Coconut oil may be the latest craze in the foodiesphere, but it could also function to prevent cavities, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland found that enzyme-treated coconut oil -- similar to what would happen to coconut oil after it's been digested -- was able to stop the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.
The finding, presented at the Society for General Microbiology's autumn conference, could lead to a new approach to dental care products, study researcher Dr. Damien Brady said in a statement.
"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," Brady said in the statement. "Also, with increasing antibiotic resistance, it is important that we turn our attention to new ways to combat microbial infection."
The researchers conducted their study on untreated coconut oil and the enzyme-treated coconut oil. They put the oils up against Streptococcus bacteria, including the tooth decay-causing Streptococcus mutans strain, and found that the enzyme-treated oil stopped its growth.
If untreated, tooth decay can lead to tooth loss and infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's caused when plaque -- which is formed from bacteria, bits of food, saliva and acid from the bacteria -- breaks down tooth enamel, eating away the tooth layer by layer.
For tips on keeping a happy, healthy smile at every age, check out these tips from our partner Health.com: