Byline: Petrina Vousden Health Editor
YOU might expect to break your teeth with a coconut rather than strengthen them, but a study is to revolutionise dental care globally using the fruit.
A research team at Athlone Institute of Technology has shown enzyme-strengthened coconut oil can fight decay by attacking the bacteria to blame for rotting teeth.
And they believe the next step could be to put it in everyday toothpaste to replace chemical ingredients currently in use.
The scientists tested the oils against strains of Streptococcus bacteria commonly found in the mouth. They found coconut oil modified by enzymes fights the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria including Streptococcus mutans - a major cause of tooth decay.
The findings made by researchers - led by Dr Damien Brady - at Athlone's Bioscience Research Institute were presented yesterday at a conference of European microbiologists at the University of Warwick.
Dr Brady said: 'Many previous studies have shown that partially digested foodstuffs are active against micro-organisms. Earlier work on enzyme-modified milk showed that it was able to reduce the binding of Streptococcus mutans to tooth enamel, which prompted the group to investigate the effect of other enzyme-modified foods on bacteria.' The team intends to examine if the coconut oil is active against other harmful bacteria and yeast.
Dr Brady said: 'Dental decay is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90 per cent of children and the majority of adults in industrialised countries. …