakaparksin, B Thaweboon. Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models. Asia Journal of Public Health: 2011 May-Aug. (PDF)

Note:Some people supposedly notice a detox reaction for the first few days of using oil pulling that usually includes mild congestion, headache, mucos drainage or other effects. If this occurs, stay with it and let the detox happen!

a swish a day!

a swish a day!