Oil Pulling

By Tina Leigh.

I invite you to remember the last time you visited the hygienist for a routine teeth cleaning. There is a distinct and pleasurable feeling that accompanies such an experience––that of your tongue gliding across newly polished and plaque-free teeth. Can you say Slip n’ Slide?!

I have been on a mission for years to replicate this feeling and in my commitment for slippery, squeaky clean teeth, I’ve tried every natural remedy possible. Electric toothbrush. Twice, if not thrice daily flossing, a metal plaque remover thingy, tongue scraping, plaque-fighting toothpaste with neem, tea tree, and other anti-bacterial agents, baking soda brushing, and even apple cider vinegar gargling. With all this experimentation, I’ve drawn closer to optimal mouthfeel, but have never quite attained slide n’ slide status.

Whilst attempting all of the above, there was one natural and supremely ancient remedy on my radar that I was resistant to simply because of its time commitment. The remedy is Oil Pulling. Have you heard of it? Maybe you have, but if not, I’ve outlined the ‘how-to pull’ steps below. Having finally given it a try after years of turning my nose up at the strange method, I gave in and am now a huge fan.

 

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Oil Pulling’s Purposeful (yet ridiculously sounding) Steps:

1. Wake up and promptly take a tablespoon of unfiltered and unprocessed sesame oil to your mouth. Do this before consuming any food or beverages, even water. The reason for using sesame oil specifically is that it neutralizes acidity in the mouth, and re-mineralizes tooth enamel.

2. Gently swish the oil for 15-20 minutes. Yes, that long. There is no need to vigorously swish. You’ll get the same effect by sloshing and your jaw will thank you.

3. Spit it out in your trashcan. Your sink is not a fan of frothy oil.

4. Brush and floss your teeth per your usual routine.

5. Enjoy the slip n’ slide mouthfeel.

I’ve been committed to the waking weirdness for nearly three weeks now. From day one of the new practice, I’ve enjoyed the mouthfeel I had been seeking for years. Oil pulling is now officially a new habit of mine!

I journal every morning while I slosh and swish, making that twenty minutes pass in a flash. I am sure you have something you do each morning––read the paper, check your email, make coffee, update your twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. Very few morning rituals require talking so you could easily be having a pull.

But, why would you want to take a morning vow of silence to maneuver oil in your mouth?

• Clean as can be teeth. The sesame oil draws bacteria from your teeth and gums, helping to reduce plaque buildup, tooth decay, and gum disease.

• Superbly fresh breath. The oil captures yucky toxins that your mouth harbors (there is more gunk in your mouth than you think.) When they bind to the oil, these fungi, bacteria, and parasites can be spit out into your trashcan where they belong.

• Whiter teeth. No lie. Three weeks in and my teeth are noticeably about two shades whiter.

• Increased immunity of the entire body. Toxins filter through our systems and into our mouths at night. The act of oil pulling first thing in the morning allows these toxins to routinely be expelled.

• Prevention of mouth and tooth infections, cavities, and gum disease.

• Reduction in headaches and chronic sinus infections.

Who’s responsible for creating this wacky ritual?

Oil pulling originated in India about 5,000 years ago and is just one of many Ayurvedic rituals used to promote optimum health. Ayurveda literally translates to ‘The Science of Life’ and is the oldest wellness philosophy on earth.

Oil pulling has been a daily practice of far Eastern cultures for centuries and, like most meaningful remedies, was not introduced to us until the early 1990’s. I’m sure glad we caught the news!

As noted above, it is enormously effective for oral care and supports our overall health. If you decide to give it a go (and I hope you do), be sure to use only pure, unfiltered oil. If you cannot get your hands on sesame oil, unfiltered, virgin coconut oil will also work as it is naturally antifungal and antibacterial.

What else can you do to enhance your oral care?

In addition to detoxing your bouche by way of pulling, you can work towards a reduction in halitosis, whiter teeth, and increased immunity by eating nutrient-dense foods that support a happy and healthy mouth.

The first step towards achieving a gleaming smile is to reduce the amount of sugary and starchy foods you eat. When eaten in excess, not only do they contribute to weight gain, reduced immunity, diabetes, inflammation, and disease, they also feed plaque, causing enamel to break down, and eventually resulting in tooth decay and gum disease.

Next, you’ll want to eat more raw vegetables. Not only are they light in calories, and full of antioxidants and enzymes, they promote healthy teeth. In order to break down a vegetable’s fibrous texture, we have to chew a great deal. This causes an abundance of saliva to be produced, which helps to neutralize any acidic attack on our teeth.

Vitamin D is essential for oral health as it supports in the absorption of calcium. Calcium is just as critical because it helps to protect the bone structure and integrity of our teeth and protects against gum disease. Excellent food sources of vitamin D are Portobello and chanterelle mushrooms, almond milk, and pastured eggs. A few highly absorbable calcium-rich foods are kale, hemp seeds, and broccoli.

To get your daily does of vitamin D and calcium in one punch, perhaps make an omelet filled with lightly steamed kale and broccoli, and chopped mushrooms sautéed briefly in coconut oil. Enjoy your breakfast with a tea latté (coffee stains teeth) made with steamed almond milk.

Also a noteworthy nutrient for oral care is vitamin C. Natural foods abundant in this vitamin are citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach, papaya, goji berries, and broccoli. Vitamin C strengthens connective tissue, including jaw tissue that holds teeth in place. This potent nutrient also reduces inflammation, helping to reduce the potential for developing gingivitis. Just a word of caution, you cannot absorb vitamin C from a tablet. It has to be consumed via food, as for it to be absorbed, phytonutrients from plants serve as the carriers for the delicate vitamin.

If you want to ingest vitamins D and C, and calcium all in one tasty blast, I’ve shared a delicious, oral care enhancing smoothie recipe below. Despite it being blended, be sure to chew the liquid a bit before swallowing in order to get your saliva doing its handy work.

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Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Smoothie

Makes Approx. (1) 20-ounce smoothie

Ingredients:

10 fresh or frozen strawberries

1 large kale leaf, de-ribbed, and chopped

1 large handful spinach leaves

2 tablespoons chocolate plant protein powder (I like Vega’s Chocolate Protein Smoothie Powder)

1 tablespoon dried goji berries, plus extra for garnish

½ small avocado

1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon cacao nibs (for garnish)

8 ice cubes (only if using fresh berries)

Preparation:

1. In a blender, combine strawberries, kale, spinach, protein powder, goji berries, avocado, almond milk, and ice (if using.)

2. Blend on high for one minute. Pour into your favorite tall glass and garnish with goji berries and cacao nibs. Enjoy immediately. Chew and sip slowly.

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