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Natural Ingredients for a Healthier Smile

January 31, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about xylitol’s beneficial effect on the health of teeth and gums. But there are many other natural extracts that you’ll probably see in oral care products in the coming years. Ironically, many of these natural substances are derived from sweet fruits. Today I’m going to present a brief overview of three up and coming natural ingredients that will soon be appearing in a toothpaste or mouthwash near you.

Gum Disease

Promising Pomegranate

There was a study published earlier this month in the journal Phytotherapy Research on the effects of a pomegranate infused mouthwash. It appears that the researchers used a very simple recipe to make this mouthwash. They dissolved an undisclosed amount of pomegranate extract (which did not contain any calories or sugar) into pure water.

A group of young men and women used this pomegranate mouthwash three times a day for 4 weeks. Another similar group of volunteers used a placebo mouthwash as a comparison The researchers, based at Ohio State University, concluded the following at the end of the trial:

  • There was a reduction in total protein in the participants’ saliva. This is generally an indication of a lower level of plaque-forming bacteria.
  • A marker that suggests cell injury (as might be present in gum disease) was also reduced.
  • An improvement in antioxidant concentrations were found after the use of the pomegranate mouthwash. This shows added protection from oxidant stress that could damage gums and oral health in general.

The results of this study prompted the researchers to conclude that, “pomegranate components have properties that could promote oral health, including reducing the risk of gingivitis”. Gingivitis is a form of inflammation of the gums that can lead to more serious gum and dental problems if left unaddressed.

Grape News About Grape Seed Extract!

In September of 2008, a study out of the Illinois University College of Dentistry found that grape seed extract (GSE) could help remineralize cavities. This particular kind of trial is called an “in vitro” study. It was conducted in test tubes in a laboratory setting – not in humans. Therefore the results are considered to be preliminary, but promising.

Grape SeedOne interesting side note about this research is that the scientists compared the effects of fluoride vs. GSE in part of the experiment. And in some ways, the GSE actually outperformed fluoride. This is relevant because there is some concern about the safety of fluoride.

The authors of the study offer these concluding remarks, “grape seed extract positively affects the remineralization and/or remineralization processes of artificial root caries lesions, most likely through a different mechanism than that of fluoride. Grape seed extract may be a promising natural agent for non-invasive root caries therapy.”

Cranberry vs. Cavities

Another fruit that is attracting much attention from the dental community is cranberry. There are now several studies that attest to its possible utility in supporting oral health.

One of the studies highlights an anti-inflammatory effect of cranberry juice extract on gum tissue. If inflammation of the gums can be controlled, the progression of gum disease may also be controlled to a greater extent. This can lead to healthier gums that are less likely to recede and will better support the teeth.

A separate study found that certain phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in cranberries could help reduce the adherence of bacteria to the surface of teeth. The adherence of harmful bacteria to our teeth plays a major role in the process of tooth decay. If this step can be countered, cavities will become a much rarer occurrence.

These studies suggest the powerful multi-faceted effect that cranberry could have in helping with the prevention, and possibly, the management of oral health. More research is certainly warranted in this area.

The next time you go to your local health food store, take a look at the wide array of toothpastes, dental flosses and mouthwashes. When you do, keep a special lookout for the ingredients that I covered today. They just may help keep your pearly whites in the best possible shape.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Dental Health

5 Comments & Updates to “Natural Ingredients for a Healthier Smile”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Thanks for the information. I recently came across your site and have found lots of interesting nuggets. I will be looking into the pomegranate infused mouthwash.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Kelly!

    Be well!


  3. Patrick M. Says:

    Same here. This site is awesome! Definitely not enough diffusion of knowledge out there about nature-based medicine.

  4. JP Says:

    Updated 1/18/16:


    J Dent Res. 2016 Jan 8.

    Probiotic Compared with Standard Milk for High-caries Children: A Cluster Randomized Trial.

    The aim of this study was to compare milk supplemented with probiotic lactobacilli with standard milk for the increment of caries in preschool children after 10 mo of intervention. The study was a triple-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. Participants were children aged 2 and 3 y (n = 261) attending 16 nursery schools in a metropolitan region in Chile. Nursery schools were randomly assigned to 2 parallel groups: children in the intervention group were given 150 mL of milk supplemented with Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 (107 CFU/mL), while children in the control group were given standard milk. Interventions took place on weekdays for 10 mo. Data were collected through a clinical examination of participants. The primary outcome measure was the increment of caries in preschool children. This was assessed using the International Caries Detection and Assessment System (ICDAS). The dropout rate was 21%. No differences in caries prevalence were detected between the groups at baseline (P = 0.68). After 10 mo of probiotic intake, the caries prevalence was 54.4% in the probiotic group and 65.8% in the control group. The percentage of new individuals who developed cavitated lesions (ICDAS 5-6) in the control group (24.3%) was significantly higher than that in the probiotic group (9.7%). The increment of dental caries showed an odds ratio of 0.35 (P < 0.05) in favor of the probiotic group. At the cavitated lesion level, the increment of new caries lesions within the groups showed 1.13 new lesions per child in the probiotic group compared with 1.75 lesions in the control group (P < 0.05). The probiotic group showed an increment of 0.58 ± 1.17 new lesions compared with 1.08 ± 1.70 new lesions observed in the control group. The difference in caries increment was significant at the cavitated lesion level (P < 0.01). In conclusion, the regular long-term intake of probiotic-supplemented milk may reduce caries development in high-caries preschool children (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01648075). Be well! JP

  5. JP Says:

    Updated 06/28/16:


    BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Jun 7;16(1):171.

    Adjunctive use of essential oils following scaling and root planing -a randomized clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Hitherto no study has been published on the effect of the adjunctive administration of essential oils following scaling and root planing (SRP). This study describes the effect of a mouthrinse consisting of essential oils (Cymbopogon flexuosus, Thymus zygis and Rosmarinus officinalis) following SRP by clinical and microbiological variables in patients with generalized moderate chronic periodontitis.

    METHODS: Forty-six patients (aged 40-65 years) with moderate chronic periodontitis were randomized in a double-blind study and rinsed their oral cavity following SRP with an essential oil mouthrinse (n  =  23) or placebo (n  =  23) for 14 days. Probing depth (PD), attachment level (AL), bleeding on probing (BOP) and modified sulcus bleeding index (SBI) were recorded at baseline and after 3 and 6 months. Subgingival plaque was taken for assessment of major bacteria associated with periodontitis.

    RESULTS: AL, PD, BOP and SBI were significantly improved in both groups after three (p   <   0.001) and 6 months (p   ≤   0.015). AL improved significantly better in the test than in the control group after 3 and 6 months (p < 0.001), so did PD after three months in the tendency (p  =  0.1). BOP improved better in the test group after 3 months (p  =  0.065). Numbers of Treponema denticola (p  =  0.044) and Fusobacterium nucleatum (p  =  0.029) decreased more in the test than in the control group after 3 months, those of Tannerella forsythia after 6 months (p  =  0.039). Prevotella micra (p  <  0.001, p  =  0.035) and Campylobacter rectus (p  =  0.002 , p  =  0.012) decreased significantly in both groups after 3 months. CONCLUSIONS: The adjunctive use of a mouthrinse containing essential oils following SRP has a positive effect on clinical variables and on bacterial levels in the subgingival biofilm. Be well! JP

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