Herbal Toothpaste Gets Tough on Plaque

Healthnotes Newswire (September 21, 2006)—People with gum disease (gingivitis) now have a natural alternative—a toothpaste that combines fluoride with herbs that promote oral health.

The journal Brazilian Oral Research reports that a product called Parodontax, a toothpaste containing extracts of chamomile (Matricaria recutita), echinacea (Echinacea spp.), sage (Salvia officinalis), rhatany (Krameria triandra), myrrh (Commiphora molmol), and peppermint (Mentha piperita), is as effective as Colgate Total at reducing plaque and gingivitis.

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that makes them bleed easily and appear red and swollen. Almost 80% of American adults have some degree of gum disease caused by a buildup of plaque-forming bacteria between the teeth and gums.

Regular brushing and flossing can help keep gingivitis at bay. People with diabetes or who have immune systems suppressed by another medical condition are more likely to develop gum disease. Chlorhexidine mouthwashes (Peridex, PerioGard) and triclosan-containing toothpastes (Colgate Total) destroy plaque-causing bacteria and are commonly used to control gingivitis. Alternatives to these products are sought after because chlorhexidine can stain teeth, and when breaking down triclosan the body converts it to toxic compounds like dioxin, a powerful hormone disruptor.

To see how effective an herbal-based toothpaste would be against plaque and gingivitis, researchers compared Parodontax with Colgate Total in 48 people with gingivitis. Colgate Total contains fluoride and 0.3% triclosan. Parodontax contains fluoride and extracts of the herbs mentioned above. Based on historical uses of the herbs, chamomile is added to decrease inflammation of the gums; echinacea to stimulate the immune system; sage and rhatany to lessen bleeding; myrrh to help kill plaque-causing bacteria; and peppermint oil to relieve pain and inflammation.

People in the study brushed their teeth with one of the toothpastes three times a day for 28 days. They were instructed not to rinse with water after brushing or to use other toothpastes or mouthwashes during the study period.

Both toothpastes significantly reduced plaque and gingivitis, decreasing the amount of plaque by almost 20% in some spots. There was no difference in effectiveness between the products.

The researchers concluded that, “The herbal [toothpaste] was as efficacious as the one with triclosan, and may be an alternative for people interested in natural products.”

Another option for difficult-to-treat gingivitis is an oral rinse called Decapinol. The US Food and Drug Adminstration approved the mouthwash—which acts as a physical barrier to plaque formation—for use in people over age 12.

(Braz Oral Res 2006;20:172–7)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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