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Don’t Gum Up the Works: What Does Oil Pulling Do?

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Taking care of yourself in a world that hopes you won’t is radical. Right?

But it doesn’t always look the way we think it will… It doesn’t always look like self-soothing. It doesn’t always look like saying “yes” to our momentary flashes of whims that we believe will stave off discomfort. It doesn’t always look like abdicating our responsibilities when we don’t believe there’s any more gas in the tank.

Caring for your gums isn’t exactly sexy work – it definitely doesn’t feel as luxurious and decadent as wine, cheese, and a bubble bath.

Except when you consider all the favors you’re doing future-you when you care for them. Improper gum care, and downright neglect of the oral microbiome, cracks the door ajar for chronic diseases down the line.

And you know who makes the best patients? The chronically diseased. 

Remember when we said taking care of yourself was radical? That’s why. 

The problem is, most people are criminally undereducated about the microbiomes inside the human body in general, let alone how to support them.

3,000 years ago, before we had dentists, private health insurance, oral surgery, and crippling medical debt, we had oil pulling.

Or rather, Ayurvedic medicine had oil pulling. 

What Exactly Is It?

Oil pulling may sound mysterious, but it’s actually pretty straight-forward – you’re pulling gunk (made of harmful bacteria that doesn’t belong in your mouth) out of your gums by swishing with oil. 

Also called kavala and gundusha, you typically use coconut oil for its antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties (plus, it’s got vitamin E. More on that later.)

You can also use olive, sesame, sunflower, or any other kind of oil you want! But since it’s going to be in your mouth for 20 minutes, you probably want to use oil that tastes nice and does the best job. 

Put simply?

  1. Take a tablespoon of oil into your mouth.

  1. Gently swish it around for 20 minutes without swallowing any of it. Swish gently – you don’t want your jaw to lock up! Not as roughly as with mouthwash, but consistent. 

  1. Spit it into the trash when you’re through.

The reason oil pulling gained so much traction is that by primarily solving one problem – ridding the body of toxins and bad bacteria – dozens of ancillary problems get solved as well.

Think about how many ailments stem from an overgrowth of harmful flora in the oral microbiome…

Gingivitis. Periodontitis. Chronic headaches. Halitosis. Cavities. Blood infections. Tooth decay. Much more.

Without the bacteria build-up, you reduce the population that’s causing all of those problems.

How Does It Work?

The problem is, there is very little formal research done into oil pulling. Most of the evidence in favor of it is enthusiastic, anecdotal, and holistic.

S. mutans, one of the worst bacterial offenders in plaque (the film that builds up on your teeth and under your gums when you don’t make dental care a priority), gets swept away and trapped within the viscous oil as you’re swishing. When you spit it out, you spit the harmful bacteria, fungi, and microbes out with it. 

It’s recommended that you do it for 20 minutes per day, but if you’ve got to start out smaller, that’s quite alright! 

But swishing 20 minutes per day has been shown to reduce harmful bacteria quantities in as little as two weeks. The vitamin E in the coconut oil also supports gum regrowth and health.  

Now, there’s also a bevy of benefits uncorroborated by rigorous, peer review studies.

A lot of people report whiter teeth. Some say it cures hangovers. Others insist it’ll get rid of a headache. 

What it certainly does is remove plague and junk while also using the lauric acid and monolaurin in coconut oil to kill pathogens. 

Because gum disease is so destructive, difficult, and expensive to treat, trying oil pulling makes a lot of sense. 

When you think about how you can pamper your body, mind, and soul, think about how you can be proactive in preventing problems for yourself. 20 minutes every morning may go a long way!

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