Oral care is typically thought of as a chore, an afterthought, or something we rush through mindlessly while halfway out the door for work or before our heads hit the pillow at night. When defining practices of self-care, it’s certainly at the bottom of the list—far behind restful sleep, luxurious face masks, and green juices galore. But we think that’s about to change.
All the fabulous balms and lip kits in the world will certainly beautify our pouts, but won’t keep our pearly whites glossy or our breath fresh. That’s why we’re sharing the benefits of oil pulling. It’s an ancient Ayurvedic practice that dates back 5,000 years, and for good reason. It’s refreshing, it addresses different parts of the mouth, and Dr. Sands, a celebrity dentist, is a fan.
In Ayurveda, oil pulling is thought to have a detoxifying effect, literally pulling oil-soluble toxins out of the body through the delicate blood vessels in your mouth’s soft tissues. While this theory hasn’t undergone rigorous testing, this study does acknowledge that our mouths harbor billions of organisms, and that “some of these contribute to the development or progression of systemic diseases.” And since oil pulling has zero negative side effects, we can’t think of a reason not to incorporate this meditative, hygienic tool.
Oil pulling itself is the act of swishing a tablespoon or so of oil in your mouth for an extended period of time, giving a little extra love to pushing it through your molars and massaging your gums with the oil. Dr. Sands’ top choice is coconut oil for its antimicrobial properties, but sesame, sunflower, and even olive oil can be used in a pinch as well. Coconut is certainly the most refreshing in terms of nuanced flavor, in our opinion, but don’t spit it in the sink or toilet. It hardens in minimally cool temps, which is bad news for your plumbing.
While it’s a fairly simple routine, there are some dos and don’ts. For starters, it’s not an anytime, anywhere pick-me-up, but rather a ritualistic practice to be scheduled into your mornings or evenings, and on an empty stomach. The easiest way to fit it in? The second you wake up. Face it, there is some business you need to take care of, er, immediately after you arise. Why not jumpstart the 15-20 minutes of swish time so you can multitask?
Dr. Sands notes that it’s preferable to oil pull before brushing, flossing, or rinsing of any kind, so that you can loosen up any bacteria, toxins, and plaque in preparation for your normal oral cleansing routine. You’ll notice a few immediate results from this practice, including a “decrease in bad breath [and the risk of] gingivitis and cavities.” Dr. Sands also mentions that oil pulling can be just “as effective in reducing gingivitis as the commonly prescribed chlorhexidine,” which is a compound that can cause staining, irritation, or dry mouth, so we’ll take this homeopathic alternative as a major win.
Dr. Sands notes that oil pulling is helpful for the surface, meaning you can’t reverse deeply rooted cavities solely through the oil pulling practice, but it can prevent existing cavities from getting worse and new ones from forming. It’s also thought to be anti-aging for the gums and teeth, and it soothes and heals injuries on the soft tissues of the mouth. If you’ve never thought of an anti-aging game plan for your mouth until now, picture the alternative. It’s not pretty.
We went ahead and made a little dossier of our favorite coconut oil brands, including some convenient—and even flavored—individual packets made just for the practice. Swish, spit, repeat.