Friday, October 28, 2016

Oral Health: What is Oil Pulling?


Recently there has been lots of hype about the health benefits of oil pulling – a process of swishing oil in the mouth for about 10 to 20 minutes and then spitting it out to pull out toxins from the mouth. This technique, which claims to originate from Ayurveda, is a modern adaptation of some of the traditional Ayurvedic methods of daily self care known as gandusa and kavala. These therapies are not only prescribed to detoxify the oral cavity, but are also used to strengthen muscle tone in the neck, throat, jaw, and face in addition to treating systemic conditions such as arthritis and migraines. Substances such as ghee, oil, milk or herbal decoctions are gargled, swished or retained in the mouth for a specific duration at a specific time of the day.  The type of treatment, the duration and the oil used is always customized to your constitution for maximum benefit.

The technique has been around for centuries, but the term oil pulling is a modern term adapted by Western practitioners and this technique has spread in the last decade to the point where even dentists are starting to advocate the technique as part of a daily health routine.

How does Oil Pulling work?

There is no doubt that your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria and toxins.  The oral cavity is constantly exposed to food which feed bacteria that reside on the teeth, gums and tongue.  While bacteria naturally reside in the oral cavity, when an overgrowth of non-beneficial bacteria flourish, they produce unwanted toxins. This leads to cavities, bad breath and other health concerns.While regular dental visits are important, as you know, daily self-care such as brushing and flossing are essential. Sometimes daily brushing and flossing are not enough, and further self-care is needed.

In Ayurveda, oils are used therapeutically topically and internally.  Oil has a lubricating and grounding quality and is beneficial for imbalances related to vata (air and ether element).  Externally, specific oils are used for massages and therapies, and internally, they are beneficial for lubricating the digestive tract and tissues. Oil Pulling  involves retention of specific oils which help cleanse the oral cavity, fight unwanted bacteria and plaque while rejuvenating the gums.

If you have ever tried oil pulling, you will know that your cheeks and mouth muscles get tired.  The technique involves active use of muscles in the oral cavity which helps strengthen muscle tone in addition to increasing blood flow which bring nutrients to the tissues and carries away waste products.  From a TCM perspective, stimulation of the oral and facial muscles can activate acupuncture points and reduce stagnation in the area to increase flow of qi or energy.


Benefits Of Oil Pulling:

  • Strengthen teeth & gums
  • Maintain healthy oral pH
  • Promote flora balance
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Prevent plaque build up
  • Increase circulation to oral tissues
  • Draw toxins out of mouth
  • Reduce frequency of colds and infections

How Is It Done?

Oil pulling can be done on a regular basis, however the specific duration and type of oil that is best for you is determined by your naturopathic doctor based on your age, constitution, and state of health. For some individuals, it may be recommended to do daily for several weeks and for others, 1-2 times a week may be sufficient.

Here is a general example of oil pulling that you can try:

  1. In the morning, after brushing your teeth and cleaning your tongue, take 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil and swish it in your mouth.
  2. Continue swishing actively for about 10 to 15 minutes, involving all of your mouth muscles until you feel them getting tired. The oil will liquefying and the saliva will build up. (You can even do this as you shower.)
  3. Once finished, do not swallow - discard the oil in the garbage (not down the sink so that you don't clog up the drain). Feel free to brush your teeth and clean your tongue again if there is a lot of residue. 

While the common oil used for oil pulling is coconut oil, other oils such as sesame or herbal oils with antimicrobial herbs must be individually tailored to you.  Coconut oil has excellent anti-viral and cooling properties, and can suit a person with a Pitta constitution while sesame oil may suit individuals who have a Vata constitution. Turmeric may be blended with the oil to increase anti-microbial effects.  Oil pulling can be done preventatively for individuals who are prone to colds and respiratory infections at this time of the year.

Since oil pulling is a gentle detoxification therapy, it is always best to do it under guidance of your naturopathic doctor for long-term so that the duration of treatment can be customized, along with any additional natural therapies that will support detoxification and healing of the oral cavity.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with specialized training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. Please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND.


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