Oil Swishing To Support Healthy Teeth and Gums
Dr. Ben Kim, Guest
A while back, a colleague in northern California told me that he had started to ask most of his patients to practice “oil swishing” to support healthy teeth and gums.
Oil swishing – sometimes called oil pulling – is a simple Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing about one tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes once daily, typically in the morning.
Some practitioners feel that oil swishing has systemic effects and can actually help remove toxins from the body, thereby supporting all organ systems. I don’t have enough experience with oil swishing to have an opinion on this, but in trying oil swishing with a handful of clients over the past year, I can definitely vouch for its ability to reduce plaque, support healthy gums, and neutralize acids that contribute to dental cavities.
In experimenting with oil swishing, I have found that I strongly prefer coconut oil over sesame and extra virgin olive oil. I prefer the pure white of coconut oil over coloured oils, as my guess is that long term swishing with coloured oils may contribute to staining. But the bigger reason is that I find that coconut oil leaves my mouth feeling refreshed after 15 to 20 minutes of swishing, whereas swishing with other oils that have a higher percentage of unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids tends to leave me feeling like I had something slightly rancid in my mouth.
Most practitioners, including my friend in California, have their clients swish with oil first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. They believe that this allows for optimal systemic effects. I follow this practice, but I also like to oil swish a second time later in the day, typically after dinner, as my primary goal in oil swishing is to help keep my teeth and gums free of natural food acids.
If you’re not sure about what type of oil to use, you can experiment to see which one feels best for you. Feel free to review my guide on choosing healthy oils, which explains how varying percentages of the three main classes of fatty acids found in oils affect their stability when exposed to air, heat, and light.
The virgin coconut oil that I have used for many years can be found at the following pages:
Please note that our virgin coconut oil is different than most coconut oil that is made via fermentation and with heat. Our coconut oil is made by grating fresh coconut meat into pure coconut milk, and then by centrifuging this coconut milk until the oil has separated out of it. This process allows for the best overall nutritional value, aroma, and texture.
If you can’t oil swish for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, even just a minute or thereabouts should help neutralize food acids in your mouth, thereby reducing your risk of developing cavities.
If your coconut oil is solid, it’s fine to scoop a spoonful into your mouth, as the oil will turn to liquid within a few seconds – coconut oil is liquid above 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
Though I find that most people do well swishing with one flat tablespoon of coconut oil per session, it’s fine to use less than this – you should go with whatever amount is comfortable for you.
Once you are finished swishing, it’s best to discard the oil and brush your teeth as you normally would.
Though I don’t know the long term effects of oil swishing on amalgam and other types of fillings, I haven’t heard of anyone who oil swishes regularly having trouble with loose fillings. If you have any doubt about the integrity of your fillings, it’s best to have a dentist evaluate them; it may also be prudent to oil swish just a few times a week, perhaps every other day.
This article first appeared on www.drbenkim.com.
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