Coconut oil is great for oral health because of its antimicrobial properties, however, the way you are using it may be holding you back from it’s most potent health benefits!
Some people are brushing with with coconut oil, or trying out oil pulling for a few minutes here and there.
Raw Coconut vs. Partially-Digested Coconut
Microbes, such as Streptococcus mutans and the harmful yeast Candida albicans, seem to flourish in the mouth – particularly in the presence of sugars and starches.
These bad bacteria and fungi, when allowed to flourish, can cause a plethora of health concerns.
Dr. Damien Brady at the Bioscience Research Institute in Ireland conducted a study comparing raw coconut oil with a enzyme-modified coconut oil – modified to mimic the natural effect of the digestive process that starts in the mouth.
His research showed that that partially-digested coconut oil was more effective than raw coconut oil at impacting levels of potentially harmful bacteria in the mouth, including Streptococcus mutans (the main contributor to tooth decay). (1)
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Ancient Ayurvedic Knowledge + Modern Science
This may explain why simply brushing the teeth with coconut oil was not a common Ayurvedic practice, but oil pulling is!
Oil pulling is the ancient, time-tested Ayurvedic practice of swishing herbalized sesame and coconut oil to support healthy bacteria in the mouth.
According to Ayurveda, after cleaning the teeth, it was (and still is) recommended to swish with a blend of coconut and sesame oils for 10-20 minutes.
This practice, called “oil pulling,” would allow the coconut oil the time it needed to be pre-digested or enzyme-modified – which is exactly what Dr. Brady found more effective against bad bacterium in his study.
The Research on Oil Pulling
There are a handful of studies that suggest oil pulling for 10-20 minutes a day reduces plaque, decreases Streptococcus mutans populations, promotes better teeth cleansing, healthy gum tissue and better oral hygiene. (2,3,4,5)
How? The swishing of these oils creates a saponification or detergent effect that deters bad bacteria and plague, while supporting healthy gum tissue as a barrier against bacterial exposure to the bloodstream.
While brushing with coconut oil is a good idea, Dr. Brady’s research suggests that oil pulling will pre-digest and activate the coconut oil.
It takes some time for the digestive enzymes in the mouth to break down the oil and release the coconut’s most potent health benefits – making oil pulling a more effective strategy.
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How Do You Oil Pull?
Take about 1 tablespoon of this oil mixture and swish or gargle in the mouth for 10-20 minutes.
Spit out the oil in the trash, and rinse with warm water.
This is best performed after tongue scraping, brushing and flossing, and can be done while showering.
Neem Tooth Twig, Anyone?
Frayed twigs were used to scrub or brush and clean the teeth.
In India, neem twigs were mostly used, followed by a 10-20 minute swish with coconut and sesame oil that would finish the job.
Neem is one of my favorite summer herbs. It acts as a natural protection against opportunistic bad bacteria while re-vitalizing the intestinal skin or epithelium and supporting the proliferation of good gut bacteria. It was Ayurveda’s natural pre- and probiotic! Coconut oil was also used for similar purposes.