What if we told you, managing your dental caries is linked to diabetes? In yet another amazing piece of research, it has been found that treating dental caries and other periodontal (conditions related to the gum) problems are directly linked to controlling blood sugar levels because as people age, dental caries tends to rise among diabetics.

And not just diabetes. The management of periodontal problems can reduce risks of heart diseases and digestive illnesses too! One of the most powerful and natural science-backed oral hygiene practices that finds a place of reverence in the time-tested texts of Ayurveda is Gandusha, or oil pulling—a highly vata-pacifying practice. Apart from giving you a beautiful smile, the practice kills harmful bacteria,  refreshes breath, promotes healthy teeth and gums, and mitigates risks of oral infections. When you do this every day, after we tell you how to go about it, you will see it also exercises, tones, and strengthens the muscles of your mouth.

Fun fact! Oil pulling is said to help deal with and prevent 30 types of illnesses such as migraines, headaches, asthma, or diabetes. 

Everything You Need to Know About Oil Pulling

To put it simply, swishing herbal oil around the mouth with some force is the practice of Gandusha or oil pulling, much like a deeper and longer mouth wash. 

Why do we need oil pulling?

You want to feel refreshed, for one, but oil pulling gives you much more than just fresh breath and shiny teeth. 

  1. Get rid of harmful oral bacteria. Our oral cavity is an important entry point for pathogens and bacteria. Over time, these bacteria form a biofilm called plaque over the teeth. These plaque deposits can lead to more severe dental problems such as cavities, gingivitis, gum inflammations. In one study, 20 children used a standard mouthwash or practiced oil pulling with sesame oil every day for about 10 minutes. Within a week, the number of harmful bacteria in the plaque and saliva was found reduced in both practices. It is also shown to reduce gingival scores. The gingival index score is the measurement of the scale of inflammation in a particular oral region ranging from 0 to 3, with zero being normal and 3 being highly inflamed.
  2. Fights bad breath. Nobody wants their mouths to smell like rotten tomatoes. But research shows that almost 50% of the population is affected by halitosis, the problem of bad breath mostly caused by infections, gum problems, plaque deposits, inadequate oral hygiene, and inflammation. Studies have found oil pulling with sesame oil to be just as effective as the use of antiseptic mouthwash like chlorhexidine in fighting bad breath. Additionally, oil pulling comes with no side effects like allergies or mucosal strain.
  3. Dealing with cavities. Bad oral hygiene, sugar-heavy diet, bacterial accumulation, and plaque—made of bacteria and food deposits—can all lead to tooth decay that eventually may worsen into cavities, or holes in the teeth. Oil pulling prevents this escalation and eliminates the growth of bad tooth-decay causing bacteria in the first place—all while helping up your oral hygiene game. 
  4. Dental caries, no more. Recent studies show that oil pulling with coconut oil has a strong antibacterial effect against strains like c albicans and s.mutans. At the end of a 40-day practice, the total microbial count was down by 20% and susceptibility of the participants to dental caries saw a marked reduction.
  5. Oil pulling for detox. Toxins or ama in the form of slimy material tend to build up in the body over time, owing to lifestyle factors, a diet that is unfavorable to our body constitution, stress, and exposure to environmental pollutants. When not dealt with, these toxins can spiral into more harmful forms of dosha imbalances and illnesses. These toxins also slow down one’s metabolism significantly. And so, Ayurveda recommends detoxification and cleanses from time to time to get rid of ama. Oil pulling is a simple and effective oral detox measure. Swishing and swirling herb-infused oil in your mouth will remove both the bacteria and accumulated ama that often shows up there. According to Ayurveda, the oil in your mouth activates the release of saliva that can assimilate chemical, biological, and environmental toxins. When you spit out the oil, you are removing these assimilated toxins from your body. 

What are the best oils for oil pulling?

Some of the popular and more effective choices are coconut oil, sesame or sunflower oil. Whichever oil you choose, make sure you use the same oil every day.

Experts recommend the use of cold-pressed virgin coconut oil for the best results. It has lauric acid that blends with the alkaline material in the saliva to form a soap-like texture that helps cleanse better. The lauric acid is also antimicrobial. Coconut oil-induced oil pulling is known to reduce the formation of plaque and gingivitis.

Olive oil which contains oleic acid is also used by some for its anti-microbial properties. It also comes loaded with important vitamin E and K that help reduce inflammations and fight oxidative stress.  Almond oil has also been used for its gingivitis-healing benefits. You can also mix coconut oil with sesame or sunflower oil for fuller benefits since coconut oil happens to be an excellent carrier oil. 

Sesame oil contains a compound called chlorosesamone that comes with anti-fungal properties, making it a favorable choice of oil for oil pulling. It is a great detoxifying agent as well. In fact, both sesame oil and coconut oil showed a reduction in the severity of gingivitis. 

Things to Keep in Mind

Note that oil pulling is a prophylactic and preventive practice in addition to your regular oral hygiene routine and not a substitute for brushing and flossing.

For those with bad cases of cavities and tooth decay, oil pulling may not be able to completely undo the damage for you. Oil pulling is a powerful preventive practice before cavities and tooth decay has set in. Visit a dentist as soon as possible if you already have a severe tooth or gum problem. 

Does oil pulling help remove tartar? Indirectly yes. Oil pulling can remove bacteria and food deposits that lead to plaque formation. Plaque gets built up and hardened to become tartar.  

How to Perform Oil Pulling

Oil pulling should be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as part of your Dincharya or ideal daily routine in keeping with the Ayurvedic principles. 
You can use 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or sesame oil infused with Triphala or powder of fennel seeds, for greater benefits.

Swish and swirl the oil around in your mouth vigorously for 15–20 minutes. This might initially seem like a long time, but you need to do it for long enough to get rid of the bacteria completely and the length of oil pulling also affects the viscosity of the oil, making it white and frothy and easy to spit out. While you are swishing the oil, do it slowly and keep breathing through your nose normally. Doing it slowly will ensure you don’t get breathless. The longer the oil can stay in your mouth, the better.

Spit out the oil. Do not swallow it. It contains toxins and bacteria that you do not want to stay back in your system. 

Make sure you rinse your mouth thoroughly after that, so no oil remains in your mouth. You can also follow it up by brushing your teeth and flossing.

There is a myth that oil pulling loosens dental fillings or crowns. Unless, they are already weakened, oil pulling will not loosen them.

Children over the age of five can do oil pulling for five minutes—under parental supervision.  

Oil pulling is a great complementary practice to improve your oral health and hygiene—give it a try!

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