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Coconut Oil Pulling: Healthy or Hype?

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Ray Potts
Collegiate Staff

Ray Potts

KelapoCoconutWhen it comes to trying non-traditional health and medicinal products, I’m usually skeptical. Most of these “magical cures” are scams, not scientifically proven, or are actually unhealthy. Recently I’ve been seeing articles and shared links on my Facebook newsfeed about celebrities and bloggers trying something called “oil pulling.” Just when I thought this trend was contained only to the internet, my roommate Josh (who’s always more willing to try alternative health practices than I am) started “oil pulling” and talking my ear off about the supposed health benefits.

Most of the time I would ignore something that appears to be medically trendy. “Alternative medicine” to me is like “alternative engineering” or “alternative chemistry”; if you’re trying things that have been scientifically disproven and testing them out, things will get ugly. But after reading the stories of people who’ve tried it and found zero harmful side effects, I decided I should try this for myself.

“Oil Pulling” is a folk medicine technique from India. It is rather simple; take one tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil and swish it around in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, then spit out the oil. This is where the term “oil pulling” comes from; all the oil swishing around your mouth is meant to “pull” bacteria and other harmful substances off your teeth, gums and tongue. There are speculations that swishing the oil around pulls toxins from your bloodstream, but this is rather far-fetched since your gums are not major areas that filter toxins out of your bloodstream (like your liver), but are intake areas, so it may help reduce incoming toxins. More realistic claims are natural teeth whitening, reducing gingivitis and cavities, reducing halitosis (bad breath), and possible acne reduction.

Although there is plenty of information on the internet about oil pulling (mostly from health blogs and holistic websites), actual studies with peer reviewed scientific data are rare. I was also unable to get a medical or dental professional’s input on the subject, since “oil pulling” has not been fully researched. This did not discourage me, since coconut oil is non-toxic.

Coconut oil already is known to have many great uses for your skin; as a moisturizer, natural tanning oil, and even for shaving. But for your dental health? Could I actually get whiter teeth, reduce the risks of cavities, and have fresher breath? If I had perfect dental health, more girls would want to talk to me, right? With that in mind, I had to test this out for myself.

The first day I tried this I took one tablespoon of coconut oil when I woke up. The consistency of coconut when its cooled is like a waxy butter, so I waited for it to liquefy before swishing. This was a little hard at first, mainly because oil is a lot thicker than water or mouthwash, so it got a little tiring after 10 minutes. Some people have been known to gag from the feel of the oil, but the sweet and rich flavor helped out so I didn’t experience this problem. After 20 minutes I spit out the oil in the trash (do not pour any oil down a drain), washed out the remaining oil with warm water, then did my normal brushing routine. I initially didn’t notice anything, but I didn’t expect to.

Coconut oil pulling, a fold medicine treatment, can be beneficial for dental health.
Coconut oil pulling, a fold medicine treatment, can be beneficial for dental health.

On the second day, and the following 10 days, it was much easier to get used to the oil swishing around my mouth. Many people have reported having a “detox” headache after the first 3 days, but luckily I didn’t have this. The first 10 days I started seeing some noticeable changes to my teeth. I don’t have the whitest teeth, but I did notice that my teeth did seem a little whiter. What really struck me though is how much more vibrant, slick and shiny they are. They consistently feel cleaner, even many hours after brushing. Another thing I noticed is that my teeth feel less sensitive to hot and cold.  My gums also feel more slick and cleaner as well, and my breath seems to stay fresh for longer.

While some of the claims of coconut oil pulling may be far-fetched, there are some health benefits that can be attained. I was once a skeptic about all of this, but I had to try it myself, and I’m pleased with the results. I’m going to continue oil pulling, and if you want to try a natural way to improve your dental health, I suggest you try it to.