Swish This: Coconut Oil for Healthy Gums

coconut oil

There has been a lot of recent interest in “oil pulling.” Though I can’t comment on its worthiness as a panacea for all ills, I do want to comment on the use of coconut oil to generally improve the health of gums- particularly if mild bleeding and sensitivity is a problem.

I love virgin coconut oil. (I make a mean stir fry with coconut oil, chicken, broccoli and portabella mushrooms served over rice.) And, it is a wonderful moisturizer. In the winter I like to mix it with shea butter and a touch of vanilla extract for a sweet, smokey scent. Smooth it on after a shower or a bath to help lock in moisture. Plus, it has antimicrobial properties, and of course it is free of parabens and other undesirable ingredients commonly present in other moisturizers. (I’m going to be doing a future post with a local master herbalist to teach you how to make your own selection of very nice lotions and creams at home.) I’ve even used it as under arm deodorant with a drop of my favorite essential oil, and find it works better than my other natural deodorant sticks.

One day, a new patient told me that it really improved the health of her gums. And I started to hear about this from others, too, and I began casually bringing it up with other patients as part of an overall approach to improving oral health. And the results have been good.

This morning, I had a routine dental check up and I asked my dental hygienist about it- and she emphatically stated that she has had many patients improve their gum health with it, and often recommends it. She specifically notes whiter teeth, and less bleeding and inflammation of the gingiva for many, (but not everybody.) Could it be that the antimicrobial properties of the oil help to decrease the types of bacteria that cause plaque and inflammation? Or do the vitamins and fatty acids present in the oil help to soothe and protect the soft tissues of the gingiva? Or does the the texture of the oil simply help to block plaque from forming? Who knows, but it seems that there is something to this.

All it takes is an ample, pea-sized gob of virgin coconut oil. (I recommend virgin or “unrefined” because this is the oil removed by strictly mechanical means in the first press, without the addition of chemical means of extraction and distillation.) Put it in your mouth, use your tongue to spread it over your teeth, then swish through teeth and mouth like a mouthwash for a minute or so. Then, spit out into the trash (don’t ever spit in the drain, as this will clog it when it solidifies again at room temperature.

Do this once a day in the evenings after brushing your teeth, and if you are really motivated, in the mornings as well. Try it for a couple weeks and come back to comment on your results- I’d love to hear them, as I have never specifically tracked results of using this method on its own. (just be aware that some people can be allergic or otherwise sensitive to coconuts, so if you ever experience any itching or discomfort in or around the mouth from coconuts, please don’t do this.)

If you do try this, I hope to hear from you in a couple weeks with your experience to share!

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