Coconut Oil - Mouth Wash for Your Plaque

July 07, 2014

Coconut Oil – Mouth Wash Extraordinaire 

 ReferenceKris Gunnars in Authority Nutrition, Asia Jr of Public Health 

 Coconut oil has been around a long time.  Much of the tropical world uses it, prior to the advent of cheaper vegetable oils.   There are many studies that show it to have a beneficial effect on heart disease incidence.   Most of these are epidemiological studies, not randomized controlled trials.   Coconut oil got a bad rap for the last several decades as it is a saturated fat and thereby thought to be bad for you.  However, with the recent rehabilitation of saturated fats, all that old “assumed knowledge” is being reconsidered.   

Essentially, coconut oil is made of molecules mostly 10-12 carbons long.  Most animal saturated fat (like beef tallow) is 16-18 carbons long.   Your body knows just what to do with 16 carbon long molecules.  But 10 carbons don’t fit in the normal order of things with the net result that coconut oil seems to be mostly broken down to ketones.   Ketones give the message that it’s ok for fat cells to open up, and ketones appear to be readily used by central nervous system cells.  That makes ketones valuable partners in weight loss, seizures, heart disease, lipid reduction, cancer care – anywhere you want to switch off of the glucose economy and onto the ketone economy. 

 But that is not what this column is about.  This column is about coconut oil mouth wash.  Mouth wash?  “Oil pulling”.   Just ask Gwyneth Paltrow – (the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman)  I’ve had 5 or 6 people independently telling me they have whiter and cleaner mouth with less tender gums when they swish coconut oil in their mouths daily.  How does it work?   Gweneth Paltrow aside, good studies are few and far between.   

But!  One published report from Malaysia shows that the more concentrated your lauric acid from coconut oil, the higher the antimicrobial activity against staph aureus and e. coli. Teeth build up plaque under the influence of various bacteria.   One study from India compared chlorhexidine and coconut oil for reduction of bad breath and bacterial count.  Both were equivalent with a statistically significant reduction in each.   A second study was published looking at gingivitis scores.  It also showed sesame oil to be pretty good at reducing gingivitis.   So, oil–pulling with sesame oil seems to be pretty effective, is coconut oil just as good?   Very likely, but not proven. Dental plaque is known to be an organized colony of bacteria and cell detritus called a biofilm.  Another of the putative beneficial effects of coconut oil is that it disrupts that biofilm.  So, it’s not “oil pulling” but rather biofilm dissolving

 Here is how you do it.  Take a tablespoon of coconut oil.  If it’s warmer than 76 degrees, it will be liquid.   Less and it will be solid.   In your mouth it will melt.  Swish it around for 20 minutes.   You do seem to have some saliva production and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do the first time.   You can spit it out but you might be cautious about your drain as it will cool down in your drain and may help plug it up. 

 WWW. What will work for me?  I’m doing it. The first day was a bit dicey but I’m now into it.  I swear my gums feels better.   I’m going to stick with it for a couple of months before I get my teeth checked by my dentist. We will have to see! 

 Pop Quiz

  1. Gwyneth Paltrow has the most beautiful teeth on the planet.   T or F                       Answer:  True, of course.  Just cover over her face and compare her teeth to yours or anyone else's.
  1. Oil pulling is a catchy phrase to describe rinsing your mouth with coconut oil for 15 minutes every day.   T or F                        Answer:  True
  1. Oil pulling pulls toxins out of your body.  T or F                       Answer:  False.  That may be the urban legend but that’s not what is going on
  1. Coconut oil pulling kills the bacteria that cause cavities.  T or F                        Answer:  True – That’ what is going on
  1. Coconut oil pulling also dissolves and disrupts the plaque that makes for cavities.   T or F.   Answer:   Bingo!

This column was written by John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI.