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If Coconut Oil Can Do Everything, Can it Even Brush My Teeth for Me? Almost….

July 30, 2013

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Lately, coconut oil is everywhere you turn.  Dr. Oz is saying it will help us lose weight, cure skin ailments and treat ulcers.  The Huffington Post boasts many uses; such as being an excellent skin moisturizer, leather shoe cleaner, sticker remover and insect repellent, to name a few.  The New York Times claims that, despite being a saturated fat, coconut oil is not a harmful fat and it just plain tastes good.  The benefits of coconut oil are seemingly endless.  However, one claim that piqued my interest was that coconut oil could combat tooth decay.

Back in 2012, researchers at the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland discovered that coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes, similar to digestion, displayed some antibacterial properties.  Most importantly, the enzyme-modified coconut oil strongly inhibited the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans, a significant contributor of tooth decay.  The team of scientists tested the impact of coconut oil, vegetable oil and olive oil and found that only the coconut oil showed an ability to slow or stop the growth of most strains of Streptococcus.

Dr Damien Brady, along with his Masters student, Patricia Hughes, led the research at the Institute and believes that the breaking down of the fatty coconut oil by the enzymes turns it into acids, which are active and effective in destroying bacteria.  Researchers will next investigate how coconut oil interacts with Streptococcus bacteria at the molecular level.  Potentially, incorporating enzyme-modified coconut oil into dental hygiene products will translate into less chemical additives in such products.  This is great news for those of us who are interested in a more organic way to keep our mouths clean.

This recent study provides positive news for denture wearers as well.  Additionally, it was reported that enzyme-modified coconut oil also attacks the yeast, Candida albicansCandida albicans causes thrush; an infection of the mucus membrane lining of mouth and tongue, which creates painful mouth sores.  Denture wearers are more susceptible to thrush than those sporting their natural teeth.

So, it looks like we all must continue to brush our teeth.  Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and biannual visits to your dentist for exams and a professional cleaning are the only proven methods of avoiding tooth decay.  However, perhaps we can look forward to more effective and organic oral hygiene products. Maybe we can also keep the mosquitoes away and burn fat just by brushing our teeth!!!

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