Oil for Whiter Teeth?

Photo by Marco Alexandre via flickr
Photo by Marco Alexandre via Flickr

Beauty care has been in existence since the time of our ancestors. Long before the coming of Europeans, we had a way of life that was unique to us. Back then, beauty fixes were gotten from ‘Mother Nature’. Well, actually, ‘Mother Nature’ was the main source for solutions to both health and beauty problems and oral care was no exception.

The chewing stick is synonymous with oral health across the country irrespective of tribe and location. Known as “Miswak” in the Middle East, “Mefaka” in Ethiopia and “Datun in India”, this stick is usually a twig of a tree mainly, of the dogon yaro (neem) tree which has antibacterial properties. Though the chewing stick is a great form of natural oral care, I’m here to talk about another form of natural oral care which has been around for thousands of years. This form of oral care known as Oil Pulling became popular in Western world in the early 90s and here in Nigeria, in the last couple of years.

This oral care remedy has its roots in Ayurveda which is a traditional hindu science of medicine. It is a holistic form of alternative medicine that originates from India and dates back to 5,000 years ago.

What is Oil pulling you ask? Well, it is a process of cleaning your mouth with oil before brushing your teeth. It involves putting a teaspoon or a tablespoon size of oil in your mouth and swishing the oil gently (emphasis on gently) around your mouth for no more or less than 20 minutes. It is usually done first thing in the morning and on an empty stomach. Swishing the oil around your mouth, allows the oil to pull out bacteria and toxins in your body. The swishing makes the oil emulsify, acting like a cleanser (kinda like a pre-mouth wash). At the end of 20 minutes (by which the oil should have turned milky white indicating the oil has pulled out most of the bacteria and microbes in your mouth), you are to spit out the oil, rinse your mouth with warm salt water (regular table salt will do), and then brush your teeth as you normally would. Disposing of the oil is a bit tricky though. It is advisable not to spit the oil in your sink as the toxins collected in the oil can over time, form a dark ring round your drainer and there is no guarantee it will come off. Some people spit the oil into the toilet. Spitting it outside say in the garden will likely kill your plants (yeah the toxins in your mouth are that potent).

Here’s what I do. I collect earth sand in a container and spit the oil into it. I then dispose of the used sand in the bin and collect fresh sand for my next oil pulling.

Oil pulling has been used in traditional Indian medicine to prevent a wide range of health problems from oral decay, bleeding gums, cracked lips, strengthening teeth, gums and the jaw, throat dryness to more serious health problems.

The health of your mouth is a window to your overall health. It is believed that each section in the tongue is connected to different organs in our body like heart, lungs, kidney, liver, stomach. Indeed the health of your stomach can reflect on your tongue. It is believed that and you can, through oil pulling, purify these organs.

The oils recommended for oil pulling are, sunflower oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sesame seed oil. I have used both olive oil and coconut oil to oil pull. The olive oil didn’t turn milky white as suggested so I stopped using it. I am currently using coconut oil which I personally think is a better alternative given it’s antibacterial properties.

Picture by Phu Thinh Co via Flickr
Picture by Phu Thinh Co via Flickr
Photo: US Dept of Agriculture via Flickr
Photo: US Dept of Agriculture via Flickr

Here’s my experience:

I’ve been swishing for 2 months now and below are some changes that I noticed instantly:

  • bye bye funky mouth smell (the “just woke up from sleep” kinda smell or the “I’m fasting” mouth odor)
  • glowing skin (really!)
  • teeth felt smoother and really clean
  • felt less fatigued, less stressed and slightly happier with a sunny outlook on things
  • the first week I oil pulled, I noticed I would feel hungry while swishing, (perhaps the detox effect on my stomach? dunno)

The challenges I had:

Time: 20 minutes was hard for me, it felt more like an hour. When you first start, I advise you swish gently because swishing hard will make your jaws ache. On days I wake up late pressed for time, I shorten my oil pulling to 10-15minutes max.

Boring: I quickly learned that swishing oil in your mouth and doing nothing else for 20 minutes is a bore. To make it feel less like a chore, I decided to multitask catching up on my favorite shows, reading a magazine or doing chores. Just something to pass the time and make it less boring!

Quantity: I started outright with a spoonful (overzealous me!) and 10 minutes into swishing, my mouth was about to explode from all the liquid it was struggling to hold. It is best to start with the smallest amount you can handle because as you swish the oil and it mixes with the saliva in your mouth, what started as a teaspoon will become a mouthful of oil.

Although there’s not much info on medical research on oil pulling and it’s benefits in curing and preventing diseases, it is said to cure about 30 systemic diseases including diabetes, asthma, headache and migraine.

Overall, I haven’t noticed any dramatic health changes, but I do like how my oral health has improved.  I’m definitely making it a part of my beauty regime. I will keep you guys posted on any changes I experience.

Check out these links if you are interested in knowing more about oil pulling.

oil pulling method

oil pulling dentistry

oil pulling your leg

the effect of oil pulling on plaque and saliva

oil pulling and tissue regeneration

how dental professionals can respond to oil pulling patients

I know some of you have been doing this for a while now.  Do let us know your experiences, the good and the bad lets see if we have more people pro or against this remedy. And, if you haven’t tried it yet and are curious, do your research and try it out. Either way, let us know your experience.

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. – William Arthur


*Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of a dentist or medical professional. You should endeavor to regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.





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