For most of us, brushing our teeth is our main form of oral hygiene. Some go that extra mile and include flossing and gargling with store-bought mouthwash.
The oral cavity comprises the teeth, the gums and the tongue. Therefore, the health of your mouth not only depends on the cleanliness of your teeth, but also on your tongue and gums. Brushing alone cannot remove fine particles between the teeth and within the mouth.
Oil-pulling is an Ayurvedic practice in which you gargle a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for between 5 and 20 minutes before spitting it out. Traditionally, coconut oil is used because of its antibacterial properties,but if you don’t like the taste and/or smell of it, sesame or olive oil can be used as a replacement. While gargling, try to swish the oil between your teeth too. This swishing action is what ‘pulls’ out the dirt and toxins in your mouth and in between your teeth.
Ayurveda advises oil gargling to purify the entire system, as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organs such as the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon and spine, similarly to reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine (Asokan S. Oil Pulling Therapy. Indian J Dent Res. 2008:169). Oil pulling not only helps in maintaining the cleanliness and health of the oral cavity but also many other parts of the body!
The benefits of oil pulling include:
Oil pulling is also an effective way to keep the oral cavity clean when one is experiencing conditions such as mouth ulcers, gum sensitivity or any other condition where it hurts to exert pressure in the mouth.
If you are new to oilpulling, it may be a bit awkward to gargle with oil for an extended period of time. Don’t worry too much about that. You can start out with gargling for 5 minutes and gradually add on to that time frame when you feel like it. A tablespoon of oil may not seem like much, but the amount of liquid in your mouth will definitely increase because the gargling process draws out saliva too. Minute dirt particles and toxins will be drawn out of the oral cavity and ‘added’ to that mixture, so be careful not to swallow!
When you finally spit everything out, it will look like a milky-white fluid. It is preferable to spit into a trash bin and not a sink, because the oil may solidify and clog up the drainage system. You may choose to line your trash bin with old newspapers or some other absorbent material beforehand. If you have no other option other than to spit into the sink, you can pour hot water down the sink regularly so that the oil will liquefy.