I am so excited to share a recent health success! I’ve successfully lowered my systemic inflammation to the extent that my gums no longer bleed during dental cleanings.
For most of my adult life, my gums have been heavily inflamed and prone to bleeding, even during at home flossing. At my last dental appointment in January, my hygienist warned that I might be developing a cavity. I opted to delay an x-ray until my next appointment in the hopes that I could heal my teeth in the interim.
The strategy I selected was oil pulling, a practice of swishing 1-2 teaspoons of edible oil (like coconut oil or sesame oil) in your mouth around your teeth and gums, similar to how you might swish mouthwash for 10 – 20 minutes.
How Does Oil Pulling Work?
Oil pulling literally “pulls” toxins and bacteria from the mouth, attracting the fatty membranes of bacteria to the fat in the oil like a powerful magnet. Bacteria hiding in the crevices of your gums and within and between your teeth are sucked out of their hiding places and held firmly in the solution.
Oil is able to access and attract these harmful substances – including bacteria, fungi, and parasites formations that can build up in your mouth– out from between teeth and in your gums into the oil which you can then eliminate.
Oil pulling cleans your mouth like soap cleans dirty dishes. Swishing or holding oil in the mouth for a prolonged amount of time will draw out these impurities or wash them from the mouth. It is known to pull toxins out of your mouth, creating a healthy balance of flora that help prevent cavities and gum disease.
More specifically, bacteria in the mouth form a sticky layer around your teeth and gums. The sticky texture of oil acts like glue, sticking to bacteria and carrying it out of your body. The longer you push and pull the oil through your mouth, the more pathogens are pulled free, so be careful not to swallow any as you will ingest the toxins you are trying to eliminate.
Your mouth plays host to millions of pathogens like bacteria, fungi, viruses and other toxins. Oil acts like a cleanser, pulling out bugs before they spread through your body, turning on your immune system and contributing to systemic inflammation.
Research hails oil pulling as one of the most effective natural health solutions for removing bacteria, promoting healthy teeth and and reducing inflammation in your body.
Oil pulling therapy was demonstrated to reduce plaque-induced gingivitis more effectively than chlorhexidine mouthwash. The bacteria break down the food particles and form an acid that destroys tooth enamel resulting in tooth decay. Several studies have found that oil pulling may decrease the number of harmful bacteria found in plaque and saliva as effectively as a mouthwash. Oil pulling weakens the strains of bacteria and reduces the risk of cavity formation.
It can also help to increase saliva production, which helps balance bacteria in the mouth and flora in the gut.
Bacteria and germs in the mouth continuously produce toxins that can contribute to systemic inflammation in the body. Toxins can also pass through the digestive tract into your bloodstream where they can be carried to other parts of your body.
Oil Pulling with Essential Oils
Essential oils possess potent antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties and easily absorb into your oral mucosa. You can optimize the benefits of oil pulling even more by adding essential oils like clove, cinnamon and peppermint to your oil pulling routine. For example, clove oil contains the active ingredient eugenol, which helps naturally numb and reduce pain and inflammation. A study found that eugenol is more effective at reducing pain, inflammation, and infection than another type of analgesic toothpaste.
You can add 1 – 2 drops of an essential oil – my favorite is Peppermint™ – with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. To make it even easier, my friend Katie Wells at Wellness Mama recommends creating essential oil pulling chews by combining ½ cup of melted coconut oil with 30 drops essential oils then allowing them to harden in the freezer in silicon candy molds for daily consumption.
Essential oils are also fat soluble, which makes them especially helpful for enhancing brain function. The human brain is nearly 60 percent fat, and fat likes fat. This principal of “like attracting like” is one of the reasons that oil and water don’t mix. But fat based bacteria, like those in your mouth, are drawn to fat-soluble remedies, like essential oils.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
Oil pulling helps support your health in the following ways:
Research from Harvard found that inflammation in the mouth can “rev up” inflammation in the rest of the body – leading to heart disease.
One of the major oral bacteria is streptococcus mutans, which when left unchecked will multiply in the mouth and secrete toxins into the body’s bloodstream. These toxins increase the inflammatory associated cytokine Interleukin-12 (IL-12), which is a strong contributor for the development of chronic disease.
Research claims that coconut oil pulling can calm inflammation as coconut oil and the essential oils you might add to it have anti-inflammatory properties that have a beneficial impact on certain conditions linked to inflammation.
Kill Harmful Bacteria
There are hundreds of bacteria that live in your mouth and contribute to cavities, gum disease and systemic inflammation.
When you swish oil around in your mouth, you are killing bacteria. Bacteria on your teeth and gums secretes acids that eat away at your tooth enamel and dentin contributing to cavities. Bacteria build up into plaque and contribute to gum disease and systemic inflammation that can contribute to heart disease.
