"To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear-" Buddha
If you are someone who puts a great deal of care into your oral health, then you’ve likely heard of oil pulling as a means to whiten your teeth.
For those of you who are not familiar, oil pulling is essentially a method of swishing your mouth with oil. It can help prevent cavities and inflammation, along with reducing bad breath. The oil physically pulls toxins and bacteria out of the mouth . Bacteria are surrounded by a lipid membrane that attracts the lipid structure of the oil. Essentially, the bacteria sticks to the oil and is then flushed out by the swishing motion.
But did you know that the benefits of oil pulling extend beyond just cosmetic reasons? Like many of the health trends in the Western world, oil pulling also comes from Ayurveda, and it has traditionally been used to improve oral hygiene and gum health.
In fact, Ayurveda recommends oil pulling as one of the rituals that need to be performed for the dinacharya, or the daily regimen. The ancient Ayurvedic text Chakra Samhita describes two main forms of oil pulling including gandusha and kavala. Gandusha involves holding a large amount of oil in the mouth while kavala involves swishing a small amount of oil around your mouth. Your oral health is linked to your heart health Just as with western medicine, Ayurveda also places an important focus on oral hygiene because it is associated to overall body health. For example, periodontitis, an inflammation of the gums caused by poor oral health has been linked to cardiovascular disease . This inflammation is the result of toxin production caused by a buildup of bacteria. The link between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease can be explained via two mechanisms. One way is that the bacteria present can breakdown the surface epithelial layer of your mouth. This releases other inflammatory mediators, leading to recruitment of inflammatory immune cells in other parts of the body . Similarly, the bacteria itself may also circulate in the bloodstream. Thus, in people who are already prone to inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, periodontitis may accelerate the condition.
Your tongue is a window to your inner health Because of this close association between other conditions and overall health, Ayurveda uses the tongue as a diagnostic tool for the rest of the body. For example, in Ayurvedic medicine, tongue coating and color can be indicative of toxin buildup in other parts of the body. Similarly, a tongue with a lot of cracks is said to be indicative of dehydration or overwhelming stress. On the other hand, a healthy tongue will exhibit a consistent pink color throughout, with a very thin coating and no cracks on the surface of the tongue.
A diagram of the specific organs that Ayurveda links to parts of your tongue.
Your quick guide to oil pulling
- Do it in the morning before brushing your teeth. Brushing after oil pulling will aid in removing the bacteria.
- Start with 1 tablespoon of your preferred oil. Although Ayurveda prescribes particular oils based on your dosha, sesame and coconut oil are the most universal.
- Swish the oil all around your mouth, including around both sides and in front of and behind your teeth. Usually, it is recommended that you do this for about 15 to 20 minutes, but you may find this challenging the first few times. You can try doing it for just 5 minutes to start out, and work your way up to longer times.
- Spit out the oil in the trash. You don't want to clog your sink. Take care not to ingest the swished oil—it's filled with bacteria that were building in your mouth overnight.
While this may seem like a taxing and time-consuming task, if you are concerned about your gum health, you should consider adding this to your daily flossing and brushing regimen for a kiss of good health. And of course as an added perk, you'll get those pearly whites.