A bright, white smile is the key to a flawless, youthful face. And while there are so many different treatments out there now which can help you achieve a glimmering smile, many are loaded with chemicals and other ingredients that can weaken your enamel — not to mention, they can cost a pretty penny. What can we say, oral care is complicated. Luckily, Ayurveda — the Indian sister science of yoga — has a more sustainable solution that’s actually good for your teeth: Oil pulling.
The benefits of oil pulling are many, so prepare to be amazed. Not only will this ritual whiten your teeth, but it can actually totally transform your oral health. That’s right. Adding this one step to your daily oral hygiene routine can ward off cavities, and even give you better breath and healthier gums! Read on to find out how.
What is oil pulling?
The Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling is based on the idea that our oral cavity is filled with bacteria which influence our oral health as well as our digestion and excretion. Ayurveda suggests that the bacteria in our mouth, similar to the bacteria in our gut, helps our bodies to understand the food we are consuming so it can prepare to digest that food once we swallow it with the proper microbes and enzymes. In addition, Ayurveda states that the tongue works with our excretory organs, meaning what we excrete toxins and waste through it. So when you wake up in the morning with that white icky film on your tongue, it’s understood that this film — traditionally called “ama” meaning “undigested” in Sanskrit — could be reabsorbed by the body if measures aren’t taken to eliminate it.
Similarly, more recent studies have shown that the flora in the oral cavity is important to digestion and oral health. Unhealthy oral bacteria leads to health problems like cavities, plaque buildup, and tooth decay. Oil pulling, however, is one way to prevent these issues as it encourages the removal of unhealthy bacteria while promoting the growth of good bacteria and a pH-balanced mouth. So how do you pull oil, anyway?
How to Do Ayurvedic Oil Pulling
Well, much like rinsing your mouth with mouthwash, oil pulling is done in the same way — just with oil. To oil pull, all you have to do is take ½ to two teaspoons of coconut oil (or another oil like sesame or sunflower oil) and swish it around your mouth for anywhere between five and twenty minutes.
The process may seem a little gross at first — it definitely was for me. Luckily, there are companies out there that make Ayurvedic pulling oils infused with mint and other herbs if you’d like to give that a try, rather than using plain old coconut oil. Try this one or this one from Banyan Botanicals ($16.99, Amazon), or this one from Dale Audrey ($14.95, Amazon).
If you’re having trouble swishing the oil in your mouth for a long time, start with five minutes, and you’ll be able to gradually increase the time as you get used to it. Personally, I like to oil pull while I’m in the shower so that I don’t have to allow more time for this step in my daily routine.
Oil pulling should be done after brushing your teeth, never before. You’ll want to let the oil stay in your mouth afterward to keep the pH of the mouth balanced and reap the benefits of the practice.
Try to swish the oil around your mouth in differing motions, side to side between your cheeks and forward and back through your teeth, breathing through the nose. When you're done, make sure to spit your oil into a trash can, as it can cause clogging in drains and toilets.
Oh, and another benefit of oil pulling: it’s great for the muscles in your face! I’ve noticed that a few weeks after starting my oil pulling practice, the muscles in my jaw were so much more relaxed! Now that’s a happy smile.
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