Also known as “kavala” or “gundusha,” this concept is a new one to me, but it has been a tradition in Ayurvedic circles for around 3,000 years and claims to have fantastic health benefits, so I am going to take one for the team, give it a whirl (literally) and let you know how it goes.
What is oil pulling?
The process is basically swishing a measured amount of oil, approximately one tablespoon, around your mouth for up to 20 minutes drawing out toxins from the body in order to improve oral and general health.
Which type of oil should be used?
The traditional and most researched oil in Ayurveda is sesame oil, however a lot of recent studies and articles opt for coconut oil as it has powerful antioxidant properties and has left people with whiter teeth and far healthier gums. It is up to you as it is personal taste that matters as well as the health benefits, but for oral hygiene the prime candidate is coconut oil as it contains Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant, and also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties thanks to the lauric acid and monolaurin content.
Always choose a premium quality, organic, unprocessed, unrefined, raw as possible oil. They are not cheap but have far more health benefits and taste better than their lesser counterparts. Also with this procedure a little goes a long way and so it will last.
What are the benefits?
The benefits to oral hygiene are the most noted and researched as practically everyone, who tries the process properly (preferably daily over a long period of time), claims that their teeth become whiter, cleaner and stronger, their gums healthier, and those suffering with halitosis or gingivitis have noted a marked improvement, experiencing fresher breath due to the removal of bacteria in the mouth. Also the prevention of cavities, and gum disease is a big plus, however difficult to prove.
Other than this it is more of a preventative than a treatment; with the mouth as the home to millions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other toxins, the oil acts like a cleanser, pulling out any unwanted predators before they have the chance to spread throughout the body.
Advocates say that this liberates our immune system, reduces stress, curtails internal inflammation and aids well-being, which in turn increases our energy levels as our body has less work to do than usual!
It prevents any harmful bacteria from entering our systems, much of which is ingested via the mouth, so it is almost like a preventative detox; avoiding contamination.
Other reported benefits are reduced sinus problems, help with sleep issues, and reduced jaw pains, especially for those suffering with temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders. Rashes, acne, psoriasis and eczema sufferers have reported an improvement in skin condition due to the reduction in toxins. It is also apparently a remarkable cure for hangovers and alleviating headaches and potentially migraines.
How do I start?
Oil pulling is supposed to be best executed on an empty stomach so first thing in the morning before you brush your teeth would be the best time. You could also do it before each meal if you are really keen.
Take one tablespoon (or less if you cant manage this much) of your preferred oil (at room temperature) into your mouth and gently, slowly (important as it can become tiring and your mouth, jaw and tongue may start to ache) swish it around for up to twenty minutes. This is the preferred timing however many people can’t tolerate the procedure for this long and so 5-10 minutes has to suffice. You can work your way up gradually to the recommended 1tbsp for 20 minutes.
Gradually, the oil will gain volume due to the saliva produced in the mouth and any bacteria that is being drawn out from your mouth or body. Due to this increase many people begin with just a teaspoonful and work their way up to a whole tablespoon as they get used to the process.
Once you have finished deposit the oil into the bin or compost, not the sink, and rinse your mouth with warm (salty if you wish) water. Then brush as normal using a fluoride-free toothpaste.
Repeat for as many days a week as possible for at least two weeks to feel the benefits (and then continue as a daily routine). Perhaps keep a chart or diary of time, amount of oil used and any effects noticed each day to keep track.
My personal experience:
I elected coconut as my oil of choice due to its benefits to oral hygiene but also because it tastes good to me and contains lots of easily digestible, fat-soluble vitamins: A,D,E and K. Vitamin A is good for the immune system, Vitamin E has strong antioxidant properties for the skin and can provide some protection against UV rays, Vitamin D is good for strong bones and teeth, and Vitamin K is good for blood-clotting. You can also go for extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil or sesame oil.
I was actually pretty excited to try this having previously made my own toothpaste, tried out many home remedies for cosmetic and health issues and am generally on the war path to be the healthiest I can be utilising only natural products.
I tried a big teaspoon full of coconut oil and swished it around pulling it through my teeth as often as possible, being aware not to overdo it and get tired or jaw ache. The oil tasted fine and did not seem to increase in size as much as reported, however I am sensitive to gagging and after a few minutes had to watch something on TV to distract myself from it! I managed to get to ten minutes before the oil totally lost its flavour and I started to tire from the motion. I spat it in the bin and then rinsed my mouth, followed by brushing in the usual (flouride-free) way.
I have to say that I wasn’t overwhelmed by any particular result because you need to complete at least a week or two (I have only done five days so far), or have some of the issues it reportedly helps with (which I don’t) to notice any big changes, however I do feel like my mouth is squeaky clean and my teeth are smooth and shiny. It does give a feeling of cleanliness which mouthwashes only provide momentarily due to their strong flavours, and which brushing alone does not achieve.
My skin feels slightly clearer than usual, but then I have been in the sun quite a bit and have been generally detoxing so it is hard to say what has been the cause. Although I can’t help but think this has contributed to it.
As to whether my teeth will whiten, that remains to be seen but I do think according to the research and testimonials that it might work! I am going to stick at it and continue the procedure for a month and will report back. I recommend giving it a try – it can’t do any harm, and might just do something beneficial!
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