Oral health is quite the issue. Besides the basic need to avoid bad breath and yellowed teeth, it's extremely important to keep your mouth as clean as possible on a regular basis to prevent the development of cavities, sores or tartar. But sometimes, toothpaste and mouthwash aren't quite good enough to do the job correctly — or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they can be so strong that they end up being painful. As it turns out, there are more effective, and more natural, alternatives out there.
A 2012 study reported by the Athlone Institute of Technology suggests enzyme-modified coconut oil is capable of suppressing several harmful bacteria. According to the study, coconut oil that had been altered by enzymes — thus, partly digested — was effective in dealing with Streptococcus, Candida albicans and Strep mutans, all of which cause issues with oral health. "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," explained Dr. Damien Brady, who led the AIT researchers.
However, because the study has not yet reached the conclusive level at which its findings could be implemented into health products, people have taken to using normal coconut oil as a mouthwash of sorts instead. While unaltered oil may not be as effective as the enzyme-modified variety, it still manages to do its job effectively, while posing no health risks whatsoever.
The practice, referred to as "oil pulling," consists of swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes, in order to "pull" as many bacteria as possible from within your mouth and into the oil. Dentistry IQ explains the process dates back to millennia-old ayurvedic medicine, but the explanation is more recent than that: The "skin" of mouth-residing bacteria cells is made of fat, and as such, these are drawn to the fat within the oil. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which is excellent at shutting down harmful bacteria.
The process requires a bit of trial and error. You'll need to adjust the amount of oil in your mouth so it can have a meaningful effect while allowing you to keep it in your mouth for over 10 minutes. Dentistry IQ recommends spitting the oil out into the trash, not the sink, when you're done, as the latter could be troublesome for your plumbing. It's also important for you to thoroughly rinse your mouth out with water after doing the oil pulling and before swallowing anything, as you could accidentally send your mouth-dwelling bacteria further into your system in doing so. Lastly, this is meant to go side-by-side with regular toothbrushing, not replace it, so keep up your old habits even if you adopt this home remedy.
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