Our mouths are warm, moist and wet. Like a tropical rainforest they form a fertile breeding ground for life. Inside them we house myriad microscopic invaders nourished by remnants of what we eat. Lurking in our mouths, it is easy for these invaders to make their way into our sinus cavities, tonsils, lungs and even our hearts. Doctors have found Streptococcus mutans bacteria from dental plaque in high levels in the arterial walls of certain heart patients. There is an undeniable link between oral health and overall health. Oil pulling can help rid you of this junk.
Q How do you do it?
Put some edible high-quality oil in your mouth first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Swish it around but don’t gargle. Try to keep it in your mouth for as long as possible. Extend the time until you are able to hold it in for 20 minutes. Then spit out the oil. Never swallow.
Q But aren’t my teeth already clean?
Dr M. Karoki, a dental practitioner in Kenya explains: “Over a 12-hour period naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths coat the teeth with a thin biofilm. Food sticks to the biofilm, and the bacteria eat the food. The bacteria produce acid, which causes tooth decay and gum disease. That is why you must brush and floss your teeth every 12 hours.”
Research shows that this biofilm is highly adhesive. It attracts hundreds of microorganisms to set up shop and form plaque in our mouths. These include bacteria, fungi, parasites, protozoa and helminth eggs.
Plaque is highly toxic – if you looked at it under a microscope, you would shudder to see all the little guys wriggling around. It is not easy to evict these squatters. Dental hygienist Blerina Milambo explains that brushing and flossing are not always sufficient to remove plaque. To get it out, you need professional assistance. Even after you get your teeth professionally cleaned, oil pulling can help transform your mouth from a chaotic microscopic marketplace into a pristine members-only oasis.
Q How does it work?
The bad guys are usually one-celled. Their cell membrane, or skin, is made of fat. In chemistry we learn that fats are lipophilic. The Greek root literally means they have affection for one another. Jessica Emery DMD explains: “When these cells come into contact with oil, they naturally adhere to each other.” The oil is as irresistible to them as the tune of the Pied Piper. They swim out of their hiding places into the foaming oil. Once trapped in this gloopy soup, you spit them out.
Dr Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, remarks that the 20-minute timing is key. This is long enough to break down the plaque-causing bacteria, but not long enough for toxins to be reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
Q What oil should I use?
Proponents of oil pulling recommend sesame oil, extra virgin olive oil or raw coconut oil. Coconut oil is naturally antifungal (oral thrush, or Candida albicans, coats the tongue milky white and is a common fungus that loves the mouth). When you finish, spit out the oil into a plastic bag or paper towel and dispose of immediately. Rinse and gargle with diluted hydrogen peroxide, salt water or your usual mouthwash. Then brush your teeth and clean out the sink to eliminate any lingering bacteria.
Q Is it just a fad?
Pioneers of oil pulling include Indian Dr F. Karach, who introduced it to Russia in the 1990s. Author, medical researcher and dentist Dr Weston Price advocated oil pulling as a discovery from his extensive travels in the 1940s. Tom McGuire DDS was also an early proponent of oil pulling. Aside from a multitude of anecdotal reports, studies have supported the glowing reviews of this ancient practice. Dr Fife’s book on oil pulling references fifteen such scientific studies that show a correlation between the health of our mouths and our overall health.
Oil Pulling Benefits
• Helps to detoxify oil-soluble toxins & pollutants
• Reduces dental plaque
• Helps eliminate bad breath
• Strengthens gums
• Fights and prevents gingivitis
• Improves oral health
As part of my research for this article, I experimented with oil pulling. I am unable to report
any massive systemic health miracles – only a much brighter smile featuring shinier teeth and gums. The accompanying side effects included prolonged time looking in the mirror and increased selfie taking!