There is an increasing hype around our mouths and the overall connection it has on our body or what I will call the mouth body connection. Some have even gone as far to say that oil pulling with coconut oil is becoming a household staple. The issue lies in understanding whether oil pulling with coconut oil is just a fad or something that we should all consider doing. Better yet, if just calling on your dentist for your routine teeth cleaning and cavity filling is enough.
Controversial? I’d say not.
It’s just the unknown, you know? The untold truth about a very complex organ system of our body, the mouth. Something that is so often overlooked, ignored and downright dreaded, yet plays an essential part in the health of our body, not to mention how we look and feel about ourselves.
Let’s be honest, there is nothing more worrisome than the fear of having bad breath and being scared to smile for the simple fact that you hate how your teeth look.
What if your sinus pressure, headaches and maybe even your hormonal issues stemmed directly from your mouth and the care that went into it?
What if there was an easy answer to some challenging health questions?
I think we’d all at least give it a shot with nothing to lose other than a whiter smile, finer smelling breathe and peace of mind that small changes to your day can add up big time in the lifetime of health we are striving for. So let’s get back to the question; is oil pulling just hype, a fad or is it something you must add to your daily routine?
Before we just dig in I think it is important to understand the true workings of your mouth, far beyond just the process of breaking your food down with those glorious teeth.
The Mouth-Body Connection
Your mouth is home to thousands of different types of bacteria. Some of them friendly others are definitely not. And maybe even worse is the imbalance of good to bad bacteria leading to an enormous array including the very annoying, dreaded bad breath.
While both good and bad bacteria are housed in your mouth, some of this bacteria creates a “biofilm” on the teeth. This is a thin layer that the bacteria use to adhere to the surface of your teeth, and gums. It is better known as plaque.
I generally think of plaque as the white stuff they annoyingly scrape off with the dreaded poky tool at the dentist office with such force that it feels like a tooth is about to be ripped out. Regardless, having some plaque on your teeth is normal. It’s when the plaque gets out of hand that it begins causing issues such as bad breath, yellow teeth, gum inflammation, gingivitis and cavities. A more interesting fact to this is that having a constantly moist mouth helps to prevent some plaque build-up, while dry-mouth or what is also referred to as being a “mouth breather” creates a dry environment, allowing more bacteria to build up.
While our natural defense to bad bacteria is simply good oral hygiene from brushing to flossing and even tongue scraping, when this is inadequate it can lead to bacteria build up. When this bacteria reaches certain levels it will begin leading to oral infections, tooth decay and gum disease.
The unfortunate part is that I can assume that 90% of us would admit we have good oral hygiene brushing at least once a day and flossing most. The grim reality and one that I am personally faced with is 70% (including myself) have been brushing and flossing wrong our entire lives, leading to the unfortunate plaque build-up, bleeding gums, cavities which only lead to more things, the unspeakables as I call them, root canals, bridges and crowns.
Lets be real…
Even if we do have good oral hygiene, if other factors are off including our diet, use of nicotine, drugs or alcohol, medication and just having an overgrowth of fungus and bacteria it is going to be hard to ward off the snowball effect of inflammation and disease that corresponds to poor oral hygiene. As mentioned earlier, this is known as the mouth-body connection.
You see, saliva is a great indicator of our overall health. If we have too much or not enough, the color, consistency and taste can all be indicators that an imbalance is happening and something needs to be dealt with.
If there is an issue with our saliva it prevents it from doing its job, which is the starting point of good oral health even before brushing and flossing. We say this because saliva is always present and always working. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
If we lack saliva health and good dentistry we risk developing or furthering various diseases and conditions including:
- Endocarditits – Infection of the inner lining of your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease – Leading to build-up and inflammation of your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Pregnancy – Can be seen in premature births and low-birth weight babies.
- Diabetes – Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels.
- Osteoporotsis – This can be found often following periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
- Alzheimers Disease – There is a correlation between tooth loss before age 35 as an increased risk factor for Alzheimers disease
- Sjorgren’s Syndrome – Which is an immune disorder that causes dry mouth and eating disorders.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A better analogy so we get a clear picture of what can happen is if you imagine having a garbage dump right next to the river. As the dump fills up it begins spilling over into the river only for the river to carry the waste downstream creating a toxic grounds not just in one area but in all areas. If we take this and imagine our mouth being the trash dump and our bloodstream the river. You can now begin to see how your mouth can be a breeding ground for bad bacteria, toxins, fungus all of which can end up getting dumped all over your body.
I cautiously say that I would guess most of us take our teeth for granted. Sure we brush and floss (well some of the time) and we know of course that teeth are essential for chewing our food and of course for maintaining a beautiful smile. But when we get a cavity or a diagnosis of gum disease that might culminate in root canals or tooth loss, we seldom think of these problems as posing permanent risks to our health and vitality.
We simply don’t put the same importance on our dental heath as we do on the health of our vital organs.
This perspective is changing.
We are changing and the way we do dentistry is changing.
