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Oil Pulling: What it is and Why You Should Try it

Oil pulling is an ayurvedic practice credited with improving overall health and wellness. Here’s my initial experience with it and why I continue doing it every day!

Oil pulling is a great solution for improving oral health naturally!

I’ll start off by saying that I started oil pulling about a year ago, and have been doing it ever since. There are a lot of alleged health benefits, but from what I’ve read, it varies person to person.

For those who may be unfamiliar, oil pulling is an ayurvedic technique where you basically just swish oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes. I’ve read a lot of articles that recommend sesame oil (and that’s what I normally use), but you could really use any sort of organic seed, nut, or vegetable-based oil.

Some people swear by coconut oil, and another common favorite is sunflower oil. I’ve also used olive oil in a pinch, but I wouldn’t recommend it because it tastes terrible and leaves your teeth yellow.

It’s recommended that you do it 20 minutes a day on an empty stomach, so I usually do it first thing in the morning while I’m getting ready.

The idea is that this practice draws the toxins out of your body through your gums. Sounds a little crazy (and maybe it is), but there’s a lot of evidence out there that, at the very least, it does a lot to improve oral health. In fact, that’s the only reason I kept doing it for so long!

I was curious about it after reading it could help improve acne, allergies, sinus issues, infections, and a bunch of other stuff, but I kept doing it because of how great it made my teeth and mouth feel.

One of the first things I noticed was that it made my teeth whiter. This was probably after a solid three weeks of using it, but it was so worth it. As someone with super sensitive gums, oil pulling was a great alternative to my usual whitening strips, mouthwash, and toothpaste regiment that I’m pretty sure stripped most of the enamel from my teeth (And you don’t get that stuff back! Once it’s gone, it’s gone!).

But like I said before, my gums used to be super sensitive, especially to really hot or cold beverages, but not anymore! Now, of course this could be because I haven’t been using harsh, abrasive chemicals to whiten my teeth since I started oil pulling, but either way it’s thanks to oil pulling that I don’t need use them now and my gums feel great!

After about a month of using it, I started noticing that my mouth just felt really clean. Sometimes later in the day, especially right after lunch time, I would always have to brush my teeth because they just felt gross. Since starting oil pulling, I hardly ever get that icky, plaque-covered feeling on my teeth at all! Don’t get me wrong, I still brush my teeth after every meal (kind of religiously), but it’s great for those days when I just don’t get a chance to brush right away after I eat.

What’s even better about this is that it’s a natural solution for whiter, cleaner teeth. Previously, I’d been using those really harsh strips and rinses to make my teeth whiter, and they made my gums sting, and even bleed! Oil pulling was the exact opposite! Now, it took two to three weeks (vice two hours) before it kicked in and I started to see some definitive results, but it was well worth the wait.

Some recommendations and things to note as you start oil pulling:

  1. Start off with a mild tasting oil. Like I said above, olive oil is a little strong. Sesame oil works for me. A lot of people really like coconut oil, and I have a friend that loves avocado oil. I think coconut oil is a little strange, since it starts as a solid and becomes a liquid as you swish it. But a lot of people really seem to like it!
  2. Only use about one to two tablespoons at a time. The oil doubles in size as you go, as it mixes with saliva and whatever toxins is allegedly pulls out, so don’t start with too much at first or you’ll end up with a real mouthful.
  3. Always spit it out when the 20 minutes is over. Hopefully, after your 20 minutes, it’s full of all the bacteria and impurities from your mouth, so you definitely don’t want to swallow the stuff.
  4. It can mess with your pipes, so spit it into a garbage can. I’ve read that some people spit it into the toilet and flush it down, but I’ve never tried that and I wouldn’t want to risk it!
  5. It should look white and milky once you spit it out. Apparently it’s supposed to get clearer the more you do it, since it’s gradually supposed to pull the toxins out. So, once there aren’t as many toxins in your body anymore, it should be more transparent like it is in the bottle. However, I’ve been doing it for over a year now and it still looks the same (white-ish). So, either it always looks opaque no matter how long you do it… or I’m just very toxic!
  6. Rinse with warm water afterwards. After rinsing, I also usually follow up by swishing with some mouthwash and then brushing my teeth.
  7. I’ve read some about “detox headaches” that apparently happen as you start oil pulling. I’ve never experienced said headaches, and I question the overall detoxifying “powers” of oil pulling altogether, so I’m not so sure about this one, but it’s definitely something to be aware of as you start.

Overall, oil pulling has made my teeth noticeably whiter, smoother, and cleaner. I can’t speak to all of the claims that some ayurvedic practitioners have made about it (like allergy relief and healthier skin) because I never experienced those results. Either way, swishing oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes a day is definitely worth it for the oral health benefits alone!


[Image of coconut oil via Shutterstock]

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