I'm one of those weirdos who loves going to the dentist.
I floss religiously, brush twice a day without fail, and can't stand having anything stuck in my teeth. So when we first started kicking around the idea of oil pulling at Thrive HQ, I was intrigued. I'm willing to try (almost) anything that promises extra shiny pearly whites.
Disclaimer: If you can't stand greasy food, or you have a sensitive gag reflex, this Ayurvedic practice might not be for you. In fact, another editor–who shall remain nameless–was originally assigned to try oil pulling, but her first attempt wasn't so pretty (read: she threw up). Understandably, she didn't want to continue the experiment, so I volunteered my own set of teeth.
It wasn't hard to get the hang of it—the idea behind oil pulling is so simple, you'll wonder if that's really all you need to do for whiter teeth, fresher breath, and to eliminate toxins from your mouth. Take 1 tablespoon of sesame, sunflower, or coconut oil and swish it around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, and very carefully, spit all the oil out. Make sure not to spit it down the drain, though—oil can stop up your pipes and leave you desperate for a plumber. Afterwards, floss and brush teeth normally.
With this advice in hand, I set out to oil pull for the first time. I gave it three days—in the interest of the experiment, of course.
Most people recommend oil pulling first thing in the morning because this is when your mouth is usually filled with the most bacteria, but truthfully, I woke up and totally forgot. So, before bed, I grabbed a spoon and some coconut oil.
My first thought upon putting the oil in my mouth was...huh. I used the coconut oil straight out of the fridge, so it had hardened, and took a few minutes to melt in my mouth. I didn't love the sensation.
Once the oil melted, though, I was okay with it. Coconut oil doesn't have much flavor. Texturally, the longer you swish the coconut oil in your mouth, the thicker the oil becomes. Some say that's because of the toxins released by oil pulling. Whatever made the oil so thick, it was a little funky, so I distracted myself by watching Friends.
Once I spit out the used oil in the trash (gross, I know), I flossed and brushed my teeth. Overall, my teeth felt nice and smooth—maybe a bit cleaner than usual.
Because I messed up the first day, I ended up oil pulling on Day Two about 10 hours after my first experience the night before.
This time wasn't so easy. Maybe because I wasn't fully awake, I accidentally swallowed a tiny bit of the oil and started to gag. It wasn't a pleasant experience.
I tried oil pulling with melted oil this time around, and it was much better not to have to wait for it to melt, and the texture stayed more consistent the whole time. After flossing and brushing again, my choppers were looking—and feeling—pretty great.
My final day of oil pulling actually went the best. By now, I knew to start with melted oil, and this time, I tried to relax as much as possible. I could feel my jaw and neck tense up the first few times, and making a conscious effort to release these muscles actually made the whole experience more enjoyable. I was even able to start getting dressed and make my bed while swishing the oil around my mouth.
After flossing and brushing, I couldn't see any marked difference in my teeth since the beginning of the experiment. A longer trial would probably make a bigger difference, but I don't feel particularly excited about keeping up the whole oil-in-the-mouth charade.
The verdict? I probably won't be adding it to my daily routine. Fifteen minutes is a long time to hold oil in your mouth, and my stomach is just too queasy to deal with any issues about accidentally swallowing oil infused with the toxins and impurities that it's drawn out from my body.
That said, my teeth did feel especially clean while I was oil pulling. With a little more practice, I think I could get more comfortable with oil pulling and maybe try it daily. For the time being, though, I think I'll stick to my trusty floss and toothpaste.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont