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Coconut oil could be good for the teeth

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Coconut oil modified with enzymes could fight tooth decay.

Tooth decay might have a new natural foe from coconut oil. Researchers have found the oil has natural antibacterial properties. They suggest coconut oil could be added to dental care products to help keep our teeth healthier.

The news is good especially for parents trying to make sure childhood dental visits are kept to a minimum. The pain of tooth decay and resulting infections that are possible often mean antibiotics that have side effects, can lead to antibiotic resistance and can also be costly.

Researchers from Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland tested natural coconut oil and oil treated with enzymes that mimic digestion on a common mouth bacterium – Streptococcus.

They found that coconut oil modified with enzymes inhibited the growth of most strains of the common mouth bacteria including one that is a major contributor to tooth decay because it produces acid: Streptococcus mutans.

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Damien Brady who is leading the research said in a press release, “Dental caries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90% of children and the majority of adults in industrialized 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."

The researchers also found coconut oil treated with enzymes is effective against thrush, a type of yeast infection that can occur from taking antibiotics and can recur in people with immune function problems.

The authors also point out the study shows the gut is an important place where antimicrobial activity takes place. Dr. Brady says the researchers are studying other food products modified with enzymes to understand how digested foods could contribute to gut and overall health to prevent disease.

A past study showed enzyme modified milk lowered the ability of Streptococcus mutans that causes tooth decay to bind to tooth enamel. That finding led the researchers to continue investigating the effect on bacteria of other enzyme modified foods. The newest finding shows coconut oil treated with enzymes could be a new way to help stop tooth decay.

Society for General Microbiology
September 3, 2012



What is the name of the enzyme used to replicate the digestion process of coconut milk?
Hi there - I really don't know! But I would think antimicrobial enzymes such as those found in the gut or even lactase, disaccarides or a combination. They might have used salivary enzymes even since digestion starts in the mouth and this is about mouth bacteria specifically.