A month ago I set out on a quest – a quest to find healthier teeth, a brighter smile and who my real parents are. (Kidding, mom and dad! I love you!) So I jumped on the oil pulling internet bandwagon and rode that baby into the sunset! Thirty days and hours of swishing later, I now know one things for sure: Your phone or doorbell will inevitably ring 12 minutes in, right when you’ve passed the point of oh-heck-no-I’m-not-starting over and before you’ve gotten to eh-what’s-a-few-minutes-early. Happens every time. But other than that, what did I find? Did oil pulling live up to all the hype? Here’s how it worked, or didn’t, for me:
Whiter Teeth? No.
Funnily enough I even had the opportunity to have this one professionally verified. Before I started oil pulling, I had to get a cavity filled (story of my life these days) and the hygienist told me the name of the color of the filling they matched to my teeth. A month later, just after my experiment ended, I was getting another cavity filled. So I asked the hygienist what color they were using. Same sad one. (And yes they held up the little samples both times and didn’t just use their notes for the second round.)
Even worse, when the dentist injected the novocaine, she hit a nerve and it felt like an electric shock up half my face. For the first time in my life I finally understood how people can be terrified of the dentist. I seriously never want to go back except for cleanings. Which has nothing to do with oil pulling except I want sympathy, preferably in the form of chocolate – but only the kind that won’t decay my teeth!
Less Sensitivity? No.
Well I still cried reading “I Love You Forever” to my kids tonight. Kidding. (Not kidding about the crying reading that book though. That one’s worse than anything Nicholas Sparks ever did!) But my teeth, like my heartstrings, haven’t gotten any tougher either. Tonight I did the ultimate test: drink ice water. It was bad.
Fewer Cavities? Too soon to tell.
One of the things about oil pulling I was most interested in was the promise of better oral health in general. I never had a cavity in my life until after my first kid was born and it’s been a downhill slide ever since, despite flossing and brushing like it’s my religion. There isn’t much I wouldn’t try to fix this. (Especially now, after the nerve incident! I actually spasmed when she did it and smacked her arm holding the syringe and knocked it out. Then they had to give me a few minutes because it had made me so nauseated I thought I was going to puke. So embarrassing AND painful.)
So when I went into the dentist after my oil pulling experiment was over, I asked her to do a quickie exam and see if she could tell from a surface examination if my teeth looked any healthier. Nope. Same amount of gum recession. Same “shadow” on my back tooth that’s probably another cavity. But I do think it isn’t fair to say that oil pulling did or didn’t have anything to do with this as one month is a pretty short time frame to show prevented cavities. I did read one enthusiastic blogger who said it cured her of her existing cavities — that most definitely did not happen for me.
Yet, as you may recall, this was the one claim that actually had some scientific research to back it up. Is swishing with oil more effective than swishing with water? Not sure but I do know for sure either is better than conventional mouthwash — a study out just last month found that daily use of mouthwash increased the risk of oral cancer.
My liver called. It’s fine and doing its job. Honestly I couldn’t find anyone who could explain in an anatomically and chemically correct manner how detoxing through your gums is supposed to work which made it very hard for me to take this claim seriously. Nevertheless this is a major reason – probably the number one reason I read – for people trying oil pulling. Obviously we get a lot of crap in our bodies these days, both ingested and from environmental toxins, and we would like to not be poisoned pretty please. So I can totally understand why people would seek out ways to help facilitate this process. That said, I’m not convinced oil pulling is effective for that purpose. And since I’m currently going on week two of fighting off an awful head cold, it didn’t seem to boost my immune system any. My headaches, whether they were from clenching my jaw while swishing or from ‘detoxing’, went away after four days.
Will I Keep Oil Pulling?
This is the real question. At first, swishing 20 minutes every single morning seemed insane. How am I supposed to yell at my kids to get ready for school and to stop feeding the cat fish food? But it turned out to be a non-issue. Once you get used to it, you forget about it and the twenty minutes passed by quickly. I also got really good at pantomiming. My kids very quickly learned what my “I will ground you for life” face looked like — turns out it works whether or not there’s noise coming out of my mouth with it!
But just because it wasn’t hard, doesn’t mean it was fun. I didn’t particularly enjoy the feeling. (So! Much! Spit!) And considering it failed on at least three out of the four promised results, it seems like a waste of perfectly good coconut oil frankly. There is a small part of me that wants to continue for the next five months until my next dental checkup and see if I end up with fewer cavities than my usual. Like I said, I’ll do anything at this point to keep the Novocaine needle away!
Gum, Flossers and Other Things I’m Trying
One of the cool things about this experiment was how many other ideas I got for how to better my oral health. You guys were a WEALTH of information in the comments and thanks to your suggestions I’m now brushing with a special “remineralizing” toothpaste (pricey but my dentist said that it actually works) and I’m chewing gum after two meals for 20 minutes. Note about the gum: According to the research, the ingredient needed to get rid of the bacteria is xylitol. Very few gums use this anymore. The only gum I could find was Trident in the mint or cinnamon flavors. All the other flavors and brands used other sweeteners. So if you’re going to try the gum trick – and hey I have minty fresh breath all the time now – make sure you check the label! The other thing I did is I bought a huge pack of those disposable flosser toothpick thingies (about $2 for 100):
And I keep them in my car. You may find this unforgivably gross but I floss in the car. Usually in the parking lot or at long stop lights. Several times a day. I make my kids do it too. I’m still looking into some of the other suggestions you guys gave me to try!
So what do you guys think – should I stick with it for six months on the small chance it will help with the cavities? Or should I just work on trying other things? Maybe I should just have all my teeth removed and get big white Chiclet veneers (when I win the lottery)?? I know a lot of you are trying this as well so do you have an update on your oil pulling?