Coconut Oil vs. Antibacterial Mouthwash…and the Winner Is

Most of us cannot even imagine what life would be like without brushing and flossing our teeth every day. But brushing with a plastic toothbrush is a recent phenomenon – it only became common in the last few generations. Despite the lack of modern oral hygiene, archeological dental records show that our ancestors did not have nearly as much tooth decay as humans do now. Something that may be partially because many ancient cultures practiced oil pulling.

Whilst mainstream marketing would have us believe that more “advanced” products like antibacterial mouthwash are what we should use for healthy teeth, scientists studying the oral microbiome have discovered it may not be the best way to preserve our dental health. Ancient natural practices like oil pulling are coming back to the forefront. Read on to discover why coconut oil could be your best bet for healthy teeth.

Antibacterial mouthwash could be bad for your health

Contrary to popular belief, conventional mouthwash can actually make your dental and oral health problems worse. Have you heard of the overprescription of antibiotics causing antibiotic resistance? That’s essentially what mouthwashes do to your mouth. 

A 2019 study explained how new science is leading the dental industry away from mouthwash. The study highlighted recent advances in understanding the oral microbiome – the microscopic community of organisms that live in our mouths – and how broad-spectrum treatments like mouthwash can upset the balance in this community.

While mouthwash wipes out bacterial species indiscriminately, leaving the oral environment as a blank canvas ready to be taken over by opportunistic pathogens, experts have suggested that natural treatments may be better able to balance out the bacteria in the mouth, getting rid of harmful bacteria while saving the beneficial ones. The helpful bacteria left behind are then able to colonize the mouth, protecting from future infections more effectively.

One study pitted coconut oil against antibacterial mouthwash, with surprising results.

Here’s what happened when people started using coconut oil as mouthwash

The study was conducted to determine the antibacterial efficacy of coconut oil and to compare it with chlorhexidine, a common ingredient in antibacterial mouthwash. 

A total of 50 children aged 8 to 12 years were asked to rinse their mouths with either coconut oil or chlorhexidine each morning after brushing for 2 to 3 minutes. Patients were instructed to continue this routine for 30 days, and the researchers checked the patients’ bacterial counts in their plaque and saliva on day 1, day 15, and day 30.

The results showed an equally significant decrease in the plaque-causing bacterial strain Streptococcus mutans from coconut oil as well as chlorhexidine, proving that coconut oil is as effective as antibacterial mouthwash in the reduction of harmful bacteria.

Another study in 60 adults showed that oil pulling with coconut oil for 10 minutes every day significantly reduced the number of S. mutans in saliva in as little as two weeks, compared to distilled water.

Benefits of coconut oil

Besides getting rid of the bacteria that causes plaque, coconut oil has other benefits for your mouth, teeth, and gums. 

  • Coconut oil softens your lips, protecting against dry skin and cracking
  • Coconut oil can protect the mouth and gums against inflammation 
  • The reduction in pathogenic bacteria thanks to coconut oil may result in fresher breath 
  • Anecdotal evidence shows that coconut oil pulling may help whiten teeth
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene using coconut oil could protect against other diseases, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes

How to oil pull

Anyone can easily do coconut oil pulling at home. All you need is some virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil, and a spoon.

  1. Put about a tablespoon of oil in your mouth.
  2. Swish the oil around your mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes. Try to push and pull the oil through your teeth to clear the spaces that a toothbrush or floss can’t reach. Setting a timer on your cell phone can help keep track of the time.
  3. Spit out the oil, then brush and floss your teeth.

It’s best to spit the oil out onto a tissue or piece of paper towel and put it in the trash to avoid clogging your plumbing.

With so many benefits and nothing to lose, coconut oil could be your mouth’s new best friend.

-Liivi Hess

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