Tooth decay, also known as dental cavities, can be a major problem, especially if left untreated. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth produce acids that eat away at the tooth, causing pain and infection. Treatment for tooth decay can be very expensive and can sometimes require removing the tooth altogether. But there is good news for those worried about tooth decay; a new study presented at the Society for General Microbiology's autumn conference at the University of Warwick shows that coconut oil can help fight against tooth decay.
Coconut oil has already been shown to be rich in enzymes and useful as an antibiotic. In order to test the effectiveness of its antibacterial properties, a team of researchers led by Dr. Damien Brady from the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) in Ireland evaluated in both its natural and digested states (treated with enzymes).
By testing the coconut oil against strains of the streptococcus bacteria found in the mouth, which is largely responsible for tooth decay, the team found that in its digested state, coconut oil was seen to slow the growth of the streptococcus bacteria. Earlier research has shown the oil to also be effective against another micro-organism, yeast Candida albicans that can cause thrush. Researchers plan to continue testing to see if coconut oil is effective against other micro-organisms as well.
The team suggests that the enzyme-modified coconut oil could be used in dental care products to combat tooth decay, and may be of particular interest to the oral health industry. In a press release from AIT Dr. Brady said:
“(Dental cavities are) a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90% of children and the majority of adults in industrialised countries. 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...We are currently researching coconut oil and other enzyme-modified foodstuffs to identify how they interfere with the way bacteria cause illness and disease.”
Dr. Brady went on to explain that this research “could have implications for how bacteria colonize the cells lining the digestive tract and for overall gut health,” leading to a better understanding of antibacterial activity in the human gut.
The research also bodes well for those of us who have been eagerly awaiting coconut flavored toothpaste.