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Coconut Oil Pulling: Why Aussies Are Trading Listerine for This Ayurvedic Detox Method
The medicinal mouth-washing ritual that’s over 5,000 years old.
Let’s be honest, the dental care aisle isn’t exactly the easiest section of the supermarket to navigate. The shelves are cluttered with a hundred different types of plaque-fighting, anti-cavity inventions, from enamel whitening toothpaste to effervescent denture cleaning tablets.
What even is an ‘interdental’ toothpick?
How do you use an LED blue light on your teeth?
Do you really need a ‘sonic’ toothbrush with 5 different cleaning modes?
With all the crazy dental products available on the market today, rinsing your mouth with Listerine might seem like the least harmful of activities—after all, everyone uses it in their normal daily routine, right?
Well, you might want to think again. Researchers from The University of Melbourne recently published a report in The Dental Journal of Australia, claiming there’s sufficient evidence to link alcohol-containing mouthwashes to oral cancer.
Australian study links mouthwash to oral cancer
Professor Michael McCullough, the lead author of the report, says it’s “inadvisable for oral health-care professionals to recommend the long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes.”
“We believe there should be warnings,“ he said. “If it was a facial cream that had the effect of reducing acne but had a four-to-five-fold increased risk of skin cancer, no one would be recommending it.''
Professor McCullough suggests that alcohol-containing mouthwash, like Listerine, should be restricted to “short-term” medical use only, such as before and after surgical procedures, to aid with the healing of gums after gum therapy, and as a pre-rinse prior to dental procedures.
Did you know?
Some mouthwashes are more dangerous than wine or beer because they contain higher concentrations of alcohol—some as high as 26%?
(Professor Michael McCullough)
Australia’s biggest-selling mouthwash, Listerine, contains as much as 26% alcohol. The ethanol in the mouthwash is thought to allow cancer-causing substances like Acetaldehyde (a toxic by-product of alcohol) to permeate the lining of your mouth and accumulate in your oral cavity. Eww,no, thank you!
So what’s the alternative? How do you get pearly white teeth and minty-fresh breath without the toxic chemicals?
Enter: coconut oil pulling!
What is coconut oil pulling and how does it work?
Coconut oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic dental care technique that involves swishing cold-pressed coconut oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes a day. After ‘pulling’ the bad bacteria from your mouth, you spit out the oil, rinse with warm water and brush your teeth like normal.
Most of the bacteria in our mouths are single cells that are covered in fatty membranes. When these cells come into contact with the coconut oil, which is also a fat, the two fats stick together (#science!).
The oil then collects and traps the toxic germs in your mouth and you expel them when you spit the oil out. Since coconut oil has the ability to get into the hard to reach areas of your mouth that your toothbrush usually misses, it’s thought that the technique can pick up the bad bacteria that may have otherwise remained in your mouth.
What are the benefits of coconut oil pulling?
1. Whiter teeth
Coconut oil pulling is kind of like washing your dishes. Research shows that it helps to decrease the buildup of plaque on your teeth and gently lightens stains from things like coffee, wine and green tea. Over a prolonged period of time, this results in healthy, pearly whites!
2. Banish bad breath
It’s important to remember that some bacteria in your mouth is good. Kind of like good gut bacteria, it serves as your immune system’s first line of defence and is closely connected to your digestion. While traditional mouthwash, like Listerine, destroys all these good bacteria, oil pulling lets it thrive. That’s why once you start using an alcohol-based, antibacterial mouthwash, you’ll notice your breath starts to stink without it. You’ve killed all the good bacteria and now you’re dependant on it. Conventional mouthwash also tends to leave your mouth feeling dry afterwards, which can cause the growth of more bad bacteria.
3. Better digestion
If the surface of your tongue isn’t clean, your body can’t detect what’s in your food and produce the correct enzymes in your stomach. Daily coconut oil pulling can help keep your tongue working properly and make it easier for your digestive system to break down the nutrients in your food. Say goodbye to those pesky tummy pains!
Did you know?
As we eat food, our tongues detect our food’s micro and macronutrients and tell our bodies which enzymes are necessary for digestion?
(British Dental Journal)
4. Detoxes the body
Coconut oil pulling is an effective method for detoxing your body and eliminating the harmful bacteria in the nooks and crannies of your gums. When your mouth is full of nasties like bacteria and plaque, it’s no surprise that these toxins can make their way into your digestive and circulatory systems. This puts a lot of extra strain on your poor, hardworking immune system and can contribute to some serious diseases, like:
- Hand, foot and mouth disease
- Periodontal disease
- Oral thrush
- Mumps virus
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Ulcerative colitis
But what about the taste?
Lots of people like the flavour of coconut, but if you’re not one of those people, don’t fret! You can always add some food-grade essential oils to your oil pulling formula, like peppermint, lemon or grapefruit oil.
Finally, you can also opt for other types of oil, like sesame, olive or sunflower. Whichever oil you choose, just be sure to select an unrefined (aka virgin or raw), cold-pressed oil for the best results.