Oil pulling has been trending over the past few months and has received a fair share of both positive and negative buzz. For those who are unfamiliar, the process consists of spooning approximately one tablespoon of coconut oil into your mouth first thing in the morning and thoroughly swishing it around every crevice for 20 or so minutes. It’s an ancient Ayurvedic practice that benefits oral health by “pulling” (removing) the toxins and bacteria from your mouth, teeth, and gums. Many people claim that after a few consistent uses, oil pulling has left them with a whiter smile, stronger jaw muscles, better breath, and overall improved oral hygiene. Some even say that it helps improve your skin and aids in preventing acne. I will say that it’s great for gentle teeth whitening– my teeth and gums are so sensitive that using whitestrips and the like are out of the question.
Would I call oil pulling “easy” from day one? Probably not. But it’s definitely not nearly as gross or weird as many people seem to think. Since I’ve been oil pulling fairly regularly for the past couple of months or so and have received a bunch of questions, I figured I would share my experience + what I’ve learned about the process. Simply put, I typically get out of bed, swish the oil around in my mouth — ensuring to hit all sides of my teeth and gums — spit it out in the trash, and rinse out my mouth with water (it’s okay to spit into the sink this time, as long as you’ve thoroughly spit out the oil previously). Conclude with brushing your teeth …that’s it! Here’s a little breakdown of the details:
THE TASTE: Coconut oil doesn’t have much of a taste, just a sort of oil + mild coconut combination (surprise!). The consistency is what may trigger a gag reflex for some, but it’s not bad and can be quickly overcome. I’ve found that it’s best to spoon some oil into your mouth (I use just under a teaspoon) and hold it on your tongue for a few seconds until the consistency turns to liquid before you start swishing.
THE TIME COMMITMENT: I usually get out of bed, go to the kitchen, and take a spoon of the stuff immediately. I then make my bed, get back on the bed (as in sit on top of the just-made bed that I then have to re-straighten out– don’t judge me) and read blogs, schedule social media content for the day, empty the dishwasher, etc. 20 minutes goes by surprisingly quickly now, but I definitely only did 10 minutes on my first day.
THINGS TO REMEMBER: The oil solidifies when dry, so whatever you do, don’t spit it out in a sink when you’re done. The trash can is the is the way to go. And don’t swallow the stuff, it’s just gross. However, it is edible, so don’t panic if you do accidentally consume some– but that defeats the whole “removing the toxins” part.
WHERE TO BUY COCONUT OIL: I use Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, which is $5.99 at my local TJs. This one has pretty rave reviews on Amazon, but I don’t think one would be better than the other. If someone else has a favorite, do share!
THE BOTTOM LINE: Don’t worry about getting to 20 minutes the first few times you do this. Also don’t get discouraged if your jaw gets tired and you want to stop. It becomes easier after a couple of days! And whatever you do, do not spit out the coconut oil out in the sink! Like I said, I’ve noticed that my teeth are a little whiter and my mouth just feels cleaner… I can tell the difference if I haven’t oil pulled in a couple of days. I generally do it 5x a week.
So there you have it, my thoughts on oil pulling. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions and if you have any thoughts based on your own experience, I would love to hear them!
Photo + graphic by Monica Dutia for Cake & Lilies