For at least 4,000 years, many have viewed coconut oil to be a superfood amongst superfoods. It has been used for everything from skin care and wound healing, and of course as a staple in many foods worldwide. However, this is just the beginning of coconut oil’s many beneficial applications.
Coconut oil is one of the most bioavailable sources of energy for dogs, and coconut oil has many scientifically proven benefits for dogs including mental clarity, improved cognition and more. But can it also be effective for cleaning dogs teeth?
It is theorized that coconut oil contains organic material that can quickly kill harmful bacteria in the mouth. But why?
This article explains the latest research on coconut oil, and how it can affect a dog’s overall dental health and teeth.
Coconut Oil: What’s In It?
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from coconut meat. When coconuts are harvested for coconut oil, the coconut meat is removed from the shell and soaked in water.
Shortly thereafter, the coconut oil rises to the top of the mix where it's extracted from the non-oil contents. This unrefined oil is typically referred to as “cold pressed” because it is neither heated nor blended with any other compounds.
Coconut oil happens to be unique because its fat content is made almost entirely of medium chain triglycerides.
Medium chain triglycerides are metabolized differently than the long chain fatty acids found in most other foods. Because of this, they have several health benefits that can improve metabolism, mental clarity and other aspects of your dog's health.
Today we are looking at a fatty acid in coconut oil that's right on the cusp between being labeled a medium chain triglyceride and a long chain fatty acid.
It's called lauric acid (C12).
Lauric acid is a medium/long-chain fatty acid that makes up almost 50% of coconut oil. In fact, coconut oil just happens to be the richest source of lauric acid in the world.
But what makes lauric acid so beneficial for our dogs teeth and health?
Coconut Oil and Lauric Acid: The Bacteria Killer
The lauric acid in coconut oil is a natural powerhouse of anti-bacterial protection. Lauric acid can inhibit bad bacteria from forming, as well as reverse the growth of existing bacteria. Let’s delve a bit deeper into why lauric acid from coconut oil is good for cleaning dogs' teeth.
Your dogs body breaks down lauric acid into a safe compound called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses in dogs' bodies.
These anti-microbial compounds are shown to improve immune responses, activating an anti-inflammatory immune response in the body[*].
Yeasts and molds are reported to be inactivated or killed by monolaurin and lauric acid, including some species of ringworm, and research suggests that lauric acid is more effective at killing these pathogens than any other saturated fatty acid[*].
Can Coconut Oil Help Stop Gingivitis?
Because of its inherent antibacterial properties, coconut oil also offers other benefits for you dog’s oral health. In fact, studies have shown that coconut oil can help reduce gingivitis. First, let’s look at a quick refresher on what gingivitis is.
Gingivitis, also called gum disease, involves heavy inflammation of the gums. The main cause of gingivitis is the buildup of dental plaque from harmful bacteria in the mouth that hasn’t been properly cleaned. Some gingivitis symptoms include:
- Swollen gums
- Dark red gums
- Bad breath
- Receding gums
- Tender gums
While gingivitis is a non-destructive type of gum disease, untreated gingivitis can grow progressively worse and turn into periodontitis. Periodontitis is way more serious and can eventually lead to a more painful infection and loss of your dog's teeth. Signs and symptoms of periodontitis in dogs can include:
- Swollen gums
- Discolored darker red or purple gums
- Tender gums
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Pus in and around teeth and gums
- Tooth loss if untreated
This all sounds pretty terrible, right? But there is good news! So long as we spot gingivitis early on, it can be completely reversible, and the use of coconut oil on your dog's teeth or in their diet can help.
A study by the National Institutes of Health has shown that coconut oil decreases plaque buildup on teeth and helps fight gum disease[*]. After 30 days of using coconut oil on the teeth, the average plaque decreased by 68% and the average gingivitis score decreased by 56%.
Even though this was a human study, similar results are expected in dogs too. Coconut oil can deal a major blow to bad bacteria in the mouth.
How to Use Coconut Oil for Dental Health
There are two main ways your dog can get the full benefits of coconut oil in their teeth. The first way might be a bit obvious.
Firstly, go to any reputable pet food store and pick up a soft-bristled doggy toothbrush. Put about a teaspoon of coconut oil on the brush, and gently start brushing your canine’s canines.
You may have to bribe your pup with a couple of treats ahead of time in order to gain their full attention, and more importantly, their cooperation. Don’t worry though—most dogs tend to like the flavor of coconut oil.
About 2 minutes of brushing daily is sufficient. If needed, you can do this multiple times per day.
If you can’t get in the full 2 minutes, don’t fret, as you may have to work up to this slowly over a period of weeks. Also, be sure to reward your dog after you’re done brushing. A game of fetch or tug-of-war is preferable to a treat as it will leave their teeth clean.
In addition to cleaning your dog's teeth, you can supplement their diet with extra coconut oil.
You can purchase a dog food that contains coconut oil, or add coconut oil to their existing food. Using a dog food that already has coconut oil will help ensure their nutritional profile stays balanced.
When your dog eats food with coconut oil, the lauric acid contained within it will come into contact with your dog's teeth and gums to promote the benefits discussed in this article.
Look for a dog food that has sufficient amounts of coconut oil to support your dog's dental health. Here’s a dog food with coconut oil we highly recommend.
The fact of the matter is that coconut oil can help dogs maintain not only a healthier body, but cleaner teeth as well.