Gum diseases range from simple infection and inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis, to damage of the tissue supporting the teeth, which can lead to tooth loss. Poor oral hygiene, misaligned teeth, pregnancy and uncontrolled diabetes may increase the risk of gum disease, especially gingivitis characterized by red, swollen, bleeding gums and mouth sores. Extensive dental cleaning along with medications may help reverse the condition. Certain herbs and supplements such as neem may also help prevent gingivitis.
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The branches, bark, leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds of the neem, or Azadirachta indica, tree have been used traditionally in Ayurvedic, Unani and homeopathic schools of medicine to treat a variety of conditions including diabetes, heart disease, infections, skin diseases and ulcers. The bitter, yellow oil extracted from the seeds of the tree contains biologically active compounds such as azadirachtin, triterpenes and glycerides, which give it an immense medicinal value. Neem supplements are available as oils, capsules, tablets, creams and mouthwashes. Individual doses may vary based on the age, overall health and condition being treated. Your doctor may help determine a dose that is right for you.
Mouthwashes containing neem can significantly inhibit the growth of the bacteria Streptococcus mutans in the mouth, according to a study published in the July-September 2001 issue of the “Indian Journal of Dental Research.” This may in turn reduce the risk of gum disease. Another study, published in the winter 2008 edition of “The Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry,” revealed that neem mouthwashes reduce the incidence of plaque and gingivitis. Dr. Linda Page, author of the book “Healthy Healing,” also states that neem oil is commonly added to natural toothpastes as a purifier and as an antimicrobial agent that helps prevent dental diseases. Drugs.com also reaffirms that neem twigs and neem oil may effectively lower the count of microorganisms responsible for dental diseases.
Neem oil is generally safe to use in most adults. However, the oil can lead to serious poisoning in young children, characterized by seizures and metabolic acidosis, according to a case report in the January 2008 issue of the journal “Indian Pediatrics.” Some animal studies, such as the one published in a 2009 issue of the journal “Einstein,” point out that ingestion of neem oil may significantly alter the levels of reproductive hormones in female animal models and reduce fertility.
Neem oil is available at most natural food stores. However, you must talk to a doctor before using it to treat gum disease. Remember that the FDA does not regulate neem oil products. Talk to your pharmacist to make sure that the product has been tested for safety or efficacy, or look for the USP logo that is awarded to products that have been tested for safety.