Oil Pulling 101

Since having radiation to my salivary glands, my mouth situation hasn't been stellar. The radiation to my jaw during my chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lymphoma, left my mouth dry with an out of whack pH level. By having approximately only 10% moisture and saliva as an average mouth, it can be tricky to eat and drink, and even maintain a balanced oral regime. Gross.

I make regular trips to my dentist to avoid the rapid decay that can come with an out of balance mouth, and that means tending to regular cavities, learning about potentially helpful new saliva replacement products and alcohol-free mouthwashes, and monitoring any potential oral irregularities.

When the mouth's pH is out of balance, it can be a breeding ground for germs and plaque which lead to cavities and even gingivitis. Something as simple as a sip of soda can send my mouth into a tailspin, but it's impossible to be constantly brushing my teeth. And swishing with regular mouthwash makes the whole situation even drier than it already is.

So now that I sound like a totally gross, bad-breathed, toothless dirty kid, I want to share my favourite way to maintain oral health in a way that is natural, non-drying, and totally chemical-free.

Oil pulling.


I'm just like the next guy - I want bright, white, sparkly teeth. For me, using teeth whiteners can be even more drying and invasive to an already sensitive mouth. I'm always reluctant to put harsh "cleansing and whitening" chemicals in my mouth because A) it's so close to my brain! And B) my imbalanced mouth has a hard time flushing the chemicals away after.

I take pride in my dentist commenting on my white teeth despite her not having bleached my teeth at all. And since I have regular cavities, hearing my dentist tell me that I haven the whitest teeth on her filling scale, IS THE ONE WIN I CAN ACTUALLY HAVE. (Hey. I've got a mouth full of cavities. I have to get my kicks where I can, right?)

Not only does oil pulling help to naturally brighten teeth, but it also freshens breath and fights cavities by removing bacteria. I read a meme once that touted coconut oil, deeming that the oil essentially cured any and all ailments. The meme was even slathering coconut oil on a boyfriend. HA!

Coconut oil is one of nature's miracle gifts and I credit it to helping my mouth - even with my dentist's nod of approval. It's my go-to oil of choice when practicing oil pulling at home.


BENEFITS OF OIL PULLING

• Fresh breath
• Whiter teeth
• Detoxifying
• Cavity-fighting
• Stronger immune system
• Healthier skin
• Fewer headaches
• Hangover remedy
• Prevents oral cancers
• So. Much. More.

Oil pulling is super detoxifying. In fact, it's an ancient Ayurvedic ritual to initiate a detoxification process that promotes total health. It helps cleanse the mouth in a natural way, pulling toxins out orally. You may notice brighter, healthier-looking skin - especially on your face, and even fewer headaches.

The benefits aren't localized to the head, though, as oil pulling helps promote an overall stronger immune system, and a more energetic disposition. And there aren't any harsh, drying chemicals. Dry mouth is one of my biggest oral complaints, and my dentist is always recommending new products to me. But nothing works like oil pulling - specifically coconut oil because it keeps the pH level in my mouth in check.

And it's a good cancer-preventative measure, since I worry about becoming vulnerable to other cancers that can be provoked by having chemotherapy and radiation, especially in a sensitive area like the mouth.
 


HOW-TO PRACTICE OIL PULLING AT HOME

It may seem simple enough: put oil in your mouth, swish, spit. But there are a few tips I have up my sleeve to help you, and even some precautionary tales, too.

1. NOT ALL OILS ARE CREATED EQUAL

I personally like using coconut oil, but any organic and natural oil will do. Some definitely taste better than others though, and I have to recommend coconut oil 100 times over. But the most important factor is using something organic and not riddled with extras.

2. DON'T SWALLOW

(Heh) Oil pulling helps draw out toxins, and that's not something you want to keep in your body. Make sure you don't swallow everything you've been swishing around. You want to expel the oil from your mouth. But -

3. DON'T SPIT IT DOWN THE DRAIN

Coconut oil can actually clog up your drain, clinging to the pipes and creating all sorts of potential problems. Make sure to spit in the garbage (or outside).

4. TRY TO SWISH FOR A LONG TIME

Beginning with swishing the oil through your teeth and around your mouth for five minutes. It may seem like a long time, so I like to practice a sun salutation or mindful meditation to keep me focused - and to even allocate a few me minutes while I oil pull. Work up to 20 minutes. You'd be surprised how good you get at this.

5. HARD VS LIQUID

Some people like to use hard coconut oil, chew it up and then swish. I often have liquid coconut oil in my cupboards, and that's what I prefer. But really, it's just a preference and what you have in your home. Regardless, use a tablespoon of each.

6. PULL IN THE MORNING

When you wake up, swish some oil for five to 20 minutes, then brush your teeth and floss as you would.

7. THE OIL WILL DOUBLE IN SIZE

This part can feel gross in all honesty. As you work the oil through your mouth, it will expand as it pulls the toxins out and mixes with your saliva - which is neat, but can be nauseating. You can expect the oil to double in size at the end of your 20 minutes.