Oil Pulling Experience Resurgence (Again)

April 7, 2014

Remember 2008? That was the last time oil pulling enjoyed a brief, albeit wondrous, popularity with Americans reaching for just about any oil they could get their hands on—convinced they’d discovered the secret to sparkling teeth and better oral health. The same thing happened a few years before 2008, and again a few years before that. This ancient practice of sucking oil between teeth, holding it in your mouth for 20-30 minutes, is nothing new. But does it work?


It’s no surprise that in the latest reincarnation, coconut oil is the oil du jour. Touted for its many health benefits, why not slurp it around in your mouth for awhile (plus, it tastes so much better than other recommended oils, such as sesame). The real purpose of oil pulling was developed as part of an Ayurvedic approach to medicine in India. It’s supposed to literally “pull out” bacteria and mouth toxins, causing a variety of healthy side effects. Improved immunity, a healthier gut, reduced mucous and even relief for a number of aches and pains may be promised.


The Pros


Whether or not it works can only be decided by you when giving it the college try. It’s easy to find fans and critics alike. A friend might guarantee that it changed his life, while another might say it’s a waste of time. Of course, like any health ritual, you can’t do it once and expect magic. However, if you’re intrigued, invest in a quality oil (sesame is the original and worth a shot) and try it daily for at least 30 days. That’s a serious commitment—and if you get bored by week two, it might not be the best approach for you anyway.


It’s also good to know your starting point. A dental checkup and physical from your doctor gives you a solid foundation. Get any troubles assessed, whether it’s bloating or chronic pain. A placebo effect is very possible when starting any new regimen and the best way to keep that in check is to know your numbers. Plus, when’s the last time you saw your dentist, anyway?


The Cons


Well, it might not work after all. It can be time consuming and, depending on the oil and your own preferences, it can taste pretty gross. Plus, given that you have to actively pull for at least 20 minutes, that can quickly tire out your jaw. It’s also recommended that you don’t spit during this process (however much you may want to). On the plus side, the oil “magically” really does change colors once you’re finished and do spit, showcasing the nasty stuff your mouth has been hiding.


The final verdict? Oil pulling isn’t going to hurt you—but it’s no substitute for good oral care. Remember, this method is thousands of years old. Back in those days, there weren’t modern toothbrushes, floss, fluoride rinses or any dentists (at least not any you’d want to have working on your teeth!). It might have been a decent way to cleanse the mouth back in the day, but with modern technology and regular checkups, why not take the easy road on oral health?

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