Next up in our routine is oil pulling, a traditional Ayurvedic practice in use for thousands of years, and is a safe and effective healthy oral hygiene routine, complimentary to brushing our teeth, flossing, and scraping the tongue. Oil pulling may seem strange at first but think of it as an Ayurvedic mouthwash where a comfortable amount of oil is held in the mouth, “swished” or pulled through the teeth

The swishing and swirling of the oil in the mouth adheres bacteria to it. Bacteria have fat within and around their membrane which draws them towards the particles of oil swirling in the mouth and out of cavities. The oil is emulsified within the mouth as it is swirling and comes into contact with saliva. This allows for a greater surface area of the oil, increasing its ability to get into small areas and draw out bacteria and toxins.

Although the benefits of oil pulling do not have sufficient clinical data, Ayurveda maintains that it can help alleviate tooth decay, bad breath, dry lips, and bleeding gums. It also helps strengthen the gums, teeth, and the jaw; and prevents dryness of the throat. Some people have even noticed whiter teeth, headache and hangover relief and improvement in acne, psoriasis and eczema.

It’s recommended to use an organic vegetable oil that has not been exposed to heat and is not processed. Traditionally sesame oil or sunflower oil are used, but olive oil, ghee and coconut oil are fine. Sesame seed oil has been found to reduce bad bacteria, inflammation and even relieve indigestion.

From an Ayurveda perspective, sesame oil is heating in nature and coconut oil is cooling, which means Vata and Kapha dominant types can use sesame oil to warm and ground them while pitta types can use coconut oil to cool and soothe excess heat.

Most people use coconut oil because it has an easier taste and contains lauric acid and monolaurin which is a well-known antimicrobial that fights bacteria, yeasts, and viruses.

To Oil Pull:

Place 1 tablespoon of oil in the mouth – swish and pull the oil around the mouth. There is no need to use a lot of force, a gentle swishing, pushing, and sucking the oil through the teeth is all that’s required. If oil pulling causes pain in your facial muscles, relax a bit. The oil will almost double in size as it draws in saliva as well as the toxins. Do not swallow the oil because it has the bacteria, toxins and plaque.

If you’re new to oil pulling, start by practicing oil pulling for up to 3-5 minutes, and work your way up to 15-20 minutes. The nice thing about oil pulling is that we don’t have to be idle while doing it, and can combine it with other morning routines, like during dry brushing, massage or even while bathing. Once the time is up, spit out the oil into a paper or the bin. It’s not recommended to spit it down the sink because it can clog the drainage system when the oil hardens over time.

Then rinse your mouth and gargle with salt water, ideally warm. Gargling intensely stimulates the hippocampus which is beneficial for the brain and digestive system. Some people brush their teeth again, but use a different toothbrush than their regular one.

Oil pulling is definitely worth trying, we might end up with a more clean, refreshed and healthy mouth, enabling us to use our mouths to savor delicious prasadam preparations and extol the glories of the Lord!