Oil pulling for sturdy gums and teeth sounds like a complicated (possibly painful!) procedure, but it’s really quite easy and super healthful. Here’s what to do…

Oil “pulling” is simply taking two or three teaspoons of coconut oil (either extra virgin or refined is fine), swishing it in your mouth, and then spitting it out. Keep your lips closed and really work the oil in your mouth, pulling the oil through your teeth and over every surface of your gums, roof and tongue, for about 15 minutes. The longer you pull, the more effective it is! Pull on an empty stomach (in the morning, before breakfast is usually best) especially at first, since it’s an unusual sensation to swish with oil and might make you gag. Oh, and spit out the oil into a plastic bag. It’s not recommended that you spit into the sink or toilet. Over time, oil buildup can clog the pipes.

Oil pulling battles plaque-causing bacteria because their outer cell membranes are made of fat, so they tend to stick to the oil—and then you spit them out, explains Victor Zeines, DDS, a holistic dentist in New York City and Woodstock, New York.

But coconut oil has added advantages. It is anti-inflammatory and also rich in lauric acid, which researchers speculate reacts with sodium hydroxide in saliva to form sodium laureate, the main component in soap. Yes, coconut oil pulling may be a pleasant way of washing your mouth out with soap!

Dr. Zeines thinks coconut oil pulling is a great addition to your daily oral-care routine as a preventive practice. Just don’t forget to continue to brush your teeth and floss every day, too.

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