I wouldn’t normally say I have a lot in common with Kylie Jenner.
Or Gwyneth Paltrow, for that matter. But now I know we’re like sisters. Kinda.
Because what Kylie and Gwyneth both sport are smiles glistening with the pearly-white approval of coconut oil.
Yep, oil pulling.
If you’ve heard about it, then you’re ahead of where I was a few months ago. I hadn’t even heard the term. Luckily, a friend enlightened me.
At the time, I was in a bit of dilemma. I’d been playing with my daughter. She was waving her magic wand at my head. “What do you wish for, Mummy?”
“No idea,” I said. “Just magic me something.”
“I will magic you … bright white teeth, just like mine!”
The magic wand didn’t do the trick. But she had a point. Something needed to be done.
I spent a good dozen minutes staring at the top shelf of the drugstore, where all the teeth whitening products were located, but just couldn’t be convinced to part with my cold hard cash.
How did I know the results would be worth it? I’d already given up on whitening toothpastes that didn’t live up to the hype.
Even more pressingly, how did I know my already-sensitive teeth wouldn’t become more sensitive?
I liked the idea of blinding people with the glare from my headlight-bright pearly whites, but I don’t like pain. Or disappointment.
So I told a friend. “Why don’t you try oil pulling?” she asked. “It won’t hurt your teeth, and it’s all natural.”
I had a thousand questions. Why was swishing a mouthful of coconut oil around any different from using mouthwash? Did you have to do it for the full 20 minutes? Was that even possible without gagging? Or accidentally swallowing any?
When I got home that night, I put a jar of coconut oil on my bathroom counter as a reminder.
The next morning before getting in the shower, I scooped out a spoonful of the hard oil and put it in my mouth. This is a bit awkward, I thought. I chewed, and it slowly dissolved into liquid.
I took my shower, trying to remember to swish the liquid around in my mouth as I sudsed up.
I didn’t make it past 5 minutes the first time. But I stuck at it. A few days later, I was swishing around for the duration of my shower like a pro.
Fans claim that oil pulling not only makes your teeth whiter, but eliminates the bacteria in your mouth that can cause bad breath. It may even have benefits for sufferers of migraines, asthma, arthritis, and the common cold.
The technique is ancient. It originated in India thousands of years ago and is still advocated by practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine.
The American Dental Association is holding out on oil pulling. They recommend limiting yourself to dental hygiene products that have earned their official seal of approval. But they agree there’s no real harm in it. You’re not going to hurt yourself swishing some oil around in your mouth—unless, I suppose, you accidentally choke.
The real question is whether it works in practice.
Unlike getting a teeth-whitening procedure at the dentist’s office, you won’t see immediate results. It takes consistency and commitment. Which, as we all know, can be in short supply.
But swishing some oil around in your mouth while you shower isn’t a huge time commitment. All it takes is a few seconds to open the jar and scoop a spoonful into your mouth.
And it’s kind of fun to multitask. Like seeing if you can rub your belly and pat your head at the same time.
After a week of oil pulling, I asked my daughter to look at my teeth. “What do you think?”
“They’re all white and sparkly!” she exclaimed.
I’ll take that.
Oil pulling is no magic wand, but it’s a lot cheaper than the commercial options. What do you have to lose?
Okay, maybe your dignity.
But if Gwyneth can scrunch up her face and swish for all she’s worth, you can, too. Just close the bathroom door.