Oil Pulling - Herbal Mouth Care

For the last 6 months I've had this terrible tooth.  It's become super sensitive to temperature changes and ever the do-it-myselfer I began researching herbal mouth care.  Several years ago a friend of mine, now an Ayurvedic practitioner, recommended oil pulling to me for my sensitive gums and at the time it seemed like a ritual I didn't have space or time for.  During my research though, oil pulling continued to surface as a method to help the gums heal and promote tooth + mouth health.  It's said that things come to us when we're ready to hear them, and I certainly need to hear things a couple times sometimes!!

Having all the ingredients on hand, I immediately mixed up a small batch of oil.  I combined unrefined organic sesame oil with a custom blend of essential oils to promote gum and tooth health and dedicated 5 minutes each morning to swishing (which quickly turned into 10-15).  At first the feel of the oil in my mouth was a bit uncomfortable and I salivated a lot (I may have added a little too much), which resulted in a very full mouth after 2-3 minutes.  But, determined, I spent the next morning swishing a smaller swig of oil while I made coffee and checked my e-mails.  Ahh, still a bit of excess salivation, but I was much more comfortable.  I've been doing this every morning for the last 2 weeks and my mouth feels great!!  I've worked up to 15 minutes and it's one of my favorite morning rituals now!!  I can take this time to sit quietly, think about my day, and enjoy the sunrise.  Plus, that pesky sensitive tooth has stopped yelling so loud (not that I shouldn't still get it checked out), and I feel like not as much plaque builds up on my teeth throughout the day and my breath is fresher.  I'm hooked! 

What does oil pulling do?  Let's explore the wisdom of the Internets.  WebMD shares that recent studies show that oil pulling for 20 minutes a day can help prevent against gingivitis, plaque buildup and halitosis.  Oil pulling works under the principle that like dissolves like.  Oil naturally attracts and binds with other oils -- so, because cells contain a lipid bilayer as part of their cellular wall, swishing the mouth with oil captures bacterial cells and suspends them in the oil.  If you've gotten at all into the new craze of washing your face with oil instead of soap, it's the same principle.  Like dissolves like.  

Why 20 minutes?  It's generally recommended that starting out you begin with 5 minutes, to get a feel for it and work your way up to 20 minutes.  The longer the oil is swished around the mouth and pulled between the teeth, the more bacteria are collected, but 20 minutes is the amount of time that's been found effective before the bacteria begin getting reabsorbed back into your system.  

What do I do with the oil when I'm done?  If you've got a compost container going, go ahead and spit it in there!  If you don't, why not!!  What's stopping ya from starting one now?!  Seriously though, if you don't have a compost bin, spit the oil out in the garbage can.  You don't want the oil to go down the drain and clog things up.  You also don't want to swallow the oil.  Bleh.  

What oil do I use?  Great question!!  There are many oils that you can use.  The most popular are sesame, coconut, olive, and sunflower oils.  I chose to use sesame oil because I have an abundance of it and love it's subtle flavor.  However a lot of folks choose coconut for the added antibacterial actions it naturally possesses.

If you are considering mixing essential oils into your oil for pulling, use small amounts.  Essential oils are very concentrated and can easily cause sensitivities and reactions.  The blend I used was comprised of peppermint, helichrysum, clove, cinnamon, myrrh and frankincense.  Frankincense and myrrh are two of my favorite herbs and I used them here to help protect my gums.  Clove, frankincense, myrrh and peppermint oils both help alleviate pain and support healthy tissues.  Cinnamon oil helps freshen the breath.  All of these oils are supportive for oral health when used appropriately.  

Have fun exploring the world of oil pulling and making up your own mind as to whether it works for you or not!  I'll look forward to hearing about your experiences!