PERHAPS, it is reasonable to consider that the discovery of fluorides constitutes an essential landmark in the field of dentistry. Fluorides are associated with strong teeth, while possessing properties that prevent or counteract the production of caries.
Recently however, studies in the use of herbal alternatives, such as mouthrinses, have increased in the last two decades, which resulted in robust studies, including blinded, randomized controlled trials, that increase their legitimacy as fluoride alternatives.
Herbal mouthrinses are established for their positive characteristics, such as availability, cost-effectiveness, long shelf life, low toxicity and superior antimicrobial properties. Thus, they are handy against microbial plaques and fungi. In fact, they are used to increase immunity against periodontitis (mild inflammations of the gums) and gingivitis (deep inflammations of the gums).
A meta-analysis conducted by five academics (Sunayana Manipal, Sajjid Hussain, Umesh Wadgave, Prabu Duraiswamy and K. Ravi) from three dentistry colleges in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, India, found that herbal mouthrinses can work better than chlorhexidine, the good standard in commercial mouthrinsing.
The study involved 11 randomized controlled trials and reported in the May 2016 issue of the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.
Of noted performance were three herb bases: aloe vera, neem and tea tree oil. Aloe vera had been found as effective as 0.2 percent chlorhexidine in reducing plaque formation and the occurrence of gingivitis.
Conversely, neem inhibits the synthesis of glucan, which resulted in the denaturation of bacterial proteins and thus of bacteria, particularly the streptococci group that colonize the tooth surface. Consequently, it significantly reduces plaque formation and bacterial count compared to 0.2 percent chlorhexidine.
Meanwhile, tea tree oil has anti-plaque properties comparable to 0.2 percent chlorhexidine.
It must be noted that chlorhexidine is known for its side effects, such as increased staining of the teeth, interfering with its natural color. It has also been found to alter the taste quality of the taste buds in long-term use.
Agatha Christie wrote in her book, The Patriotic Murders (1990, Putnam): “No, my friend, I am not drunk. It is that I have been to the dentist and I need not go again for six months.” Whatever Christie’s basis for this reference to alcohol-based mouthrinses used in the dentist’s office, the context may refer to outmoded formulations used in the practice.
However, commercial mouthrinses today are evidently alcohol-based. And, yet, who drinks alcohol-based mouthrinses anyway?