Diet, Tooth Decay and Cavities
I went for a routine teeth cleaning a few months ago and my dentist found my first adult cavity! Aghhhh!!!! I was seriously upset! My dentist is holistic, and I asked him a bunch of questions. Most specifically about diet. There’s a whole lot of buzz in the more crunchy world about how eating grains and processed foods is the *cause* for cavities and how the ancient people didn’t have cavities because of their diet (sucks to be ‘modern’ sometimes). While he told me that grains and processed foods certainly can be *one* cause of tooth decay, he said that there are many reasons for tooth decay. Diet and eating grains can affect the acid/bacteria relationship in your mouth, but he was also saying that things like hormones (especially from recent pregnancy and breastfeeding), stress, an uneven bite, environmental factors, disturbed sleep, changes in routine and even your state of mind can cause tooth decay. He said that there was no ‘one cause‘ for tooth decay.
I also asked him if it’s possible to reverse tooth decay, as I’ve heard that you can do it. He said that tooth decay can be reversed, but only if the decay is on the outer layers of the tooth (I can’t remember the specific name of the layer). However, he said that once the decay reaches a certain level, that it’s not longer possible for the body to repair (open to debate, please let me know if you have experienced otherwise). After I drilled him with all of these questions… he then drilled my tooth (so much fun… NOT). I had a pretty sore tooth for a couple of months and finally worked up the ‘nerve’ (no pun intended) to go back and see him when he found ANOTHER cavity. By now, I was getting pretty pissed off. I had to figure out what was going on with my teeth!
He drilled me a second time and my teeth were still sore, but before I went back, I went searching for answers. In the meantime, a few of my friends of mine recommended the ayurvedic technique of oil pulling and I looked into it straight away. I’ve been oil pulling for a week and I’m pretty sure it’s now become a solid part of my morning routine.
Just for reference, I did go back to the dentist, although my toothache is slowly subsiding, and he said that as long as the teeth are not getting more painful, and healing slowly, then he doesn’t need to do anything. He said it looked clean and healthy!
Oil Pulling (Gundusha) is extremely simple and straight forward. Basically, all you have to do is very gentle swish a vegetable oil (see below for which oil) around in your mouth for about 20 minutes and then spit it out. I use about a tablespoon. Never swallow the oil, as it is full of toxins that have been removed from the body. The oil draws the toxins out of your body through your mouth. It’s best to do oil pulling on an empty stomach.
I always spit first thing in the morning too, that’s another ayurvedic thing that I learned years ago. Brushing your teeth afterward the oil pulling removes even more toxins. I also always use a tongue scrapper to remove excess white gunk off of my tongue after brushing my teeth. Oil Pulling is done best immediately upon waking. I used to always drink a warm glass of water with lemon straight away, but now I do my oil pulling first and then rehydrate. I’ve heard that it’s not necessary to do every day, although I’ve been doing it daily. I’m certainly not an expert in oil pulling, as I’ve only been doing it for a week, but there are a lot of articles on it and even an entire book, Oil Pulling Therapy, which I would love to read! Brush your teeth straight after. Some people use a special toothbrush after doing the oil pulling, as you remove toxins from your mouth that you would not want on your normal toothbrush.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
Sluggish digestion is the cause of many (some people might say almost all) health problems. The mouth is the first point of digestion (as in chewing), so naturally, a lot of the toxins accumulate in the mouth. The great news is that the mouth is relatively easy to get to!
Personally, I have noticed that my teeth feel so much better in general and my toothache, which was pretty moderate, went away almost immediately after starting the oil pulling. In the week that I’ve been oil pulling, I’ve also noticed that my skin has been much clearer and has had less pesky pimples. Even now, right before my period, when I usually tend to have as many pimples as a pre-pubescent teenager and have terrible PMS and hormonal headaches, I have hardly any of my usual symptoms! A list of benefits from oil pulling include:
- improved dental health (healthier gums, prevents bad breath, whiter teeth, plaque reduction)
- clearer skin
- increased energy
- improved PMS symptoms
- fewer migraines
- alleviates allergies
- reduces stiffness in the joints
Types of Oil to Use
Traditionally, in ayurveda, sesame oil is used. Organic is not necessary, (although cold pressed and organic is best). If you’re using sesame oil, make sure it’s not the toasted sesame oil that you might find near the asian food section. Coconut oil is one that many people prefer because of the oil’s anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal properties. (Coconut oil has a melting point at somewhere around 75° F or 24°C, which means that if it gets cooler than that, it’s solid… it will warm up and melt in your mouth, even if you put it in solid, but I nearly gagged by doing this, so better to warm it up first if it’s solid). I’ve heard that people can also use grapeseed oil, flax oil, and even olive oil.
Does it Really Work?
Try it and see! It’s a great excuse to not have to talk to anyone in the morning for 20 minutes! I found this article very useful and describes a study that was carried out on the benefits of oil pulling. Happy oil swishing!