Swish! Gwyneth Paltrow, Shailene Woodley bring attention to 'oil pulling' trend

03/31/2014 8:00 PM

03/31/2014 9:40 PM

You know that oil you’ve got stored in your pantry – the one you use to cook with? It turns out it could be used for something else entirely. But be warned: It’s a trend that doesn’t sound too tasty.

Actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley have brought attention recently to “oil pulling,” a new beauty trend that has ancient roots.

“I just started ‘oil pulling,’ which is when you swish coconut oil around (in your mouth) for 20 minutes, and it’s supposed to be great for oral health and making your teeth white,” Paltrow told E! News. “It’s supposed to clear up your skin, as well.”

Woodley told Into the Gloss, a website dedicated to beauty: “You can do something called ‘oil pulling’ where you swish coconut or sesame oil in your mouth when you wake up and spit it out. It’s amazing! It really makes your teeth whiter, because the plaque on your teeth is not water soluble, it’s fat-soluble. So the lipids have to dissolve in fats, which is why oil works in your mouth.”

The practice apparently originated from ancient Ayurvedic Indian natural medicine, which claimed oil pulling was a remedy for oral diseases.

But don’t throw away your toothbrush just yet; very little research has shown that oil pulling is the miracle-worker that some claim.

An article on oil pulling says that while the practice isn’t particularly harmful, it may not be beneficial, either.

“(Oil pulling) should not be used to treat oral disease such as gum disease or tooth decay,” Michelle Hurlbutt, an associate professor of dental hygiene, told The Huffington Post. “It’s more of a preventive rinse that could be used adjunctively with your regular mouth care routine.”

The bottom line: If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare and a strong stomach, swish away. If not, your usual brushing routine should suit you just fine. Just don’t forget to floss.

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