Posted: Jun 09, 2014 9:00 AM
Proponents of oil pulling claim all sorts of benefits, from whiter teeth to better sleep. The technique seems like a no-brainer, but are the benefits of oil pulling worth 20 minutes of slippery mouth swishing?

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is a method of detoxing the body through the mouth. The Ayurvedic method uses one to two tablespoons of oil — you can choose the type — and 15 to 20 minutes of your day to "pull" the toxins from your body into the oil. Oil pulling detoxifies through a method that involves a slow swishing of oil through the teeth, almost like a very slow mouthwash swish. Oil pullers need to be careful not to swallow the oil, so the toxins and bacteria aren't re-ingested. Pulled oil must be spit into the garbage, not the sink or any drain, because many oils solidify once they're out of the mouth.

Benefits of oil pulling

Ask around, and you'll hear that oil pulling will help balance your body in a variety of ways.

  • Teeth whitening
  • Decrease in teeth sensitivity
  • Prevention of bad breath
  • Sinus relief
  • Migraine relief
  • Improvement in sleep/decrease in insomnia symptoms
  • Reduction in inflammation, such as arthritis
  • Pain relief
  • Relief for hangover symptoms
  • Better and deeper sleep

30 Days of oil pulling

Since oil pulling really only requires the oil and a few minutes of time each day, I committed to 30 days of trying the method. I went into the experiment with an open mind, unsure of what to expect. I have minor sinus issues and teeth sensitivity. My sleep habits are a joke, but unless oil pulling could convince my kids to sleep better — or my lifelong night owl tendencies to cease — I doubted I'd see much improvement there. I chose to use organic coconut oil, in part because I like the way it smells more than sesame oil, which was the other one I considered.

My experience with oil pulling

The first moment I scooped a tablespoon of coconut oil into my mouth, I wasn't sure I'd make it past 30 seconds of "pulling." The taste was overwhelmingly coconut-flavored, but that faded after a few swishes, leaving only a hint of flavor. The texture as the oil moved from solid to liquid form almost had me giving up on my 30-day oil pulling experiment before my first day was finished. My second problem was I found myself swishing furiously instead of "pulling" the oil through my teeth — which is exhausting after a minute or two.

I soon found myself looking forward to the pulling. There were days I tried to multitask, but oil pulling, lunch packing and email checking while hurrying the kids to get ready for school didn't work. I enjoyed pausing just to concentrate on the gentle movement — and not swallowing the oil — even on days when I found myself cutting my 15 minutes to 12 or 10 because something in the house required attention.

Bottom Line^

I missed a few days during my month of oil pulling, and I shifted the time of day from morning to night depending on how rushed I was in the morning. I didn't really notice any whitening in my teeth, but with the amount of coffee I drink regularly, I didn't expect miracles. The sensitivity in my teeth decreased, which is a lovely benefit as it gets warmer outside and my beverages get more chilled.

I noticed an improvement in my sinus pressure, but it's difficult to know for sure if that can be attributed to the oil pulling because of the changes in weather. I won't become a die-hard oil pulling convert, but it's something I'll keep in mind if my teeth start bothering me or I notice other mouth pain.

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