If you are currently flossing daily and brushing your teeth two or three times a day with a commercial toothpaste like Colgate or Crest, don’t stop! That’s exactly what you need to do to maintain good dental hygiene. But if you are someone who is dedicated to an organic or “green” lifestyle, there are some good reasons why you might want to consider adding coconut oil to your dental health routine.
Many people have already, especially here in California. Coconut oil has no harmful chemicals and is a natural antibiotic. In addition, research studies are telling us that coconut oil can be quite effective against the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
For example, researchers in the Republic of Ireland at the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) recently tested coconut oil against strains of Streptococcus bacteria, a common agent of tooth decay. The coconut oil was tested both in its natural state and after being treated with enzymes in a process comparable to digestion. The researchers found that partially-digested coconut oil turns into acids that are toxic to Streptococcus bacteria.
WHAT IS OIL PULLING?
A small jar of coconut oil can cost less than ten dollars and last for months. You can use coconut oil like you would use a mouthwash – you “swish” it around your mouth and between and through your teeth and gums – just don’t swallow it or try to gargle with it. This practice is sometimes called “oil pulling,” and it’s an ancient health practice that an increasing number of today’s dental hygiene researchers are recommending in addition to brushing and flossing. Oil pulling with coconut oil attacks bacteria, whitens the teeth, and strengthens the gums – naturally.
Some sources have also claimed that coconut oil pulling can help you fight everything from acne to a sore throat, but quite frankly, there is no scientific evidence for any of these claims. It is well known that good oral health practices can benefit the body’s overall health, so there’s little doubt that oil pulling may be beneficial as part of a general oral health routine. Do not, however, rely on coconut oil alone for your dental health or for any serious medical problem.
Reportedly, some people have abandoned toothpaste and flossing altogether in favor of coconut oil, but that’s far too extreme – it’s not at all a good idea. According to San Diego family dentist Jonathan Fung, “Essentially there is not enough scientific evidence to support replacing the standard toothpaste and floss regimen with coconut oil ‘pulling.’ This is not to say that there are no therapeutic effects from coconut oil pulling but there is no current evidence other than anecdotal accounts that can definitively conclude that one can replace brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily with coconut oil.”
What’s better is simply adding oil pulling to your already-existing regimen of brushing and flossing. As Dr. Fung explains, “One can try using coconut oil pulling in addition to the normal hygiene regimen but until more studies are done to determine its efficacy it would be dangerous to bet everything on a traditional folk remedy when we know for certain that fluoride toothpaste and floss are shown to work as needed.”
Some people have even reported negative reactions to using coconut oil for oil pulling. Persons who experience any type of topical or internal reaction to coconut in any form should not use it for oil pulling or for any other purpose. In these cases, sesame oil may be a better option. It is always a good idea to speak with your family dentist before using any new dental hygiene product or treatment.
COULD A COCONUT OIL TOOTHPASTE BE RIGHT FOR YOU?
Especially for some dental patients who struggle with infections, canker sores, and gum disease, coconut oil toothpaste could be helpful and appropriate but ask your dentist first if a coconut oil toothpaste might be right for you. As you might expect, a variety of “natural toothpaste recipes” are now available online, and a number of “natural” and “organic” over-the-counter toothpastes with names like “Earthpaste” and “Greensations” are also available at many pharmacies and drugstores.
You’ll not only want to read the ingredients on anything you purchase – some “natural” toothpastes have many of the same chemicals used in conventional toothpastes – but you might also want to discuss your toothpaste with your San Diego family dentist. Every person is different – and so is every mouth – so always let your family dentist provide you with the personalized dental health advice you need.
DOES COCONUT OIL OFFER OTHER BENEFITS?
There is one additional benefit of coconut oil. Unlike commercial toothpastes, coconut oil is safe for pets. If you are a dog-owner, for instance, you already know how important it is to keep your pet’s teeth healthy and strong. Since they can’t wear dentures, good dental health is absolutely imperative for dogs.
Coconut oil can probably help, but always check with your vet before giving your dog any new food items. While pure (or “virgin”) coconut oil should be healthy for dogs in small doses, other ingredients in the “natural” toothpaste recipes may not be healthy for dogs or other pets.
Many health and nutrition experts now consider coconut oil a “superfood” that has health benefits for the entire body as well as the teeth. Coconut oil kills a variety of harmful microorganisms, can help you burn fat, improves blood cholesterol levels, keeps the skin moist, boosts brain function in Alzheimer’s patients, and reduces hunger sensations. Researchers have found that people who routinely consume coconut as a dietary staple – such as the Kitavan and Tokelauan peoples of the south Pacific – suffer virtually no heart disease.
Of course, no amount of coconut oil can compensate for poor dental hygiene habits. The regular use of coconut oil can help most people strengthen their teeth, but existing cavities and decay still must be treated to avoid infection and periodontal disease. Of course, you never want to replace entirely your routine dental health regimen and regular checkups with any system of natural, organic, or alternative oral health care.
No matter how well you treat your teeth, they still need to be brushed, flossed, and seen regularly by your family dentist. Your dentist’s top priority is the health of your teeth, so it is always vital to follow his or her advice and recommendations.