Is oil pulling putting you at risk?
What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling is an effective way to clean your teeth and gums very thoroughly by swishing a spoonful of oil around your mouth so that it absorbs bacteria and toxins, then spitting it out. It’s an Ayurvedic practice for detoxification that can help you to have clearer skin as well as a cleaner mouth.
Oil pulling is very fashionable at the moment, because of increasingly high expectations for white teeth. As more people start to recognize the long-term risks and ineffectiveness of conventional teeth whitening (with bleach) they are looking for natural strategies. Along with other gentle teeth whitening products such as activated charcoal and turmeric, oil pulling is a relatively low-risk way to gradually and sustainably whiten teeth.
However, it may not be low-risk for everybody.
Oil pulling and fillings
Oil pulling is risky if you have amalgam fillings
Amalgam fillings are the metal fillings that look black after a few years in your mouth. They are made from a mixture of metals including mercury. Mercury is highly toxic and there is a risk that oil pulling can destabilize the mercury in amalgam fillings, to cause symptoms of mercury toxicity in your body.
There has been no definitive research to prove whether or not this is a real risk. (There has been almost no scientific research into any aspect of complementary or alternative oral health. It’s not where research funding goes.)
However, it is a theoretical risk. Given that oil pulling works because it draws out toxins present in the mouth and mercury is a toxin known to leach out of amalgam fillings as they age. As a precautionary
Mercury is known to cause neurological and cardiovascular problems, collagen diseases, immune system problems and allergies. I have seen a number of clients with amalgam fillings who have tried oil pulling and have symptoms of mercury toxicity including autoimmune conditions, viral infections, chronic fatigue and allergies.
I strongly recommend that oil pulling should not be
practiced if you have amalgam fillings in place.
If you choose to take the risk of increasing your exposure to mercury by oil pulling please educate yourself about the symptoms of mercury toxicity and stop immediately if you notice those symptoms.
There is some anecdotal evidence that oil pulling may also destabilize composite or ceramic fillings (the ones that look white in your mouth) particularly if the fillings are very new and haven’t had time to bond properly with
Oil pulling isn’t comfortable for everyone
Advocates of oil pulling sometimes talk about it as though it’s an essential part of every oral health habit. I often hear from people who feel pressured into oil pulling even though they find it unbearable.
For example, having a gag reflex that is very easily triggered can make oil pulling feel very uncomfortable. Some people find that keeping a quantity of oil in your mouth for an extended period time can feel nauseating.
There is absolutely no reason to force yourself to oil pull if you don’t like it, or don’t want to, or feel that its just not the right thing for you.
Oil pulling is wonderful when its the right thing to do, but it’s not essential to your oral health. There are many other things you can do to keep your mouth clean and healthy. And ultimately, diet plays a far more significant role in your oral health than any approach to hygiene.
So, now that you’ve assessed your level of risk and understand the role oil pulling can play in oral
Oil pulling tips for beginners
Start small and build up
If you are new to oil pulling start with a teaspoon or less of oil and swish for 2-3 minutes. Build up your tolerance gradually to find your ‘sweet spot’ which may, or may not, be the ‘tablespoon of oil for 20 minutes’ version that is commonly recommended.
Don’t tire out your tongue
Oil pulling involves swishing vigorously but don’t feel like you have to push the oil around with your tongue to get it
Never swallow oil after pulling. Spit it out into the trash or outside, but not down a drain. I have cleaned a shower drain clogged up by someone else’s oil and it is very unpleasant.
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