Can coconut oil really fight cavities?? Well, maybe.

Been hearing about coconut oil as a toothpaste alternative?  We have too.  First of all, coconut tastes amazing and we absolutely love to cook with it. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, good vegetable fats, and electrolytes that our bodies love.  Lately it has been getting a lot of press for other uses.  There has been buzz about the use of coconut oil as an alternative to toothpaste, with the idea that coconut oil fights the oral bacteria that cause cavities.  There is actually group of researchers that has presented findings in support of this.  Dr. Damian Brady from the Athlone institute of Technology in Ireland performed a study on raw and enzyme treated (partially digested) coconut oil and its effects on the bacteria that cause tooth decay.  At a conference for the Society for General Microbiology he presented research showing that the ENZYME TREATED coconut oil was able to slow the growth of cavity causing bacteria.  The key is the enzyme treated oil.  Raw oil did not have a significant effect.  It seems that the research has yet to be published for peer review, so the information is limited and as yet cannot be taken as fact.  Here are a few takeaways... 1. Coconut oil is safe and may have some antibacterial properties against oral bacteria.

2. The oil has to be enzyme treated or partially digested for effectiveness.  Is partial digestion by salivary enzymes enough, or will the product need to be treated with enzymes before use?  Solid research has not been published to show exactly how the oil should be treated for effectiveness.

3. With #2 in mind...adding a coconut oil swishing routine to your oral care may be a good thing.  We can't recommend using it as a total replacement for fluoride containing toothpaste until we see solid peer reviewed research in support of that.

So go ahead and swish with coconut oil if you like. In fact, by swishing with it for a good while, your salivary enzymes may partially digest the oil enough to render it effective!  However, keep on brushing with a good fluoride toothpaste to keep your enamel strong. And floss! Flossing still remains very important for removing the bacterial biofilms from between your teeth that lead to decay and periodontal disease. Rinsing, swishing and even brushing just don't reach those areas.

Society for General Microbiology. "Coconut oil could combat tooth decay." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2012. <>.

Did you get a good night sleep...really?

Snoring isn't sexy. That's for sure. We usually think of the second hand effects of snoring, like keeping our partner awake at night while we saw enough logs to drop a forest. The effects of second hand sleep deprivation on those who live with someone who has a snoring problem are very real. However, even more alarming are the effects on the person doing the snoring. Loud snoring can be a sign of a bigger problem known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a potentially life-threatening disorder that results from a collapse of the airway during sleep, depriving organs like your heart and brain with the oxygen they need. This not only leads to decreased quality of life due to daytime fatigue, memory and concentration problems, but also increases the risk for stroke and heart attack. Many times OSA and snoring can be treated with simple lifestyle changes. And other times, treatment may require a device to keep the airway open during sleep so you get the oxygen you need. Either way, suffers from any of the symptoms listed above, you owe it to yourself to get a sleep study and treatment. Not only will you feel better, but it just may save your life.

Does whitening harm your teeth? It depends...

A few patients have asked recently if tooth whitening weakens the enamel of teeth. So, it seemed appropriate to post a little info for you. Whitening gel, strips, professional in-office bleach, etc. are all based on peroxide bleaching of the intrinsic stains of your teeth. Although you may experience sensitivity during bleaching, these products do not weaken, alter, or harm your enamel.  I have also been asked whether whitening makes teeth stain easier.  This is also not the case.  Bleached teeth are susceptible to stain like any other teeth.  They are just whiter so stain may show up more readily than on a yellow tooth.  Now, whitening toothpastes are a little different.  These do not actually “bleach” your stained teeth.  Whitening toothpastes simply have more abrasives added to them that grind the stains off of the surface of your teeth, like using a brillo pad on your pots and pans.  These abrasives actually can wear the enamel of your teeth, especially if you brush hard or vigorously.  In general these are safe products and do a good job of keeping your teeth clean.  But use them carefully, especially if you have receding gums that leave the root surfaces of your teeth exposed. These surfaces are not as strong, since they have no enamel covering them, and will be very susceptible to abrasion from whitening toothpaste.  In a nutshell, go ahead and whiten if you want (gel or toothpaste), just go easy when brushing with whitening toothpaste!

Eat Chocolate! Yes, this is your dentist speaking…

You have probably heard by now about the widespread health benefits of anitoxidants and polyphenols found in many plant based foods and drinks. We wrote an article last winter about the dental benefits of drinking green tea for example. Well here is another one for you and you are going to love it! Chocolate is a VERY rich source of polyphenols, a group of antioxidants that are thought to have many health benefits. These include anti-inflammatory and possible anti-cancer effects. In addition to the total body health benefits, research has shown that polyphenols can have anti cavity effects!  In order for a cavity to form, bacteria must attach to your teeth in what is called a biofilm.  Polyphenols disrupt the formation of bacterial biofilms, making it difficult for bacteria to form cavities in your teeth.  What does that mean for you?  Dark chocolate can help fight tooth decay!  How great is that?!?  Now, not all chocolate is created equal. Milk chocolate is generally more processed, contains lower amounts of cocoa, and higher amounts of sugar, so it won’t do your teeth any favors. But, quality dark chocolate (like 80% ) is very high in cocoa and contains less sugar.  In moderation, it will deliver the healthful polyphenol effects. You can also cook some great things with pure cocoa. Try rubbing lamb or steak with unsweetened cocoa powder, salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin.  Sear well and cook to your desired temperature…you’ll love it and so will your teeth!

1. The anti-biofouling effect of polyphenols against Streptococcus mutans.

Sendamangalam VChoi OKKim DSeo Y.

Department of Bioengineering, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606, USA.