You’ve probably heard of oil pulling by now, right? It’s a practice where you take a spoonful of oil and swish it around your mouth for 20 minutes in hope of getting whiter, cleaner teeth. It sounds a bit kooky at first, but it actually passes my “Does This Make Sense?” test. Think of it like this: Just how soap’s slippery properties naturally cause dirt and germs to slide off your hands, oil pulling naturally draws impurities out of your mouth. Contrast this style of cleaning with anti-bacterial hand gel or mouthwash. The latter blasts you with chemicals, and breeds super-germs. The former does not. Good deal!
Oil Pulling Beats Chemicals for People with Weary Teeth Like Mine
I’ve had just about every procedure done, from root canals to crowns. When I look at chemical whitening strips, I wince. Those are for people whose teeth have not been through what mine have. Oil pulling, in contrast, is a natural, gentle way to brighten my teeth and prevent cavities. I’m in.
Trying it Out
Because I work on an oral care startup called Boka, I got involved in a 30-day oil pulling challenge this fall. I ordered something called Cocowhite from the U.K. because it seemed like the thing all the Pretty Little Liars use on Instagram.
On day one, I opened the little packet and squeezed the unmelted coconut oil into my mouth. I felt like I was trying to eat a tube of lip balm (something that dogs and babies do often, so maybe they’re on to something). After swishing it around for a minute, it started to melt and it got easier from there. I went about my morning business, letting my dog out, doing my hair and putting on makeup. Twenty minutes went by quickly and then I spat the oil into the garbage. My mouth tasted oily, but in a beachy way. I brushed my teeth and examined what was in front of me.
The first thing I noticed was my teeth looked way whiter. I drink coffee and red wine and all that, and I would argue that the oil stripped those stains right off my teeth the first time I did it. (Sure, I put them back promptly enough, but that’s another topic.) My mouth also tasted way better all day. You know how when you drink a regular Coke, you’re like, “This is delicious!” and then ten minutes later you’re like, “My mouth tastes like a rotten apple?” This is the opposite of that.
Heating up the coconut oil in your mouth kind of sucks. I would recommend rubbing the packet between your hands if you have the single-serving oil pulling product. I eventually switched to regular coconut oil though because Cocowhite is expensive as hell. You can’t bring a jar of coconut oil with you on a plane, and I was flying all the time, so this meant I missed a day or two. You also can’t spit the coconut oil down your sink, because it will re-harden and clog your pipes, so you have to spit it into the trash. This is unpleasant because the oil, um, looks … odd in your trash. Let’s just say that.
Boka’s Affordable Product: Cocorinse
As a team, we put together the best-case-scenario for an oil pulling product that we all wished we had during the thirty days. This product would:
-Use unrefined (virgin) coconut oil, which was much more pleasant to swish
-Have just the right amount of peppermint oil, not too little or too much
-Come in small, portioned packets that you can warm in your hands and get through TSA
-Not be insanely expensive
I was amazed at how our team actually went from the idea of this product to the reality in just a couple months. I just ordered my Cocorinse packets yesterday, and I’m psyched to start oil pulling more regularly. No longer will I have to order expensive stuff from the U.K. OR scoop a spoonful out of a jar while letting my dog out in the morning. I hope that anyone who tries oil pulling will consider Cocorinse, and let me know what you think!
How to Oil Pull
1. You’re supposed to do it in the morning, before food or coffee, for 20 minutes. You can do it for as little as five though, why not?
2. Get a spoonful of oil or a packet of oil pulling product. You can try something other than coconut oil, but we did not enjoy the alternatives at all. Plus coconut oil has antibacterial properties and gum-healthy vitamin E. If you use oil from a jar, splash in one (just one) drop of peppermint oil. You can also consider heating it up in the microwave.
3. Swish while you get ready. This might be hard for people with kids, since you can’t speak. Luckily I just have a deaf dog so I can sign, “Stop barking!” at her. Maybe teach your kids the signs for TIE YOUR SHOES NOW!!!! to make it easier.
4. Spit it in the trash. (Not the toilet or the sink, unless you want to explain to your plumber why a bunch of hard coconut oil is plugging up your pipes.)
5. Rinse with water, then brush and floss as usual. (You must still brush and floss. Oil pulling does not replace these habits!)
I probably won’t oil pull every day, but I would like to do it at least once or twice a week. Midway through the 30-day challenge, I went to the dentist and told her I was oil pulling. She said that there wasn’t much science on it yet, but that there wasn’t anything worrisome about the practice so proceed as usual and let her know how it went. When she poked around in my mouth, she said, “I can’t find anything worrisome.” That’s never happened to me before, so I consider that a victory! Other oil pullers on our team had similar dental visits that month.
So I’m not here to say, “Oil pulling will cure hangovers, give you Regis Philbin-white teeth and prevent diabetes,” or anything. That said, I saw real, awesome results from doing it for thirty days straight, and I think you might too. Try it and let me know how it goes.