Though beauty DIY bloggers regularly post videos about brushing your teeth with turmeric plus coconut oil, using these items for dental health is a staple of Ayurveda, a holistic medicine practice from India over 5,000 years old.
"In Ayurveda, the coconut oil aspect gets more attention because of oil pulling," says Trudy Collings, Ayurvedic expert and co-founder of Paavani healing company. "But once you infuse herbs, you get the properties and benefits of the base oil but also each individual herb which helps boost your oral health." (She notes that charcoal works whitening wonders, too.)
Specifically, turmeric reduces gum inflammation, has antibacterial properties, and helps with whitening, she adds. "And coconut oil reduces plaque and fights the bacteria that contributes to cavities and gum disease."
There’s some research to support Collings’ insights. A 2013 overview published in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine found that, although more rigorous research is needed, there’s evidence that turmeric anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties could make it beneficial in dentistry, and it can be used to treat periodontal diseases and oral cancers. And even though a 2020 study published in Heliyon says we need more randomized clinical trials to study coconut oil (and oil pulling specifically), the study says there is some evidence that using it in conjunction with conventional teeth cleaning practices can improve your oral health.
Some dentists are on board with the method (kind of). "The fatty part of the coconut oil adheres to the fatty outer cell layer of tooth bacteria and pulls it away," says Victoria Veytsman, DDS, a cosmetic dentist. "It removes stains from your teeth. I'd say it's mostly the abrasive quality of turmeric that'd help with that as well, but I'd recommend baking soda instead."
The best part is that the two superstar ingredients are totally affordable (if you don't have them in your pantry already)—and they don't have many harmful side effects, which certain white strips can't. "Over-the-counter whitening methods make your teeth feel weak and achy," says Collings. "They can also lead to receding gums because of the chemicals used, whereas coconut oil helps with receding gum lines."
Provided that you’re not allergic to turmeric or coconut oil, there’s minimal risk in giving this a try. So there you have it; even though there isn’t overwhelming evidence that turmeric will give you a gazillion-dollar smile, the one thing turmeric won't stain is your teeth.
To use it to its full advantage, here's the DIY turmeric "miracle mask" that Katie Holmes' facialist swears by. And here are 22 delicious recipes starring the anti-inflammatory superfood.
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