When I got my braces off, I totally had a Costco-sized box of Crest white strips in my bathroom drawer. Sure, I no longer love super-cold beverages (the feeling of something super cold on sensitive teeth is the WORST, and hard to forget!), but beauty is pain, right?
Not always, my friends, and there are a lot of reasons to consider a more natural alternative. Aside from the sometimes excruciating sensitivity, some say white strips could put you at greater risk of having oral cancer down the road. I’m no doctor/scientist (so please don’t sue me Crest), but if you think about it, there is some reason for caution. Why do we eat berries? A) They’re delicious and B) They’re antioxidants, which help prevent cancer. When you use white strips, what are you putting on your teeth for 30 minutes at a time? Hydrogen peroxide, which causes oxidation.
I have no medical training, so there might be nothing to that. But for me, the risk + the discomfort caused by the things is reason enough to look for a gentler, more healthy alternative.
Enter oil pulling, a type of Ayurvedic medicine that dates back 3,000 years. The idea is this: you swish about half a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes, or as close to that as you can manage, and then spit it all out. Give your mouth a good rinse with some water, brush your teeth, and in a few weeks, you’ll see noticeable results!
I incorporate oil pulling into my routine whenever I’m on a health kick, and I swear that after a week or two my teeth always feel so much cleaner and brighter. If you do it while you’re reading blogs or doing busy work in the morning/at night, you will be shocked at how quickly the time goes by! (Bloggers like The Skinny Confidential and FashionLush also swear by it.)
Though some use sesame and sunflower oil, coconut is generally preferred for a few reasons. It tastes better, plus it’s known to have anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, so it also acts as a sort of natural mouthwash, keeping your gums healthy.
Supposedly there is something about the oil that breaks down stains and build-up, revealing your healthier smile beneath if you brush immediately after pulling. Web MD explains:
Unlike some so-called natural home remedies, it’s not a practice that’s based on pseudo-science. Recent studies show that oil pulling helps against gingivitis, plaque, and microorganisms that cause bad breath. How? “Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell,” [Jessica T. Emery, DMD] says. “Cells are covered with a lipid, or fatty, membrane, which is the cell’s skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other.”
People credit oil pulling with everything from improving their complexion to clearing their sinuses to preventing heart disease. Some of the claims might be a little out there, but there is definitely a correlation between oral health and cardiovascular health that isn’t fully understood yet.
So head to the nearest grocery store for some organic coconut oil, and start swishing the amount that feels best for you! I use half a tablespoon or so, but some people use more, some people use less. If it feels “weird,” try using less. Whatever you feel comfortable swishing with 15-20 minutes! (I usually stop at 15)
As you do it, remember that you’re supposedly drawing toxins out of your gums, so don’t gurgle — you don’t want to swallow any of it! You’ll find that when you spit — which you should do in the trash, because coconut oil solidifies at certain temperatures and could clog your sink — you have about twice as much liquid as you started with. Rinse, brush, and repeat the next day!
Voila — white teeth without the sensitivity!