Perhaps you've heard of tractor pulling, taffy pulling, pulling your weight, and pulling over for emergency vehicles, but how about oil pulling? Though it sounds like something from the petroleum industry, it is actually a very old technique to improve dental health by reducing the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth. It might seem like a bizarre thing to do, but the benefits may be more than just anecdotal. One study, for example, showed a significant reduction in Streptococcus mutans, which contributes to plaque buildup and tooth decay.
The process is simple: swish some oil around in your mouth for a while and spit it out. The type of oil can vary. Sesame is a traditional choice, but coconut is also popular due to its natural antimicrobial properties. As for the amount and duration, it appears that anything between a teaspoon and a tablespoon swished for 5 to 20 minutes is acceptable. Some proponents recommend brushing before, and some after.
Over the course of the week, I extended my swishing time by a minute each day until I made it to ten. It did get easier, but, honestly, this whole deal really is kind of gross. What starts out as a mouthful of oil (bad) becomes a mouthful of oil mixed with saliva (worse). My sister suggested adding a drop of tea tree essential oil, and that helped. A little. With practice, I got better at oil pulling, but I never looked forward to it.
I'm really tempted to call this one a Leave It. And I probably would, except for growing research that potentially links oral hygiene with a list of health problems, including heart and respiratory diseases, pancreatic cancer, and Alzheimer's. Apparently, when bad mouth bacteria migrate to the bloodstream, they can wreak all kinds of havoc. So, I think I'll keep up with the oil pulling a while longer and see if my dentist notices a difference.
This week: a reluctant Take It.