Thoughts from a dentist on oil pulling

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Oil pulling is a very popular subject lately.  In fact, just the other night my friend Kyra sent me a message with a link to a blog post about the benefits of using coconut oil for pulling. Kyra was intrigued. And I had a renewed interest in this practice.

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You see, I first stumbled upon the concept of oil pulling when I had a toothache back in 2011. It was awful. I was in such unbearable pain, yet I was afraid to go to the dentist. I drag myself to the dentist for my regular cleanings, but I would rather be in labor & delivery than in the dentist's chair.

I hate the noises and the smells....that feeling I will gag. And I think I'd rather have another epidural than a shot of novocaine. Sounds a bit ridiculous, but it's how I feel.

When I had that toothache, I knew in my brain that I would need to visit the dentist, but I sometimes try to convince myself I can take care of the problem myself--you know, with the brilliant logic that if I can write about skincare & beauty, that surely I must be qualified to perform dental care. The things I will tell myself to avoid that dentist chair! Let's just say that I learned my lesson.

I came across a website full of testimonials on oil pulling. Dozens of people shared how they cured their toothache pain by oil pulling. I would have tried anything at that point, as it as Memorial Day weekend and the dentist wasn't even around.

I tried oil pulling with melted coconut oil for the weekend. My mouth felt REALLY clean, but the pain was intense, so I just couldn't keep trying that method given how I felt.

Eventually my pain had morphed into a swollen gum and cheek. That Tuesday when the dentist re-opened, I practically begged his receptionist to let me come in then and there.

It turns out, I had a very old filling that had come out and a crack in the tooth. It turned into an infection, so I needed antibiotics, a root canal, and a crown. Boy that was an expense!

I continued a bit more with oil pulling, but frankly didn't experience other results in those several days, so it got shifted to my "try again another time" list.

Since then, more and more mainstream websites have discussed the multiple benefits of oil pulling, which involves swishing for 20 minutes with unrefined coconut oil.

As I have continued to embrace coconut oil, I have become more interested in all of the ways I might be able to use it.  In the past year, I have lost just over 40 pounds. I ditched the wheat, refined sugars, and I added coconut oil to my diet.

I had already used it on my skin for years, as well as on the ends of my hair. Last year, I started eating about a teaspoon of it plain. I also add it to smoothies.

It really helps to melt that belly fat and it has, I believe, positively impacted my health. I always had really good cholesterol, but it went down even more -- raising the "good" and lowering the "bad" cholesterol. If I cut out the coconut oil, I sometimes plateau with my weight loss. If I add a bit more, I am always back on track.

I am interested in trying this for teeth whitening. I do not use the drugstore kits because of the ingredients and because the last time I did, I had painful sensitivity to the whitening strips. I am a tea drinker, coffee drinker, and a wine drinker, so my teeth are never a bright white.

I think I just might try it for whitening and share my results, now that I have been reading more. Hearing a dentist show her support for oil pulling also helps.



Dr. Jessica Emery, DMD is a dentist in Chicago and owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft .  She recently shared her comments on oil pulling and dental care:

"There is nothing more splendid and virtuous then unrefined coconut oil. It is a hot topic now coming back from the ancient days of tradition. 'Oil pulling' is a technique used to clean your teeth and mouth. You place a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and swish with it for up to 20 minutes. When finished make sure you spit into a trash can and not the sink as it can clog the pipes.
People swear by it, that it can fill cavities, relieve toothaches, whiten teeth, freshen breath, absorb harmful bacteria and even say it cures the common cold. From a dentist's perspective, tooth decay is caused by bacteria and studies suggest that coconut oil treated with enzymes (which is like the process that occurs when you have oil in your mouth), the enzymes in your saliva break down. It seems to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria. So a good thing. Patients that have oil pulled have said that they 'love how their mouth feels after swishing and that it lasts all day". 

They also say that tooth pain is not gone but better. Makes sense to me as we use Vitamin E oil to sooth the gums and clove oil to sooth tooth aches. They work. I have not tried oil pulling personally but think I may jump on the bandwagon to see for myself. No solid proof that it works but it certainly makes people feel better. Your cheeks may get tired but I say 'swish away'."

Have you tried oil pulling?  What are your thoughts? Did you experience any benefits?

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