Dear Doctor, Should I use coconut oil as mouthwash?

I love coconut but coconut oil … solid coconut oil… gross! Well, at least at first it was. A hard lump of oil, that doesn’t melt in the mouth quickly, is like the fruit pastille challenge! Anyone remember that advert? But back to coconut oil, I have heard lots of people rave about it’s benefits for oral hygiene, fresher breath and teeth whitening. I’ll admit the prospect of a natural solution to whiter teeth is what really got me interested. So, I decided to give it a try.

From what most people on the internet tell me, the method is fairly simple. First thing in the morning you take a spoonful of coconut oil, put it in your mouth, chew until it melts and swish it around for 20 minutes. Then you spit it out, don’t swallow and don’t spit it in to the sink as it can solidify in the drain. Seems simple enough, right?

Coconut oil is the recommended choice because it is high in lauric acid. Lauric acid is known for its antimicrobial properties, in particular it inhibits Streptococcus Mutans that are the primary bacteria that cause tooth decay. The theory is the longer you rinse the oil around your mouth, the more bacteria are pulled free. Recent studies have also shown the benefit of coconut oil in the prevention of tooth decay, although limited research is available.

So what did I find? Well, after the first time I tried oil pulling, my teeth felt cleaner and smoother. After a week, my mouth felt healthier in general and did look very slightly whiter. After the month, my teeth are much less sensitive and feel cleaner but in all honesty they aren’t whiter.

My final review is… oil pulling is good for you. It isn’t a replacement for your normal dental care. You still need your twice daily toothbrushing with toothpaste and flossing. However, as an extra step I think it’s definitely got a role to play in removing stubborn bacteria, stopping that same bacteria from decaying teeth and being ingested into the body.

Will I continue? Yes I think I will! Realistically not daily, but twice weekly I think I can manage!

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