"This oral therapy is a type of Ayurvedic medicine [a traditional Indian system] that dates back 3,000 years," says Jessica T. Emery, DMD, owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft in Chicago. "It involves swishing approximately 1 tablespoon of oil -- typically coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil -- in your mouth for about 20 minutes and then spitting it out."
Recommended Related to Oral HealthIf your eyes are the window to your soul, then your mouth is a mirror of your health. Although that idea may seem farfetched, health experts believe that good oral health care does more than prevent tooth decay and gum disease. "Any disease related to the mouth has an impact elsewhere in the body," says Denis F. Kinane, BDS, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Researchers are studying the association between oral health, inflammation, and disease. Inflammation, which is the...
Unlike some so-called natural home remedies, it's not a practice that's based on pseudo-science. Recent studies show that oil pulling helps against gingivitis, plaque, and microorganisms that cause bad breath How? "Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell," Emery says. "Cells are covered with a lipid, or fatty, membrane, which is the cell's skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other."
Oil-Pulling TipsUse coconut oil. While you can get the same bacteria-fighting benefits with sesame or sunflower oil, coconut oil has the added benefit of lauric acid, which is well-known for its anti-microbial agents, Emery says, making it more effective. Also, a recent study found that coconut oil may help prevent tooth decay.
Continue reading below... Start with just 5 minutes a day. Twenty minutes of swishing is a long time, and while the longer you pull, the more bacteria you'll remove, 5 or 10 minutes will still offer some benefit. Also, if your jaw starts aching a few minutes in, slow down. "Don't work too hard," Emery says. "A gentle swishing, pushing, and sucking the oil through the teeth is all that's required."
Don't swallow. "If you find it hard not to, you likely have too much oil in your mouth," Emery says. "Spit it out and try again with a smaller amount." Also, don't spit it down the sink, as the oil could clog your pipes. Just discard the used oil into the nearest trash can.