The fat in coconut oil contains lauric acid which is well known for its antimicrobial actions; it inhibits Strep mutans that are the primary bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Boosts Immune System
Reducing the pathogen load in the mouth helps to reduce the immune burden in the body. Your mouth is home to hundreds of bacteria and dental health has been linked to serious chronic diseases that impact that entire body, including inflammatory diseases like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and arthritis.
Research has found that oil pulling is preventative as well as curative and can help” to purify the entire system; as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organ such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine, similarly to reflexology and TCM.”
Oil pulling helps to draw microorganisms into the oil where they can be removed from your body. Toxins in the body are much like poison causing inflammation and leading to disease and illness in turn. The gateway to the body for such contamination is the mouth. Therefore, in removing the toxins at the source before they get a chance to spread, the body undergoes a complete detox.
Oil pulling for detoxification works, as Dentistry IQ reports, most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell. Cells are covered with a lipid (fatty) membrane, which is the cell’s skin. As like attracts like, when these cells come into contact with another lipid (fatty) membrane like the oil, they naturally adhere to each other. In this way, oil pulling further helps get rid of pathogens in your mouth.
Supports Tissue Regeneration
Research has found that that the health of your mouth impacts the health of your whole body and poor oral health increases your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.
Reduce Inflammation and Improve Gum Health
Gingivitis is a type of gum disease marked by red, swollen gums that bleed easily. The bacteria found in plaque are a major cause of gingivitis, as they can cause bleeding and inflammation in the gums. Oil pulling helps decrease the harmful bacteria and plaque in the mouth that contribute to gum disease, such as Streptococcus mutans. In one study, 60 participants with gingivitis began oil pulling with coconut oil for 30 days. After one week, they had reduced amounts of plaque and showed an improvement in gum health.
Due to its ability to detoxify and reduce inflammation in the tongue, the gums, and the palette, oil pilling can help alleviates migraines and headaches. The jaw and teeth lie directly next to the sinus cavities and are very close to the brain. They all share close to blood vessels and major nerve tissues that run near each other. Because of this, they often can cause problems for each other. When oil pulling is able to reduce inflammation in the mouth and gums it can also reduce increased blood flow and tension that can cause headaches. Nerve endings that have become fragile due to poor oral hygiene or aching teeth that cause migraines can be effectively treated and brought back to health.
Reduces Jaw Pain
Oil pulling reduces jaw pain by supporting the inner mouth environment. Factors such as plaque, bacteria buildup, infections, and inflammation all affect the jaw. They may not be typically associated with one another, but being in such close proximity it is inevitable that they are affected by the neighboring neural networks, blood vessels, and tissues of the mouth. By relieving the inflamed conditions of the mouth through the increased oral hygiene that oil-pulling brings, some of the symptoms of jaw pain can be reduced. Tension may decrease, nerves that are hyper-stimulated may calm, and the sensitivity of the mouth that inflammation brings may reduce overtime with oil-pulling.
Why I Recommend Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling
Coconut oil is a powerful antioxidant, with highly antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal qualities. Research shows that coconut oil helps kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, including Streptococcus, one of the primary bacteria in tooth decay.
Coconut oil contains three unique fatty acids that are responsible for its various health benefits: lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. The high ratio of inflammation-fighting Omega 3 also contributes to healing properties that help lower the presence of bacteria and reduce tooth decay, gum inflammation, swelling, cavities, and even jaw pain. Its antioxidant properties makes it an effective teeth whitener that also strengthens your gums, teeth and sinuses.
Coconut oil is highly absorbable and has been shown to help balance hormones, kill candida, improve digestion and balance blood sugar. Coconut oil is also shown to inhibit Strep Mucans, which is one of the primary bacteria in tooth decay.
How to Oil Pull?
- Oil pulling is recommended first thing in the morning, before you brushing your teeth or drinking anything.
- You can either combine 1 tablespoons of coconut oil with a drop or two of essential oils or pre-make oil pulling chews (recipe here). I have tested every combination I could think of and prefer using coconut oil with Peppermint™ essential oil. It tastes good and feels refreshing in the mouth.
- Swish the oil around your mouth and between your teeth for 10–20 minutes (I aim for 15 minutes). Be careful not to swallow any of the oil.
- When you are swishing, allow the oil to gently penetrate your teeth. The oil should become creamier and change color
- Spit the oil out into a glass container when done. I use an old kombucha bottle. You want to avoid spitting the oil into your sink or toilet, as this can cause a buildup of oil, which may lead to clogging.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water to ensure all remaining bacteria is gone before eating or drinking anything.
- Finally, brush your teeth as normal.
Repeat a few times per week or up to three times daily. You may also want to work your way up, starting with swishing for just 5 minutes and increasing the duration until you’re able to do it for a full 15–20 minutes.
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