Oil Pulling (aka Oil Swishing) is the latest up-and-coming health fad. Practitioners take oil, (coconut oil, which has numerous health benefits for the skin, and even the brain, seems to be the most popular) and swish it around their mouth as part of their oral health care routine.
The most common benefit listed? Whiter teeth. It may be that coconut oil is removing stains, or it may be that it’s improving gum health, which leaves gums rosey and makes teeth appear whiter (you can do the same thing with red lipstick). Unfortunately, not a single organization is studying the effect of oil on teeth. Fortunately, there’s just about zero risk in trying it!
A smaller group claims that oil pulling can have broader health benefits including anti-inflammatory benefits (think lessening arthritis and asthma symptoms). There may or may not be some truth to it—the practice of oil pulling comes from Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda focuses on treating the individual and creating balance in the body—if you’re a cold type, maybe you should eat spicier foods, if you’re a hot type, layoff (etc.). So if there’s any truth to these claims, you would have to first see a traditional Ayurvedic doctor to find out what would work for you—oil type, how long, etc.
If you don’t want to pay for that kind of specialist, but want to see if you can improve the appearance of your teeth (and even breath, some say), just experiment with oil swishing. Leave a jar of coconut oil somewhere warm (it’s solid at most room temperatures) and try swishing and spitting a teaspoon – tablespoon (depending on mouth size) after you brush your teeth. They say you’ll see benefits after just one go, but I’d give it a week. Unlike teeth whitening strips, you won’t develop sensitivity, so it may be worth a try.
If you want to try another gentle, natural teeth whitener, try using a bit of baking soda. It’s a pretty good stain remover, even for teeth. It does taste bad (in my opinion) so I would just do it before brushing your teeth with your regular toothpaste. And yes, you can buy baking soda based toothpaste, but I don’t think it works as well (or cheaply) as just using actual baking soda.
Have you tried teeth whitening? What method did you use and how’d you like it?