Oil pulling: the whole tooth?

As someone who has had terrible teeth since they emerged (I had my first extraction when I was two) and rubbish gums since my late teens, I'm always on a mission to improve them.

I brush, floss, use an interdental brush (which, for the unacquainted, looks like a tiny bottle brush), swish with mouthwash and visit the dentist regularly. I've even had gum surgery (skip this bit if you're squeamish), where my lovely dentist made an incision all the way along the gums above my top teeth then detached and repositioned my gum lower down. He's a kind man, so he prescribed Valium for me to take before this procedure, which made for a weird experience where I knew something horrible was happening but didn't care! It was a bit reminiscent of the effect Pethidine had on me during my first labour.

Despite all this rather anal attention to my oral health, my gums are retreating, my teeth are wobbling alarmingly and, for all his reassuring chairside manner, my dentist has warned that I will lose them. Although I'm not big on 'alternative' therapies as a rule, traditional dentistry appeared to be only delaying the inevitable, so I decided to check out other ways to improve my chances of keeping my teeth.

Onto the internet I went, to seek the services of Dr Google. I don't recommend this as the sole course of action for the majority of health issues, as there's no substitute for expert input, but it's useful for reading around problems and for finding benign complementary therapies and healthy lifestyle ideas. The emphasis here is on benign, as some therapies can be toxic and definitely inadvisable if they mean you don't seek medical input, which is why I like the word 'complementary'.

coconut oilMy online search quickly led me to oil pulling. This is a very simple process where you take a tablespoonful of good-quality oil, such as sesame, sunflower or coconut, into your mouth and swish it around, pulling it through the teeth, for 20 minutes at a time. You then spit it out (preferably into the bin or, if you must, the loo, to avoid clogging up your sink), rinse thoroughly with water and brush your teeth as usual. Lots of people who oil pull also eschew using fluoride toothpastes, but I've been a bit nervous about experimenting with that so far, just in case…

The idea is that the oil can get into all the bits of your mouth that normal cleaning can't reach, including those dastardly 'pockets' in receding gums where bacteria collect, multiply and cause all manner of horrible symptoms. So when you spit it out, all the nasty stuff goes too, leaving your mouth sparkling clean. That's good enough for me, although proponents say that it also 'pulls' toxins from the body and cures all sorts of ills. While I'm sceptical about that, I will say that after just a few weeks my mouth felt great, my gums were turning pink instead of red and my wobbliest tooth wobbled less.

Another bonus, as I suffer from a very dry mouth due to having scleroderma, is that my mouth feels moisturised all the time without feeling oily.

Four months on, when I saw my dentist, he commented that he could see an improvement: that my mouth wasn't so dry. However, while he didn't say much about my gums - a good sign, given what he normally says - he did mention possible extractions of the still-wobbly teeth. In fact, he may have used the word 'dentures', which brings me out in a cold sweat just thinking about it.

A few months later, on a recent holiday, I developed toothache around one of the wobbly teeth. A very bad sign and one that made me panicky, especially in the light of my dentist's ominous prognosis. Sometimes I do wonder what I did in a past life to warrant being saddled with my dentition, but I try not to whinge about it too much. Except in this blog, evidently.

Back to the internet and this time my research brought me to oregano oil. Not just any oregano oil. This is Mediterranean wild handpicked oregano oil. It's hailed by many as being a super-powered cure-all with antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. My sensible where's-the-double-blind-trial-evidence radar kicked in, especially as you have to be careful with 'natural' remedies and this is in a different league to the gentle swishing of cooking oils. But being desperate, I thought I'd give it a try.

For a start, the cost was nearly as painful as the toothache. But not quite, so I bought it. The woman in the shop assured me it would last for a long time, and so it should with that price tag! She also warned me not to use more than two drops at a time. Given its strength, I took all the online advice to dilute it in a carrier oil before putting it anywhere near my mouth.

I got home and added two drops of the oregano oil to my spoonful of coconut oil. Wow, that stuff is strong! And potent. Not only does my study smell of pizza in spite of the tightly-closed bottle but, two days later, my toothache has vanished. Incredible. While I'm pretty sceptical and don't believe anything warrants the title 'miracle cure', that's pretty impressive. Of course, it may just have been a coincidence and the pain would have stopped regardless of what I swished around my mouth, but I'm happy not to be hurting right now.

I'm aiming to keep up the oil pulling, along with the oregano, until my next visit to the dentist, when I'll ask whether he can see any improvement in my teeth. The way it's going so far, I'd be surprised if he didn't, but let's see… I'll let you know!

I've heard about oil pulling

I've heard about oil pulling before, but never tried it because I don't like the thought of oil in my mouth. However, I'd be willing to put up with anything if it would help to get rid of the mouth ulcers I'm plagued by. Will investigate.

Weirdly it doesn't feel or

Weirdly it doesn't feel or taste nearly as bad as it sounds!

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