Coconut Oil Pulling
by Rachel Jesson
in Blogs

You may have heard of this term fluttering about in conversations of health enthusiasts, but you’ve never taken the time to read up about it or understand it. It’s another one of our fabulous age old traditions that has been re-awakened into the modern era. It has been used for centuries in traditional India to cure tooth decay, prevent bad breath, heal bleeding gums, whiten teeth, soothe throat dryness, prevent cavities and strengthen the gums and jaw.

Think about it, tooth brushes haven’t been around for centuries; the first tooth brush came into existence in around the 1930’s. So how were people keeping their teeth clean before this time? Dental records from archeological evidence suggests that most people lived until a ripe old age with teeth that were still intact and in a strong and healthy state. So why were their teeth not rotting if they weren’t brushing them with a tooth brush? I mean, just walk around a play school and you can observe children as young as three with brown, rotting teeth!

There are three answers to this question. Firstly, back then, people were eating real food. They weren’t stuffing their faces with processed sugars and grains that were filled with phytic acid, which annihilates tooth enamel. Secondly, they took care of their teeth through natural means like chew sticks that they rubbed against their teeth. These findings date back to 3000BC in the tombs of Egypt. Think about a ‘barky’ stick of unprocessed liquorice that could scrub any tooth clean. And finally, depending on the culture and region of the world, many people oil pulled. The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine highlights a study that reviewed holistic practices of oral health, and discovered that oil pulling was one of the most effective natural health solutions known to scientists that prevents tooth decay and loss.  

So what exactly is oil pulling?

It is a remedy that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. The term pulling refers to the removal of bacteria from the mouth. So the oil binds to a biofilm or the plaque on the teeth to decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth. How this works is that most microorganisms in our mouth consist of a single cell. The cells are covered with a lipid or fatty membrane which is the cell’s skin. When these cells come into contact with the oil, a fat, they naturally stick to each other. And so the removal of toxins can occur.

Coconut oil seems to be the preferred oil of choice because it contains the antioxidant vitamin E and lauric acid, which has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Lauric acid also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. If you’re allergic to coconut oil, sesame or sunflower oils (cold pressed) are also options.

It is vital that you opt for a clean, organic, high quality oil. Poorly sourced oils can contain harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury or arsenic. The oil needs to be manufactured well so not obscenely heated where the good fats are destroyed. A cold pressed, organic oil would be best. Think about all the capillaries in your mouth for speedy absorption, so a carefully sourced oil will serve you.   

How do you oil pull?

Take around a tablespoon of organic coconut oil and if it’s in a solid state, allow it to dissolve in your mouth. Do this when you wake up before you have a drink. I think this is the busiest time for bad bacteria as you’re partially dehydrated from your night’s sleep and you can almost feel the plaque collecting on your teeth if you allow your tongue to run over them. They may feel a little ‘furry’. So I’m guessing this is a peak time for bad bacteria so rather than ingesting them, flush them out! Swish the melted oil around your mouth using your tongue and the air pressure you can create in your mouth and gently move the oil between your teeth. Ideally, do this for around 20 minutes or so, although you can begin with around five to 10 minutes, as you will still receive some benefit. Continue with your morning routine. So if you shower, get that done while you’re swishing the oil or if there is still time while you begin preparing your breakfast and lunch for work. By swishing it around for this length of time, it dilutes the stickiness of the plaque and its ability to stick to the teeth. If this is done daily, it can remove staining along with the plaque and bacteria. This is one of the reasons why the teeth appear whiter. Spit it out into the rubbish bin (you wouldn’t want to clog up your pipes with this). Under no circumstances should you swallow this oil. It is riddled with toxins. If you feel desperate to swallow, spit it out and take a smaller amount of oil. Rinse with warm water and then brush your teeth. You will notice an obviously cleaner mouth after the pulling process and especially after brushing your teeth.

Oil pulling would need to be done over and above your regular oral hygiene routine. The pulling acts as an excellent mouthwash. You’ll notice that most convention mouthwashes claim that they kill 99 per cent of the germs, which is partly due to the presence of alcohol and other chemicals. However, this wipes out all the bacteria in your mouth, including the good guys. The good bacteria are required to eliminate the bad, so having neither available from a powerful mouthwash can leave your mouth in a vulnerable state.

There has been decent research linked to oil pulling. The Nigerian Medical Journal in 2015 looked at 60 children between the ages of 16 and 18 years old with plaque-induced gingivitis. The students had to include oil pulling in their daily oral hygiene routine for 30 days and they were assessed on days 1, 7, 15 and 30. Researchers found significant improvements in the plaque and gingivitis on days 7 and beyond. This perhaps gives us an indication of when we should notice subtle changes.   

Oil pulling can be performed even in young children. As long as they understand the importance of spitting the oil out, and not swallowing, they should do remarkably well. It is a healthy way to remove unnecessary plaque, especially in an era when sugar and poor food choices are abundant. If you have the time you could make this fun for your children: Find small chocolate silicone moulds, gently melt the oil, add any food grade essential oils, mix well and pour into the moulds. Place them in the freezer. Once set, remove them from the moulds and store in a glass jar in the fridge. They can chew on these when they wake up and spit it out when their time is up.    

It is also a useful tool to use when a woman is pregnant. Often both teeth and gums are quite sensitive during this time, so the oil pulling is incredibly soothing for the teeth.

You could even add food grade essential oils to your own coconut oil for added benefits, or else buy a pulling oil with the essential oils already added. Common oil are peppermint, lemon and/or orange. Or if you have an infection, try clove, cinnamon or tea tree oil. You would just need to gently melt your coconut oil and add some of these food grade essential oils to the coconut oil, mix well and allow to solidly. In hot conditions, simply stir each time you take a tablespoon out to use.

So to avoid stinky breath, fillings, crowns, root canals and any other unnecessary dental work due to decay, start including oil pulling in your daily oral routine. You should have a tub of coconut oil in the cupboard anyway, as it’s a fantastic oil to cook with. Decant part of the tub and leave it in a glass jar near your toothbrush. Swishing for 20 minutes every day could save your teeth and a hefty dental bill. The only thing the oil can’t seem to do is straighten your teeth!