I´ve been running a little self-experiment on oil-pulling for two weeks now, which I would like to share. The sceptic I am was critical about the statement that it draws toxins out of your body – I personally believe this is nonsense, happy to be convinced otherwise by a clinical study. Nevertheless, oil pulling has other proven beneficial advantages for oral health:
1. Reduces Plaque
Several studies have shown that oil pulling could help reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth. In one two-week study, 20 children either used a standard mouthwash or did oil pulling with sesame oil for 10 minutes daily. After just one week, both the mouthwash and oil pulling significantly reduced the number of harmful bacteria found in the saliva and plaque. [Source]
2. Reduces Bad Breath Caused by Bacteria
Halitosis, also known as bad breath, is a condition that affects an estimated 50% of the population. There are many potential causes of bad breath. Some of the most common include infection, gum disease, poor oral hygiene and tongue coating, which is when bacteria become trapped on the tongue. treatment typically includes the removal of the bacteria, either through brushing or by using an antiseptic mouthwash like chlorhexidine. Interestingly, one study found that oil pulling was as effective as chlorhexidine at reducing bad breath. In that study, 20 children rinsed with either chlorhexidine or sesame oil, both of which caused a significant decrease in levels of the microorganisms known to contribute to bad breath (Source).
3. Reduction of Gum Inflammation
The bacteria found in plaque are a major cause of gingivitis, as they can cause bleeding and inflammation in the gums. Oil pulling can help primarily by decreasing the harmful bacteria and plaque in the mouth that contribute to gum disease, such as Streptococcus mutans. In one study, 60 participants with gingivitis began oil pulling with coconut oil for 30 days. After one week, they had reduced amounts of plaque and showed an improvement in gum health (Source).
4. May Prevent Cavities
Not only eating sugar can cause cavities, but also plaque build-up. As plaque is removed when oil pulling, it might also help prevent cavities from forming.
5. Might Whiten Your Teeth
There is no scientific back up to this, some people report the effect though. I can – for myself – confirm the positive effect. This doe not mean that it will work for everybody though.
Why did I choose to try oil pulling?
I have had problems with regular mouthwash a few years ago. Mouthwash does eliminate bacteria in your mouth building up plaque, that is right, but it can also destroy the first layer of defence in your throat [Triclosan]. A doctor advised me that my frequent colds and infections might stem from the use of mouthwash. That was then, this is now: I kept on using mouthwash but did not gargle anymore and back then this helped to reduce the frequency for me. Why use something that is potentially harmful though, when you can replace it with a natural remedy.
I also tend to brush my teeth too hard, which leads to gum problems. Even swapping to a super soft toothbrush does not always do the trick. Regular mouthwash leaves me with a slightly sore feeling on my gums.
On top of that, I had very good teeth when I was younger, but started to go to the dentist for cleaning sessions. At the start, it did not show, but after a few years it became a negative cycle: the more I cleaning sessions I got, the worse my teeth became. This had to stop! I never had problems with stains and now they add up faster than before. The dentist is not sustainable, another solution is needed.
That´s where I started my experiment, it can´t hurt and maybe it helps.
How does it work?
Preferably you do an oil pull in the morning. Personally, I do this the first thing after I get up and then prepare breakfast and get some other things ready while I am doing it. Place a tablespoon of coconut oil in the mouth. For starters you can go with a teaspoon, that might be less shocking to start with as the feeling is quite weird. Those who do not like the taste of coconut oil can use other oils, such as sesame oil or olive oil.
Sit upright and swish the coconut oil around the mouth for 15–20 minutes. People who have difficulty keeping the coconut oil in their mouth for this length of time can start with 5 or 10 minutes and slowly increase the duration. It is essential to keep swishing and to breathe through the nose.
Once done, spit the oil in the garbage. Avoid spitting into the sink or toilet, as it can lead to clogging. Do not swallow the coconut oil!
Most recommendations suggest brushing the teeth immediately after an oil pull. However, some people believe that it is better not to brush right away to allow the retention of good bacteria and the rebalancing of the oral microbiome. Personally, I like to not brush my teeth directly after and enjoy the feeling of the “layer” for a bit.
The first time I did it I used olive oil. To be frank: that was weird. The consistency did not go down well with me, but I managed to continue for the full recommended 20 minutes. The feeling afterwards was not too bad: your teeth feel as if they have a nice protective layer on them. Just the taste was not the most favourable! [Yes, I am not going to lie: it might make you gag.]
The next day I went for coconut oil. This was even more weird. The coconut oil is hard when it comes from the cupboard and is not heated up and will only melt in your mouth. The first two days I experienced problems with that. Afterwards, I got used to it. The coconut oil has a way more favourable taste than the olive oil and is in regards to its compounds way more suitable for oral hygiene as well. Only once did I not manage to keep it in my mouth for 20 minutes – it started to be scratchy on my throat. Overall the coconut oil was a “go” though, so I stuck with it.
Coconut Oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties thanks to the lauric acid and monolaurin. When it comes to its components, contrary to what some bloggers write, it does not contain vitamin D [unless fortified]. Vitamin D is scarce in food and its intake cannot be covered with food sources, only by proper sun exposure. Here comes the “but”: There have been studies which say that coconut oil enhances the absorption of vitamin D. That is a different story though. Back to topic.
Two weeks after I started oil pulling I feel an improvement in gum health. The sore feeling has gone completely. After using the oil in the morning, it feels as if there was a nice protective layer on your teeth. On top of that, it seems that there has been a reduction of stains – you will be familiar with this when your teeth are not super straight: stains will easily build up in between your teeth as it is harder to reach those spots with your toothbrush. Those stains are now smaller in size and I will continue to experiment to see if it becomes even better.
Oil Pulling might not be for everyone, but trying surely does not hurt. Find out for yourself, if it is beneficial for you or if you would rather stick to regular mouthwash.