Researchers from the Bharat Institute of Technology
in India have found that medicinal plants can be used to prevent dental caries. In their report, which was published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies
, the team looked at the antibacterial properties of plants commonly used in traditional medicine.
Natural mouthwash from medicinal plants
People have used plants as medicine
for a long time. In modern medicine, medicinal plants are used to discover new drug therapies. The antibacterial activity of certain medicinal plants, in particular, is a point of interest for many researchers, especially against oral bacteria like Streptococcus mutans
-- streptococci strains present in the mouth, pharynx and intestine -- are considered risk factors for dental caries
, or what's more commonly known as cavities. In the mouth, S. mutans
and other bacteria can stick to the enamel, where they produce strong acids that increase the risk of dental caries. Studies show that dental caries can form in as little as six months after the appearance of S. mutans
In traditional medicine, people have used plants to prevent -- and even treat -- dental caries. For instance, the leaves and stems of medicinal plants are used to make teas
that help with symptoms of dental caries and tooth infection. For others, essential oils extracted from the plants are used to alleviate pain and promote healing.
For this study, the team explored the ability of the following medicinal plants in preventing dental caries:
- Gallnut (Terminalia chebula)
- Guava (Psidium guajava)
- Neem (Azadirachta indica)
- Indian beech (Pongamia pinnata)
In addition, the team explored the antibacterial activity of the following essential oils:
- Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
- Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)
The team also tested the antibacterial activity of the plants after being combined into an herbal mouthwash. They compared the mouthwash to chlorhexidine, a disinfectant found in prescription mouthwash
formulas. While studies have shown that chlorhexidine can decrease bacteria in the mouth, it can also cause side effects like an altered taste, stained teeth and increased tartar.
Among the six natural sources, researchers found that neem exhibited the most potent antibacterial activity. In addition, the herbal mouthwash exhibited significant antibacterial activity against S. mutans
. It's worth noting that both medicinal plants and essential oils performed better than chlorhexidine in terms of antibacterial activity. (Related: Natural mouthwashes clean your mouth just as well as chemical ones WITHOUT the side effects
Other natural remedies for treating dental caries
Aside from the herbs mentioned in the study, there are other herbs and spices that you can use
to treat and even prevent dental caries.
- Garlic (Allium sativum) -- The pungent herb is often used in traditional medicine, thanks to its multiple health benefits. In addition, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food revealed that allicin, the active ingredient in garlic, can treat S. mutans grown in mature biofilms. To make the most of the herb's ability to treat dental caries, apply a mix of garlic paste and rock salt to the affected tooth.
- Asafetida (Ferula assa-foetida) -- A key ingredient in Indian cuisine, asafetida is used in traditional medicine for relief from toothaches and gum pain, thanks to its potent antibacterial and antioxidant properties. To use asafetida, you can apply it directly to the affected area or create a poultice.
- Green tea -- Earlier studies on green tea revealed that it was able to improve oral health and increase the teeth's resistance to acid. Take two cups of green tea every day to address dental caries.
Learn more about natural treatments for dental caries at PlantMedicine.news