Wednesday, March 12, 2014

30 Days of Oil Pulling

Dear Em,
I'm going to tell you something that might wicked gross you out. I didn't brush my teeth for weeks. Does that sound really dirty? It seems kind of dirty as I type it. Let me explain.

I had recently been told by my dentist that I had seven cavities! Seven! What was more shocking was that I was told it wasn't my fault. Whaaaa? You see, I brush my teeth with an electric tooth brush, floss & mouthwash regularly, & don't drink sugary liquids. I was doing the right things. After going through a list of things that might cause cavities & having them ruled out, I was told "some people just have bad genes," & then I booked what I felt like was a lifetime of dental procedures.

Soon after I was given that news, I read this article about oil pulling. What's oil pulling? It's a traditional folk remedy that involves swishing oil in the mouth for the purpose of improving oral health and treating systemic diseases like diabetes or asthma. I was intrigued & tried to do more research (among others, I also read this article & this article). I couldn't seem to find an empirical evidence based data. When it comes to health matters, I am typically a show me the results of a large study type of person. But in this case, I found myself intrigued by Design Mom's (whose posts I read frequently & insights I trust) experience & feeling like, after seven cavities, I had little to lose.

I asked my dentist about it. He had never heard of oil pulling but looked at me like I had just described the most absurd thing ever. He told me to keep doing what I'd been doing: brushing, flossing, mouth washing. The only thing is, doing what I was doing had led to 7 cavities.

I decided to try oil pulling for 30 days, & ordered this extra virgin coconut oil. I figured, I can do anything for 30 days. While I may not see all of the results by then, at least I would be able to detect changes with sensitivity & the smoothness of my teeth.

The Challenge: Oil pull for twenty minutes each morning for 30 days. 
The effects that I was hoping to see were clean teeth, a decrease in tooth sensitivity, & fresher breath in the mornings before oil pulling. If I continued oil pulling past the 30 days, the possible long term effects I hoped to experience were stronger teeth & less tooth decay.

- Day 1: According to a few different articles, you're supposed to let the oil melt in your mouth & then swish it around your mouth for twenty minutes. I put a a spoonful of solid coconut oil in my mouth. OK, this doesn't taste too bad. Wait, why isn't it melting? It's not melting at all. Now I'm gagging & rushing to the trash can to spit it all out while Daddy laughs. I put slightly less oil on the spoon & put it all my tongue, & this time it melts, although slowly. I decide to watch the Olympics to distract myself. Watching the Olympics doesn't distract me enough to not think about it, & thinking about it leads to gagging. It's weird how it doesn't feel oily while I swish. I wonder if I could just swish water for 20 minutes & have the same effect? Uh oh, I thought about it, started gagging, & almost projectile vomited in the trash can. 

- Day 2: It still seems like it takes a long time to melt but not as bad as yesterday. This time I clean up the house while swishing. Cleaning up works much better to distract me. I only think about it & gag a few times. I make it past 20 minutes. Teeth feel smooth, but no smoother than when I use my electric toothbrush. I flossed afterwards. While a lot less was flossed out than usual, there were still some things left between my teeth for the floss to find. I miss the fresh, minty feeling of brushing. So, I use Listerine mouthwash afterwards.

- Day 4: I'm starting to get used to the feeling of the oil melting. It's a good thing I like the taste of coconut. There is definitely much less gagging...especially if I oil pull while I'm cleaning up or doing other things. I've found that spitting the oil out in the garbage can is awkward/gross for me (don't spit it out in the sink, you'll ruin your plumbing). So, I spit it out in a cup & then pour in the garbage. 

- Day 6: While oil pulling is easy for me during the weekdays (Daddy takes you to school an hour before I have to leave), it's really hard to find a time to do it on the weekends. I prepped you by giving you an activity that would take at least 20 minutes and telling you mommy couldn't talk for a little while. Fifteen minutes later, you came to me full of questions & then started crying because "mommy, why aren't you talking to me?"

- Day 8: My teeth definitely don't feel smoother than they did when I brushed, but I wonder if that's because I brush with an electric toothbrush & the reviews I had read about oil pulling were from those who brushed with a regular toothbrush?

- Day 10: I gave in & brushed my teeth today. I still oil pulled beforehand, but my teeth were starting to feel grimy. I'm determined to try it for a whole month, but so far the results aren't the silky smoothness that I was hoping for. 

- Day 12: Is it possible that the smoothness of my teeth is directly related to the ferocity of my swishing. Maybe I'm just not very good at oil pulling? 

- Day 13: I've noticed that my breath doesn't stink as much in the morning when I wake up. There's one positive effect.

- Day 15: This was the first day I oil pulled with you at home & you didn't cry. The trick? Write notes to your daddy that he can read to you. 

- Day 18: You told me that you took a sip of water, swished it around, & then swallowed it. I asked you why you didn't just swallow it without swishing. You told me you wanted to make sure your teeth were extra clean. I guess habits really are learned.

- Day 20: I've started to brush my teeth after oil pulling every day. I'm determined to oil pull for 30 days, but I can't handle how grimy my teeth feel.

- Day 23: I didn't oil pull today. I took your Daddy on a weekend get-a-way, & the thought of oil pulling in the hotel room for 20 minutes didn't have the romantic feel I was going for. I opted to only floss & brush my teeth instead.

- Day 26: I'm not really feeling a decrease in sensitivity like I hoped. Granted, I have had dental procedures throughout this 30 day challenge. Maybe this wasn't a good time to start if I wanted to be able to detect a difference.

- Day 30: I'm happy to be done with this process. While the oil pulling process became a seamless habit in the end, I'm not really feeling the positive effects I was hoping for. Overall, my teeth felt grimier on days that I didn't also brush my teeth. Although it's hard to gauge because I had dental procedures during this time, oil pulling hasn't seemed to help with my tooth sensitivity. It's too early to tell the long term effects of teeth strengthening & reductions in tooth decay, but I don't think I'm going to continue this long enough for me to find out. 

In the end, it wasn't the experience I had hoped for. While I'm not discrediting the experiences other people have had with it, it didn't quite work for me in the same way. Everyone is different. Maybe I wasn't oil pulling correctly? Maybe I do in fact have bad genes? At least I gave it 30 days, & now I know what would happen if I oil pulled for 30 days. Now, I'm going to go brush & floss & mouthwash my teeth.

I love you so,

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