Coconut oil is a popular natural product and can be found in everything from homemade shampoo and skincare products to culinary dishes and Indian Ayurveda. It’s also a popular teeth whitening ingredient, though there is some debate on how accurate it is. Here, we dive into the research to uncover the health benefits of coconut oil pulling and whether coconut oil teeth whitening products are a good idea.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is an oil that contains high concentrations of saturated fat. The oil is comprised mainly of MCTs — medium-chain triglycerides – a type of fatty acid that research shows may be beneficial for human health. In particular, coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that may help to defeat pathogens and bacteria that cause oral health problems (1).
Purported Benefits of Coconut Oil Teeth Whitening
Like baking soda and activated charcoal, coconut oil is a popular natural product that is supposed to whiten teeth naturally. It’s particularly common as an ingredient in natural toothpaste. These ingredients are often used in place of conventional whitening products such as whitening strips and whitening toothpaste with fluoride.
The way it works is a process called oil pulling. The user starts by placing a tablespoon of coconut oil in their mouth and begins to swish it around for 15 to 20 seconds. It’s recommended to gently pull the oil between teeth using a suction motion. After the swishing oil process is completed, the user spits the oil out into the trashcan or a compost pile. That’s because the oil may clog drains if it solidifies at temperatures above 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
Proponents of this oral hygiene method argue that coconut oil contains natural antibacterial and antifungal properties that work to fight harmful bacteria that cause bad breath, tooth decay, and result in whiter teeth. Some people mix the coconut oil with other ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide and essential oils to maximize benefits.
Does Coconut Oil Whiten Teeth?
Recent research shows mixed results when it comes to the efficacy of coconut oil and teeth whitening. One recent study found that lauric acid exhibited antimicrobial activity against oral microorganisms. The researchers found that coconut oil was particularly effective against C. albicans, a bacteria known to cause oral thrush (2).
Additional research shows that coconut oil may be effective in fighting plaque buildup and gingivitis. The study was published in 2015 and found that oil pulling resulted in a significant decrease of plaque after 7 days of use. The plaque levels continued to decrease as users continued oil pulling daily for 30 days (2).
Researchers have also found evidence that coconut oil gum massage therapy may help to fight pathogens including Streptococcus mutans — a bacteria known to cause tooth decay. Studies show that coconut oil may be just as effective as chlorhexidine — a common ingredient in mouthwash (3).
While there are several studies showing oral health benefits of coconut oil, there is little research to show it actually whitens teeth by removing stains. Instead, any teeth whitening impacts may be due to the removal of plaque buildup that can appear yellow in color. Dentists recommend suing coconut oil with caution and in conjunction with other conventional cleaning methods for the best results.
Oral Health With Coconut Oil
If you have yellow teeth or are looking to improve the look of your pearly whites, coconut oil may be a useful part of an overall gum health treatment plan. Existing research indicates that using a tablespoon of oil alone won’t make a difference when it comes to gum disease prevention and overall gum health. For these home remedies to work, they must be paired with regular visits to the dentists, dental cleanings, and regular brushing.
If you choose to add oil pulling to your oral hygiene regimen, it’s a good idea to use organic coconut oil and virgin coconut oil to avoid side effects from fillers or additives. Coconut tooth whitening can be used even if you have sensitive teeth. Just make sure to avoid combining it with abrasive ingredients like baking soda or activated charcoal. You can also dilute the oil by combining it with a tablespoon of warm water to aid sensitive teeth.
If you’re looking for a natural way to whiten teeth at home, coconut oil may be a useful ingredient. Combined with regular brushing and visits to the dentist, you can achieve a whiter smile by focusing on oral health.