How does it work?
When oil (usually coconut or sesame oil) is swished around the mouth, it cleans the teeth. The human mouth, however, is a natural home to Candida and Streptococcus, the germs that produce the waste which contributes to tooth decay and plague build up. Not only does oil pulling naturally remove stains and whiten teeth, but it has been proven to be just as effective as a high-strength mouthwash in terms of reducing unwanted microbial visitors[i].
I prefer using coconut oil, for aside from its nice flavour, it has been found to inhibit the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans, an acid-producing bacterium that is a major cause of tooth decay.
Is there any real science to back this up?
Yes. There have been numerous scientific studies that validate many of the health claims of oil pulling.
- In 2008, a study was performed on 20 teenage boys that tested the efficacy of oil pulling against a chlorhexidine mouthwash. In the study, oil pulling was shown to be just as effective as the mouthwash in reducing the number of bad bacteria in the mouth[ii]. That there is a safe and just as effective alternative is good news as one of the more common side effects with chlorhexidine mouthwashes is that “56% of chlorhexidine oral rinse users had a measurable increase in staining of teeth, and 15% experienced heavy staining... Stains are general dark brown to blackish.”[iii] What is the point of using a mouthwash that is going to stain your teeth brown or black?
- A more recent study in 2014 was done on 60 students. The students were broken into three groups: a placebo group, a chlorohexidine group, and an oil pulling group. Again, mouth bacteria were significantly reduced in both the chlorohexidine and the oil pulling group. The conclusion of the study was that oil pulling with sesame oil was as equally useful as the chlorohexidine mouthwash at reducing the number of microbes in the mouth that cause bad breath and plague build up[iv].
What type of oil should be used?
Traditionally, sesame oil has been used and when I started, I tried it. While some people enjoy using sesame oil, I found that I did not enjoy the taste. After a couple of weeks, I switched to coconut oil after reading about its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. I enjoy the taste more and I have been using it as part of my daily oral health regime ever since.
I personally only use organic extra virgin coconut oil. Picking an organic coconut oil is important as it guarantees that the coconut oil is free from pesticides or other chemical additives. With non-organic brands, the manufacturing process may include bleaching and the addition of additives like lye. I am not interested in swishing those nasty chemicals around my mouth for twenty minutes every morning.
How to oil pull?
Oil pulling is relatively easy. Some people like to do it twice a day, but I have wonderful results doing it just once a day. I like to oil pull first thing in the morning, even before brushing my teeth.
1) Take a small scoop of coconut oil in a spoon (coconut oil is a solid below 24 degrees) and place it in your mouth, allowing a minute for it to melt. Only take as much as needed to comfortably swish.
2) Gently swish it around the teeth. I also like to pull the oil between my teeth. If your mouth gets sore, you are swishing too vigorously! Also, be sure not to swallow any of the oil as it is collecting all of the bacteria and toxins from inside the mouth.
3) After 20 minutes, when the oil has turned a milky color, spit it out into the garbage. Try not to spit it in the sink as it will eventually clog the drain (just ask my husband). It is okay to start with five minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes every morning over the course of a couple of weeks.
4) Rinse and brush teeth as normal.
And that’s it!
I have found that after three years of oil pulling, not only are my teeth sparkling white, my gums are healthy, my breath is fresh throughout the day and I do not get as many throat infections as I used to.
The positive changes I have seen in my own mouth have transformed me into an avid oil puller as I have found it to be a powerful, safe and effective oral health tool. I am so confident in the benefits of oil pulling that not only is it part of my daily routine, but I also encourage anyone suffering with poor oral health hygiene to try it for a month.
Erin Douglas is a registered yoga instructor and a classically trained homeopath. Her life-long passion for healing has taken her all over the world from learning yogic philosophy and healing in India to studying Vipassana meditation in Northern Thailand with the Buddhist monks. She received her formal training in classical homeopathy at the renowned Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario, the first province in Canada to regulate homeopathy. She operates a complementary medicine healing clinic and every month, organizes seven and fourteen day spiritual yoga retreats and adventures in Waikiki, Hawaii. For more information on joining an upcoming Hawaiian Adventure Yoga Retreat or to book a homeopathic or nutritional consultation, feel free to check out her website or send an email.
[i] “Comparative efficacy of oil pulling and chlorhexidine on oral malodor: a randomized controlled trial”, J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Nov;8(11):ZC18-21. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2014/9393.5112. Epub 2014 Nov 20
[ii] “Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study”, J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7
[iii] “Chlorhexidine topical Side Effects” Drugs.com: http://www.drugs.com/sfx/chlorhexidine-topical-side-effects.html
[iv] “Comparative efficacy of oil pulling and chlorhexidine on oral malodor: a randomized controlled trial”, J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Nov;8(11):ZC18-21. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2014/9393.5112. Epub 2014 Nov 20