Our article on the toothbrush tree, Salvadora persica, was very popular with our Placerville readers, so this week features a discussion of the neem tree, Azadirachta indica. Neem is native to India and has been used there to treat bacterial disorders, including those of the teeth, for “thousands of years.” In 2011, researchers reported in the Indian Journal of Periodontology on the value of neem mouthwash for treating plaque-induced gingivitis.
Why Neem Works
The dentists involved believe that the neem extract in the mouthwash reduces gum disease through two mechanisms. The first involves the apparent ability of the plant to reduce tissue inflammation. The second involves an antibacterial component of the plant, which evidently destroys bacterial cell walls. The study specified that .19% Azadirachta indica solutions were used during the trial period.
How They Conducted the Neem Study
Forty-five patients of the Institute of Dental Science in Bareilly, India (a city approximately the size of Sacramento) were separated into three groups. One group was given neem mouthwash to use with their regular oral hygiene, another was supplied with chlorhexidine mouthwash (a common and effective antiseptic dental rinse), while the third group was given saline solution for oral rinsing.
Patients were compared after seven and twenty-one days. In the neem and chlorhexidine groups, improvements were seen in gum health and gum bleeding was significantly reduced. Salt water solution led to little, if any, improvement in the progression of gum disease. While the chemical mouthwash was slightly superior in performance, the similar results from using neem extract was seen as a valuable contribution to dental treatment for people unable to use chlorhexidine. Especially in parts of India, access to medicines can be limited, so this is an example of a traditional treatment that is potentially useful in treating gum disease for poor or isolated populations.
Using Neem in the United States
There are a number of different neem products available in the United States, but it is up to the buyer to determine whether a specific mouthwash uses the required percentage of the plant extract. Also, the study concluded that mouthwash alone is insufficient for solving gum disease long-term and recommended regular “mechanical therapy” provided by your dentist. Sign up for your semi-annual dental exam and cleaning at our Placerville dental office on 699 Main Street, Suite B in downtown Placerville, call us at 530-295-8000 or contact us through our website for an appointment.
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