Coconut oil pulling has ancient origins, with a story that needs telling. Is it relevant for healthy teeth today? Or is it an old wive’s tale?
While oil pulling isn’t a new practice, it was only introduced into Western society about 20 years ago.
The idea of swishing a mouthful of oil around to cure diseases might sound strange, but this simple practice could improve your overall health.
Let’s get one thing straight, when you treat your mouth, you’re also treating the whole body.
Coconut Oil Pulling: A Primal Ayurvedic Technique
Ayurvedic medicine has used oil pulling for centuries to manage the build-up of oral impurities. Toxins and bacteria naturally build up in the mouth, causing a number of health issues when left untreated. It’s the general way that dental plaque can cause disease in the mouth.
Oil pulling was used in the oral cavity to literally “pull” the toxins and bacteria out of your mouth. The toxins stick to the oil and when you spit it out, you’re creating a clean environment needed to prevent cavities and other oral diseases.
Traditional oil pulling
Oil pulling uniquely detoxifies the body through the salivary glands. It’s believed to have many benefits according to ancient Ayurvedic texts, such as:
- Prevents bleeding gums
- Prevents tooth decay
- Relieves dry throat
- Relieves cracked lips
- Strengthens the teeth, gums, and jaw
In India, where this procedure originated, oil pulling is referred to as Gandusha or Kavala Graha. These are the two forms of oil pulling that are often mentioned in ancient Indian texts.
The process of performing Gandusha involves filling the mouth completely with oil so that swishing is impossible. The oil is held in the mouth for 3 to 5 minutes and then released.
The traditional Kavala Graha practice includes having a comfortable amount of oil retained in the mouth for 3 minutes, gargled, and then the oil is released.
Modern oil pulling techniques have been adapted from the traditional methods of Gandusha and Kavala Graha.
Modern Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an oral detoxification technique used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s recommended to use coconut oil, sesame oil or olive oil and swish it in the mouth (like mouthwash) for 10 to 20 minutes and then spit it out.
In ancient times, sunflower or sesame oil was primarily used for oil pulling. Today, coconut oil has become the most popular oil used. Adding coconut oil pulling to your regular oral hygiene routine is said to have these benefits:
- Prevents dental caries
- Improves oral hygiene
- Decreases oral microbial count
- Inhibits plaque from adhering to teeth and oral surfaces
- Reduces gingivitis
- Reduces halitosis
- Whitens teeth
For oil pulling, it’s recommended to use pure, unrefined coconut oil because it doesn’t have any other additives and it hasn’t been processed. Using high-quality and organic oil in the mouth is critical to achieve favorable results from this practice.
Is There Scientific Evidence to Support Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is said to cure over 30 systemic diseases when practiced regularly and as directed. It comes from a natural and holistic system of medicine formed 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. Although oil pulling isn’t fully recognized yet by most of Western medicine, it’s becoming more appreciated and understood.
There are no known risks associated with oil pulling. However, this technique isn’t scientifically supported and currently shouldn’t replace normal oral hygiene. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that there isn’t enough evidence to support coconut oil pulling and its effects.
The lack of scientific evidence for oil pulling means that there’s a direct need for future studies. Although there’s considerable gaps in research that would support coconut oil pulling, there has been a handful of studies conducted.
One study found that oil pulling with sesame oil had positive results on oral health. The subjects included had reduced plaque build-up, gum health scores, and lower counts of harmful bacteria.
Two other recent studies, one in 2014 and another in 2011 have found that in the treatment of oral malodor, oil pulling is just as effective as chlorhexidine (antimicrobial mouthrinse). In these studies, they noted that oil pulling wasn’t a replacement for regular treatment of the disorder—but it worked just as well as chlorhexidine.
Coconuts For Improved Health
The Dental Diet is about reacquainting ourselves with traditional food principles. I recommend adding coconut oil to your diet rather than just your dental hygiene routine. Adding coconut oil to your diet is a great way to increase your fat consumption to boost your body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Coconuts are a staple food in one third of the world but Western culture is only beginning to embrace them. Coconuts are sought after because of their versatility, nutritional value, and therapeutic properties.
Coconut oil is uniquely made from a part of the fruit called the “copra,” also referred to as the meat of the coconut. In order to expel the oil, the coconut meat is pressed through a mechanical process.
While the ancient Eastern culture mainly used sunflower oil, today coconut oil is most commonly used for oil pulling because it’s considered a “superfood.” There are other surprising health benefits that come from incorporating coconut oil into your diet and routine:
- Countries that consume more coconuts are generally healthier.
- It assists in weight loss, especially in abdominal fat.
- It can kill harmful microorganisms and prevent infections.
- It improves blood cholesterol levels.
- It improves hair and skin.
- The fatty acids it contains can boost brain function.
- It’s an anti-inflammatory and improves arthritis.
The list of potential benefits gained from using coconut oil is seemingly endless! This tropical oil is not to be overlooked.
A “Pull” Towards Wellness
Although science and Western medicine hasn’t fully approved of coconut oil pulling, these ancient techniques need more attention and scientific research. In order to truly determine how effective oil pulling is, more studies need to be performed.
Coconut oil pulling seems to be most effective when used as a supplemental treatment to regular oral hygiene. The methods of oral health that are tried-and-true shouldn’t be disregarded. Always continue to brush twice a day, floss daily, and attend regular hygiene visits when practicing coconut oil pulling. If you have any concerns or questions about your oral health, consult your dentist.
If you want to experience a significant improvement in your oral and overall health, I always recommend increasing intake of full fat foods, like coconut oil. Coconut oil is an integral part of The Dental Diet because it strengthens teeth from within. Adding coconut pulling to your dental routine is great, but adding coconut oil to your diet is even better.
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Want to know more? Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.
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