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. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120902222459.htm>.