Periodontal disease affects approximately 90% of individuals who are ages 65 years and older and more than 50% of young adults. Recent research indicates that certain molecules, such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) derived from coconut oil, may help support certain aspects of periodontal health.
MCTs have been shown to support oral health and a healthy inflammatory response. They may also help promote oral hygiene and cleanliness. MCTs have also been shown to support biofilm disruption and a healthy response to some pathogenic microbes, such as Streptococcus mutans. S. mutans is the primary pathogenic microbe associated with dental caries.
A clinical trial consisting of two arms involved the swishing of either coconut oil or chlorhexidine daily for 30 days in 50 children between the ages of 8 and 12 years. A statistically significant decrease in S. mutans populations in plaque and saliva was observed at the study terminus when compared to baseline in both arms. No statistically significant differences were observed regarding potential efficacy in the presence of pathogenic microbes between coconut oil and chlorhexidine.
A pilot study assessed the potential efficacy of coconut oil pulling on markers related to gingivitis. Oil pulling is a traditional Ayurvedic practice and has been shown in recent research to help promote oral health. The study involved 60 individuals aged 16 to 18 years old with plaque-induced gingivitis. Oil pulling daily for 30 days was added to their oral hygiene routine. Statistically significant improvements in plaque and gingival indices were noted on day 7 and continued throughout the study. The authors postulate that the significant reduction in gingivitis was attributed to coconut oil’s support of a healthy inflammatory response.
A systematic review aggregated data from four randomized controlled clinical studies exploring the potential efficacy of oil pulling with coconut oil on oral health. Studies lasted from 7 to 14 days and involved individuals from ages 6 years to 52 years of age. Oil pulling occurred between 1 and 2 times per day. Outcomes measured included oral microbial levels, S. mutans salivary levels, and indices regarding gingival status, in addition to dental stains and plaque. A statistically significant difference in dental plaque index scores was observed in the oil pulling group as compared to the control group. One study compared oil pulling with a chlorhexidine rinse and found increased teeth staining in the chlorhexidine group when compared with the oil pulling group. No adverse events were reported in this systematic review.
More research is needed before clinical conclusions can be made. MCTs, in conjunction with a normal brushing and flossing routine, may help support certain aspects of oral health. They may help support overall periodontal health, antioxidative status, and a healthy response to inflammation.*
By Dr. C Ambrose, ND, MAT