How Teeth Stay Healthy
There are four layers to your tooth, listed from outer to inner: enamel (hardest and most mineralized), dentin (a protective, also mineralized layer), pulp (containing blood vessels and nerves), and cementum (covering the roots—also mineralized).
Just like any other part of your body, teeth are living tissues and they have the ability to regenerate and heal themselves. All they need is 1) adequate building blocks, and 2) removal of any obstacle(s) to cure.
In the case of teeth, the building blocks are primarily the minerals calcium and phosphorus, as well as Vitamin D (which helps to absorb calcium from the gut). They also need a healthy oral microbiome: just like in your gut and everywhere else in your body, good bacteria act as sentinels to protect you against both pathogenic bad bacteria, and against opportunists. (Opportunists are bacteria that already exist in a given space in your body, and they’re fine as long as their numbers stay small. But if they overgrow, look out.)
One way you can end up with an imbalance in the oral microbiome, for instance, is to eat a lot of sugar and white carbs—the very same culprits that create an imbalance in the gut. This is why a poor diet, low in the minerals needed to keep up the enamel and high in the foods for the opportunistic bacteria, can cause cavities. The reverse is also true: according to the work of 1918 dentist Dr May Mellanby and 1900s dentist Dr Weston Price, cavities can also be healed by providing the body with the nutrients it lacks.
How Oil Pulling Can Help
The ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling involves swishing with an oil (generally coconut oil, sesame oil, or sunflower oil) for 10-20 minutes, ideally on an empty stomach, in order to improve oral health.
The concept is that the oil draws toxins out of the mouth, emulsifies plaque and gently lifts it from the teeth and gums, and (depending on the oil) even decreases the concentration of streptococcus mutans, the bacteria primarily responsible for dental caries (cavities).
There are now quite a few studies that show that this work:
- This study shows that coconut oil attacks the streptococcus mutans bacteria, due to lauric acid (about 45-50% of its medium chain fatty acids) and monolaurin. In fact, this study shows that coconut oil is on par with Chlorhexidine mouthwash in bacterial-killing abilities, and this study shows that coconut oil is additionally effective against oral candida as well. This is likely due to caprylic acid, lauric acid, and capric acid, all of which are antifungal.
- This study and this study both show that oil pulling with sesame oil (more commonly used in Ayurvedic practices) does the same thing.
- This study shows that sesame oil pulling reduces plaque and improves gingival (gum) scores.
- This study shows that coconut oil pulling also reduces plaque and improves gum scores as early as the 7th day of use, and improvements continue after that.
How To Do Oil Pulling
I slightly favor coconut oil (virgin, not refined) as an oil for pulling because it is both antibacterial and antifungal, and it is also high in antioxidants.
If you’re like me, it’s hard to sit and swish for 10-20 minutes, though: so I recommend swishing in the shower. Keep a jar of coconut oil in your shower to serve as a visual reminder, and just swish while you wash, sucking the oil through your teeth. You will discover that the volume of the oil increases as you do it: this is due to the saliva you haven’t swallowed in that length of time.
When you’re done, spit it out! The oil has pulled bacteria, plaque, and toxins out of your mouth, and swallowing it would be counterproductive.