Coconut Oil Could Combat Tooth Decay

In the future, one natural antibiotic may be added to commercial dental care products to prevent tooth decay.  This natural antibiotic is enzyme-modified coconut oil.

Scientists from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland recently presented their study on the antibacterial action of coconut oil at the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick.  The team tested both the antibacterial action of coconut oil in its natural state and also coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes, in a process comparable to digestion.  Both oils were tested against different strains of Streptococcus bacteria that are commonly found in the mouth.  The study showed that enzyme-modified coconut oil inhibited the growth of most strains of the bacteria including the acid –producing strain that is one of the major causes of tooth decay.

The Athlone Institute team plans to study how coconut oil interacts with Streptococcus bacteria at the molecular level and also with other harmful bacteria and yeasts as well.  The group also found that enzyme-modified coconut oil was harmful to the yeast Candida albicans that can cause thrush, which is a yeast infection of the mucus membrane lining the mouth and tongue.

These researchers feel that enzyme-modified coconut oil could be used as an antimicrobial that could be used in the oral healthcare industry.  Dr. Damien Brady, the team’s leading researcher, said, “Dental caries (tooth decay) 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.”