SPECIAL REPORT: Oil Pulling

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What to eat for better dental health:

  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, celery and carrots scrub your teeth as you chew, removing plaque
  • Dairy products, which are high in calcium and lactic acid, neutralize cavity-causing bacteria
  • Keep sugar intake low

Courtesy: Dr. Christine Tenaglia, D.D.S.

People who do it swear by it.

"I sleep better at night," said Candace Ebbinghaus of Holt. "I drink tea and coffee every day and I feel like it's helped whiten my teeth."

Ebbinghaus is talking about oil pulling. She's been doing it with coconut oil for 15 minutes a day for a month.

"I've had some good benefits from it," she said.

It's pretty simple: scoop a tablespoon of coconut, sesame or sunflower oil, put it in your mouth, and swish it around for 15 to 20 minutes. If you use coconut oil, be aware it is a solid at room temperature.

"It's kind of gross, but you just chew it and then it melts," Ebbinhaus said. "It's supposed to pull the toxins out of your body."

Dr. Christine Tenaglia, a dentist in Okemos, says patients have been coming in and asking her about oil pulling.

"It's recently become a really hot topic with people, because a lot of people are really into organics and natural food supplements," Tenaglia said.

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic way of practicing dental hygiene.

"In Indian culture, they use it as an antibacterial, and what the antibacterial does, is it coats the tissues of the inside of the mouth, teeth, and the gums, and it allows the bacteria to dissipate so it does not attach to the teeth and to the gum area," explained Tenaglia.

According to people who do it, oil pulling leads to fresher breath, clearer skin, and whiter teeth.

"There's no proof that says that it's going to work," Tenaglia said. "It's just by testimonial and people saying that it could be a way to whiten your teeth. Some people say, 'Oh, it works great.' Well, I don't know. But the jury's still out and I would say give it a try. The oil pulling is certainly not going to hurt you."

For Ebbinghaus, the proof is in the pulling.

"I didn't know one of the benefits was helping you sleep better, but the weekend that I started it, I did it on a Saturday morning and I did it on a Sunday," said Ebbinghaus. "I forgot to do it Monday. Tuesday, I was like, I didn't sleep as well last night. It was just really weird. So I did it again and I slept better."

Anyone who uses coconut oil for pulling should spit it into a garbage can instead of the sink. The oil may solidify and clog up the pipes otherwise.


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