In a study to test coconut oil’s biocidal properties against the bacteria responsible for tooth decay, the oil proved to be quite effective. The action of coconut oil was tested in its natural state and after being treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion. The oils were tested against strains of Streptococcus bacteria, which are common inhabitants of your mouth.
Inhibits growth of bacteria
They found that enzyme-modified coconut oil strongly inhibits the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans, an acid-producing bacterium that is a major cause of tooth decay.1 It is thought that the breaking down of the fatty coconut oil by the enzymes turns it into acids, which are toxic to certain bacteria.2 Chief researcher Dr. Damien Brady said:
“Incorporating enzyme-modified coconut oil into dental hygiene products would be an attractive alternative to chemical additives, particularly as it works at relatively low concentrations. Also, with increasing antibiotic resistance, it is important that we turn our attention to new ways to combat microbial infection.”
Reasons to Use Coconut Oil as Toothpaste
No Harmful Chemicals
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are a serious concern, as they can promote a wide variety of health problems, including: breast, ovarian, prostate, and testicular cancer, preterm and low birth weight babies, precocious puberty in girls, and undescended testicles in boys.
Some animal studies showed that triclosan caused fetal bone malformations in mice and rats, which may hint at hormonal effects. Fluoride is another common chemical in conventional toothpaste. Fluoride is a toxic industrial waste product that is a poison to your body even in trace amounts…
Effective Against Cavity-Causing Bacteria
No Foaming Agents
Many toothpastes also contain surfactants like sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES). Surfactants are chemicals responsible for the foaming action of the toothpaste, but they also interfere with the functioning of your taste buds by breaking up the phospholipids on your tongue.
This enhances bitter tastes and is thought to be the reason why everything tastes so bad right after you’ve brushed your teeth. This may also be part of why coconut oil works so well for oral hygiene, as it helps maintain a more natural balance of lipids on your tongue, while still having potent antibacterial properties.
Not to mention, SLS has even been linked to painful canker sores, with research suggesting an SLS-free toothpaste should be used for people with recurring sores.5
It takes only a small amount of coconut oil to keep your teeth clean, and one jar can easily last you months, making it a very inexpensive toothpaste.
You Can Use It on Your Dog’s Teeth Too
While you wouldn’t want to brush your pets’ teeth with ordinary “human” toothpaste, coconut oil is effective and safe for dogs and humans alike. Applying it with a toothbrush would be best, but your pet may even get some oral health benefits just from licking a small amount of oil. The recipe below is not recommended for dogs. As noted, some ingredients that are fine for human consumption can be toxic for pets.
Simple to Make
Coconut oil toothpaste is simple to make with just a few ingredients:
- Coconut oil
- Baking soda, which acts as an abrasive and helps with whitening
- Essential oils to give your toothpaste flavor and add additional therapeutic benefits. Peppermint oil extract, for instance, has been shown to be superior to the mouthwash chemical chlorhexidine in inhibiting the formation of biofilm formations linked to dental cavities.6
- Erythritol, xylitol, or stevia (optional), which are natural sweeteners. Xylitol, in particular, has been linked to reductions in cavities.7 However, if you plan to give this toothpaste to your dog, do not include xylitol, as it is toxic to dogs.
- Bentonite clay, which adds a paste-like consistency and may help draw out toxins from your gums and tongue
You Can Use Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling Too
Oil pulling involves ‘rinsing’ your mouth with coconut oil, much like you would with a mouthwash (except you shouldn’t attempt to gargle with it). The oil is “worked” around your mouth by pushing, pulling, and drawing it through your teeth for about 10-15 minutes. When you’re first starting out, you may want to try it for just five minutes at a time.
This process allows the oil to “pull out” cavity-causing bacteria and other debris from your mouth. Once the oil turns thin and milky white, you’ll know it’s time to spit it out. As reported by the Indian Journal of Dental Research:8
“Oil pulling has been used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy without scientific proof for many years for strengthening teeth, gums, and jaws and to prevent decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums, and dryness of throat and cracked lips.”
However, oil pulling does appear to have a significant cleansing and healing effect, which is backed by science:
- Oil pulling reduced counts of Streptococcus mutans bacteria – a significant contributor to tooth decay – in the plaque and saliva of children.9 Researchers concluded, “Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health.”
- Oil pulling significantly reduced plaque, improved gum health, and reduced aerobic microorganisms in plaque among adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis10
- Oil pulling is as effective as mouthwash at improving bad breath and reducing the microorganisms that may cause it11
- Oil pulling benefits your mouth, in part, via its mechanical cleaning action.12 Researchers noted, “The myth that the effect of oil pulling therapy on oral health was just a placebo effect has been broken and there are clear indications of possible saponification and emulsification process, which enhances its mechanical cleaning action.”
It’s worth noting that the above studies used sesame oil, which is traditionally recommended.