What Good Oral Health Requires
Good oral health requires more than just brushing, flossing and heading to the dentist for your yearly check-up. It means a culmination of things including eating nutritious foods, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, controlling blood pressure, finding a dentist who looks at dentistry as more than just your typical cavity filling, root canal, flossing champion, as well as of course daily brushing.
And now we must mention oil pulling.
What is Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an ancient remedy that was used before the days of toothbrushes and toothpaste (or what we know of them today) as a means for good oral health. It involves the use of pure oils as agents for pulling harmful bacteria, fungus and other organisms out of the mouth, teeth, gums and even throat.
Health Benefits of Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil
While there have only been about seven research studies to-date on the benefits of oil pulling, all of them have shown the benefits of this therapy.
Besides for pulling the bacteria and preventing it from sticking to the walls of the oral cavity, it helps reduce fungal overgrowth in the mouth, improved cellular restructure which is related to proper lymph nodes and other internal organs. Additionally it has been found to:
- Strengthen the teeth, gums and jaw
- Prevent disease of the gums and mouth such as cavities and gingivitis
- Prevention of bad breath
- Potential holistic remedy for bleeding gums
- Prevention of dryness of the lips, mouth and throat
- Possible holistic treatment for general soreness in the jaw area
- Prevents heart disease
- Reduces inflammation
- Whitens teeth
- Soothes throat dryness
- Heals cracked lips
- Boosts immune system
- Improves acne
To top it off most believe that oil pulling can reduce more than just diseases of the mouth and throat. It is believed that these oils help the lymphatic system of the body to remove harmful bacteria and give beneficial microflora a healthier environment to flourish.
Some going as far to say that they have found these symptoms decrease when oil pulling:
- Migraine headache relief
- Correcting hormone imbalances
- Reducing inflammation of arthritis
- Reduce pain of gastroenteritis
- Aids in reduction of eczema
- May reduce symptoms of bronchitis
- Helps support kidney function
- May help reduce sinus congestion
- Reported improved vision
- Reduce insomnia
- Aids in reducing pain
- Reduces symptoms of allergies
- Helps detoxify the body of harmful metals and organisms
How-To Oil Pull
It really is a pretty simple, quick and easy addition to our oral health routine. Although it may take a few days to get used to and you closing your eyes as you spoon oil into your mouth, the benefits are well worth it.
- Just place a rounded tablespoon of cold pressed organic coconut oil into your mouth (or buy these pre-made packets), swishing the oil and pulling it gently between your teeth for 10-20 minutes. You may have to work up to the 20 minute mark as this can take some time to get used to. (If you are new to oil pulling with coconut oil, just shoot for 5 minutes and increase as you can).
- Make sure when you are finished you spit out the oil in the trash (it will clog your sink) making sure not to swallow it.
- Immediately following, rinse with warm water or warm salt water to increase antimicrobial effects, swish and spit.
- Brush your teeth as normal.
- Aim to complete this process 3-5 times per week.
NOTE: Most reference oil pulling with coconut oil first thing in the morning on an empty stomach before food or water. While I didn’t find any true research on this philosophy, logically I believe it is because your teeth are at the perfect moistness to allow for the most benefit from the pulling. But don’t let this stop you. If you can’t pull until you hop in the car on your way to work or during your shower know that doing it is better than skipping it.
Why Coconut Oil
Most of the research around oil pulling is actually done with sesame oil (cultural thing) or olive oil. While it doesn’t matter what type of oil, it does matter that you use a very high quality oil. I would suggest looking for cold-pressed, unfiltered, organic if possible.
I personally have chosen this coconut oil and generally recommend it for a number of reasons. One, because it doesn’t have any flavor like the others and two, because of the number of health benefits coconut oil has demonstrated including:
- Balance hormones
- Kill candida
- Improve digestion
- Moisturize skin
- Reduce cellulite
- Decrease wrinkles and age spots
- Balance blood sugar and improve energy
- Improve Alzheimers
- Increased HDL and lower LDL cholesterol
- Burn fat
Should You Try It?
YES! I definitely think that oil pulling with coconut oil is highly valuable to all of us and better yet, relatively simple to add to your daily routine. Because you are using food grade oils and spitting out the toxins it is known to be safe in children, pregnant and lactating women.
The question becomes, can you commit to it? Once you try it for at least one week leave a comment below and let me know what your experience is and if you think you will continue with this practice.
If nothing else, we can all sleep well tonight knowing that our teeth will be just a little whiter and our breath fresher in the morning.
TD Anand, C Pothiraj, RM Gopinath, et al. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria (PDF). African Journal of Microbiology Research, Vol 2:3 pp 63-66, MAR 2008. (PDF Link)
HV Amith, Anil V Ankola, L Nagesh. Effect of Oil Pulling on Plaque and Gingivitis. Journal of Oral Health & Community Dentistry: 2007; 1(1):Pages 12-18
S Thaweboon, J Nakaparksin, B Thaweboon. Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models. Asia Journal of Public Health: 2011 May-Aug. (PDF)