Most mornings I rinse my mouth out with oil. Let me say it again: I rinse my mouth with oil. It's the fourth thing I do after awaking and is preceded by snuggling with Brian, petting my dog, and removing my mouthguard. I do it for my health. I've been doing it for years now.
As it is beyond habit into a full blown lifestyle practice, I don't think about it much. Or at least I didn't until I attended a yoga retreat this past weekend with a sub-theme of Ayurveda running through it. Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. In Sanskrit, it means the knowledge (veda) of life (ayur). It is the healing and thriving modality of India incorporating so much more than a medical system. It is thousands of years ancient. I won't go much into it beyond that because I could dedicate this whole blog to Ayurveda and never run out of content.
As its history is closely related to the history of yoga, I studied it a bit in my yoga teacher trainings, and it keeps coming back to me, knocking on the door, and providing guidance, especially when Western medicine just shoves a pill at me and tells me it's in my head. Ayurveda does not ask about symptoms, it asks how is your constitution? Is something out of balance? Are you moving through the world respecting the seasons, the elements, and your body's own rhythms?
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic practice. Traditionally, it is done with sesame oil (though the oil that is right for you depends on your constitution). Before I have swallowed anything, while the accumulated bacteria from sleeping is still festering in mouth, I sip and swish a tablespoon of organic unrefined expeller pressed sesame oil created by unicorns (I might be exaggerating about the unicorns). It whirls around my mouth like a vacuum picking up the unwanted bacteria. Scroll down for instructions and tips for oil pulling.
When I first told my dental technician I was doing this, she was very skeptical. When I returned six months later for a scheduled cleaning, she confessed I inspired her to read about oil pulling and its benefits.
Benefits of Oil Pulling:
- It's good for the whole body. Not only are you detoxifying your mouth when you do this, but because you are cleaning the area of the body where most germs enter, you are preventing future illnesses. As someone who is thriving with autoimmune disease, I'm up for anything that keeps me from getting sick!
- It boosts your pearly whites. That's right, oil pulling has been shown to whiten teeth.
- It's good for your skin because you are removing bacteria that causes rashes and inflammation of our largest organ. Many people report improved skin health when committing to a regular oil pulling practice.
- Improves oral health. It reduces gingivitis and tooth decay, improves gums, and can reduce cavities.
I have a health coaching client who practiced oil pulling as part of the health practices she created in my coaching program. After a few months of oil pulling, she went to the dentist, an appointment she always hated, and it said it was the best dental exam of her entire life!
If you are interested in trying it for yourself, let's get started.
Step by Step Instructions for Oil Pulling:
- Choose your oil and store it in a cool dark place. Sesame is traditional for Ayurveda. You cannot go wrong with either sesame, coconut, or olive oil that is organic, virgin, and cold pressed. Coconut oil is very trendy right now, and it has anti-viral properties. As it is solid at room temperature and the other oils are not, I found that it triggered my very sensitive gag reflex. Do with this information what you will.
- It must be done first thing in the morning so the oil is most effective in capturing the accumulated bacteria in the mouth. To successfully incorporate it into your morning routine, insert it after something you already do like going to bathroom, getting out of bed, etc. Don't swallow or drink water before oil pulling.
- Place approximately one tablespoon of your chosen oil in your mouth and proceed to swish it around for upwards of five minutes without swallowing it. The more you move it around the entirety of your mouth, the more nasty unwanted gunk you'll remove. The oil becomes viscous and opaque as you do this.
- Spit it out. Do not, under any circumstances, spit it out in your sink. This is a recipe for a clogged sink. I've found it fine to spit it out in the toilet mostly because I am using sesame oil which is liquid at room temperature. Other people recommend spitting it out in a trash can lined with a sturdy, non-porous trash bag.
- Brush your teeth using your toothpaste of choice with a toothbrush specifically to be used for oil pulling. In other words, have two toothbrushes, one for regular use, and one for using after oil pulling. Why? Even though you just oil pulled, there will be some residual bacteria contaminated oil in your mouth and it may end up on the toothbrush. Net, you don't want to be brushing your teeth at night and reinserting bacteria you removed in the morning. Also, you'll want to clean your oil pulling toothbrush regularly.
- Feel your awesome clean teeth with your tongue, give yourself a high five, and go share your smile with the world (it needs that smile, dammit!).