Cavity-fighting coconut oil could find its way into toothpaste and mouthwash, research suggests.
AFP photo

(Relaxnews) – Forget minty freshness: consumers may soon find coconut oil added to dental care products after new research finds it attacks the bacteria behind tooth decay.

In a new study, scientists found that coconut oil treated with enzymes stopped the growth of Streptococcus bacteria — a major cause of tooth decay. According to a September 2 press release, tooth decay affects some 60 to 90 percent of children in industrialized countries.

In their research, scientists from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland tested the antibacterial action of coconut oil in its natural state and coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion. Findings revealed that the enzyme-treated oils strongly inhibited the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria, including S. mutans, the strain responsible for tooth decay.

In additional testing, they also found that coconut oil attacks the yeast that causes thrush.

The researchers presented their findings at the Society for General Microbiology’s Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick.

In the press release, the researchers “suggest that enzyme-modified coconut oil has potential as a marketable antimicrobial which could be of particular interest to the oral healthcare industry.”

Meanwhile, UCLA School of Dentistry scientists in the US are developing what they call a “smart bomb” mouthwash that targets S. mutans, while leaving healthy bacteria that help protect teeth. Compared to other commercial mouthwashes on the market — which head researcher Wenyuan Shi describes as “broad spectrum” in that they wipe out all bacteria in the mouth, including the “99.9 percent” that are good bacteria — the new mouthwash claims to only kill the harmful strain.