Study: Coconut oil as a biofilm-busting agent in the mouth

Biofilms in the mouth are caused by bacteria, resulting in plaque on the teeth and dental caries which are known to be due to these microorganisms.

How microorganisms create biofilms on teeth

Free-floating (planktonic) bacteria in the mouth attach to the surface of the teeth, which facilitates the arrival of other bacteria by offering adhesion sites and the biofilm matrix, which holds the biofilm together.

Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacilli spp. and Candida albicans are the main bacteria found in dental plaque that is associated with dental caries. Strep and lactobacilli are critical for this process, since they are more acidogenic and acidophilic than other oral bacteria. They can convert carbohydrates into acid, lowering the overall pH of the mouth. 

These bacteria can also dissolve the calcium phosphate of enamel to cause a cavity in a tooth. 

The study

The Thai researchers set up a study to investigate the impacts of oil pulling on oral bacteria in biofilm models.

Note: Oil pulling is the act of swishing oils around the mouth for about 10 minutes before brushing the teeth, for purported health benefits, including oral health. There is little science to back this up.

The researchers used coconut oil, rice bran oil, palm oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil and soy bean oil in their experiments on lab biofilms created by Streptococcus mutans KPSK2, Lactobacillus casei ATCC 6363, and  Candida albicans ATCC 13803.


  • Coconut oil exhibited antimicrobial activity against S. mutans and C. albicans.
  • Sesame oil had antibacterial activity against S. mutans.
  • Sunflower oil exhibited antifungal activity against C. albicans.
  • L. casei is resistant to all tested oils.

The researchers concluded that there could be some credible scientific evidence to suggest that some edible oils could be used in the mouth via oil pulling as a preventative home therapy to maintain oral hygiene against dental cavities.

This finding was particularly true in developing countries where access to affordable dental work and preventatives is less common.


Asia Journal of Public Health, May – August 2011 Vol.2 No. 2 62 Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models Sroisiri Thaweboon, Jurai Nakaparksin, Boonyanit Thaweboon

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)