Coconut oil is well-known for its health-enhancing qualities, and with good reason.
Many are aware of its many benefits for hair and skin, but it has also been a traditional remedy for dental health for ages.
Specifically, Ayurvedic practices have utilized coconut oil to clean and brighten teeth, combat bad breath, and nurture gum health.
This article delves into the recent studies about coconut oil and its positive effects on your teeth.
What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is a consumable oil taken from the flesh of coconuts and stands out as one of the most concentrated sources of saturated fats from plants.
The main fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride with 12 carbons. It constitutes about half of the oil. There are also minor amounts of palmitic and myristic acid present.
Fascinatingly, the fatty components in coconut oil show antibacterial qualities, which could be advantageous for dental hygiene. Notably, both lauric acid and its monoglyceride form, monolaurin, are recognized for their antimicrobial effects.
For hundreds of years, Ayurveda has championed coconut oil for its bacteria-fighting properties to enhance dental wellness through a method called “oil pulling.” This technique is thought to cleanse the mouth of bacteria responsible for cavities and unpleasant breath.
You can easily get coconut oil in many supermarkets or online. Of the many options out there, most individuals gravitate towards extra-virgin coconut oil for its superior flavor and minimal processing.
Summary: Coconut oil, derived from coconut flesh, is rich in lauric acid. This component may possess bacteria-fighting abilities, making it beneficial for dental health.
Coconut oil and oral health
Oil pulling involves swirling coconut oil in the mouth and around the teeth. While more studies are required, this practice could enhance the health of teeth, gums, and the entire mouth.
When you swish oil, it’s thought to create a cleansing reaction that can decrease the stickiness of bacteria and plaque on teeth.
Coconut oil might combat damaging oral bacteria
Coconut oil can potentially tackle harmful mouth bacteria, leading to issues like bad breath, cavities, and gum problems.
It’s especially good at eliminating a bacterium named Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), a primary culprit of tooth decay. It might also reduce another common bacteria, Candida albicans.
A study involving 60 individuals discovered a notable decrease in S. mutans from oil pulling with coconut oil (10 milliliters daily) for a fortnight. This was similar to the results from chlorhexidine, a frequent antibacterial component in many mouthwashes.
Another study with 50 kids aged between 8 to 12 saw a major drop in S. mutans from daily oil pulling with coconut oil for a month. Results were akin to the control group using chlorhexidine, implying that coconut oil might be just as efficient.
However, a 2020 review advised that we need more thorough randomized controlled investigations to truly comprehend the efficacy of oil pulling in eliminating oral bacteria.
Coconut oil might decrease plaque and combat gum issues
Gingivitis, or gum disease, is marked by gum inflammation. This condition often arises from dental plaque accumulation due to detrimental bacteria in the mouth, commonly linked to inadequate dental care.
Emerging studies suggest that coconut oil can reduce the accumulation of plaque on teeth and diminish inflammation, hence countering gum disease.
In a preliminary study, participants experienced a marked reduction in plaque and gingivitis indicators after oil pulling with coconut oil for a month.
Suggested read: Oil pulling with coconut oil: Benefits & tips
After this period, plaque scores reduced by around 68%, and gingivitis scores went down by about 56%. However, this study didn’t have a control group for comparison.
Another preliminary study also indicated significant reductions in plaque and gum bleeding scores after oil pulling daily for a month.
A week-long study yielded comparable findings after daily oil pulling with coconut oil for 10 minutes. Yet, a control group (who rinsed with mineral water) showed similar outcomes, suggesting that regular mouth rinsing might be just as beneficial in reducing plaque.
Despite these positive initial results, we need larger, more comprehensive studies for a definitive conclusion.
Coconut oil might counteract bad breath
Bad breath, or halitosis, is a frequent dental concern. While specific health issues and medicines might intensify it, the majority of bad breath incidents are due to insufficient dental hygiene.
Factors like gingivitis, tooth decay, a coated tongue, leftover food particles, and bacterial buildup can cause an unwelcome mouth smell.
If bad breath is a problem for you, coconut oil might be a solution. Its antimicrobial qualities can potentially clear out bacteria causing the odor. Additionally, it might decrease the accumulation of food residues on teeth, inner cheeks, and the tongue.
A pilot study noted a significant drop in breath odor and self-reported breath scores after oil pulling with sesame oil. Given that coconut oil possesses similar cleansing and antimicrobial properties as sesame oil, the effects might be comparable.
However, we need specific randomized controlled studies focusing on coconut oil to be certain.
Summary: Coconut oil, due to its antibacterial attributes, might decrease harmful bacteria in the mouth that causes cavities, plaque, and foul breath. But comprehensive research is still required.
How to oil pull with coconut oil
Though oil pulling has become trendy, its roots go back to ancient India.
Suggested read: 6 simple ways to naturally whiten your teeth at home
Oil pulling involves swishing oil around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, then spitting it out. Think of it as using oil in place of mouthwash.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Start with a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth.
- Swish it around for 15–20 minutes, ensuring it moves between your teeth.
- Dispose of the oil by spitting it into a trash bin (not the sink, as it can cause blockages).
- Finish by brushing your teeth.
The fatty acids in the oil work by latching onto and removing bacteria, so every time you practice oil pulling, you’re getting rid of harmful bacteria and plaque.
For best results, try this first thing in the morning before consuming anything.
Summary: Oil pulling involves swishing oil in your mouth for 15–20 minutes and spitting it out, which helps in removing harmful bacteria and plaque.
Tips for dental care
While adding coconut oil pulling to your regimen can enhance your oral health, it shouldn’t sideline your regular dental routines.
The most effective way to ensure oral health is by brushing and flossing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Don’t forget to clean your tongue and inner cheeks either with your toothbrush or a specialized tongue cleaner.
Other beneficial habits include staying hydrated, minimizing sugary drinks and snacks, refraining from smoking, maintaining a balanced diet, and regular dentist check-ups.
Summary: Though coconut oil can be a helpful addition, regular oral care practices are essential. This includes brushing and flossing regularly, maintaining a balanced diet, and regular dental check-ups.
For ages, coconut oil has been a trusted tool for better oral health.
Recent studies indicate that oil pulling with coconut oil (swirling the oil in your mouth for about 10 to 20 minutes) can decrease bad bacteria, help prevent gum disease and cavities, and combat bad breath. However, we still need more studies to confirm these findings.
If you’re thinking about using coconut oil for a healthier mouth, it’s essential to combine it with regular dental care practices, like brushing and flossing your teeth.