Wisdom tooth removal is one of the most common surgeries performed in the US, and certainly one of the most common oral surgeries. Now new research suggests that direct application of the natural hormone melatonin may improve recovery from the procedure. 

This new research is not definitive, and we are far from making recommendations, but this joins other evidence of the benefits of melatonin for improved healing from dental procedures. The Rochester, NY holistic dentists at Contemporary Dentistry will continue evaluating this treatment and recommend it as best for our patients. 

white bottle of melatonin tipped over on its side, spilling out

Melatonin Application Leads to Less Pain and Swelling

Most people think of melatonin as a sleep hormone, but it also helps healing. It serves three potential functions in healing. First, it is an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is important to healing, but if it persists or becomes too widespread, it can slow healing progress. Second, melatonin can suppress stress hormones that also interfere with healing. Finally, melatonin can help with collagen production. Collagen is vital to many tissues, including skin, gums, and even bones. 

In this study, researchers divided 38 patients seeking wisdom tooth removal into two groups. After surgery, the first group received a melatonin gel in the wisdom tooth socket. The second group received a placebo gel. Researchers then measured many healing aspects, including bone density, bone-generating proteins, swelling, and pain following surgery. 

The group receiving melatonin had better bone density six months following surgery, but the difference was not statistically significant. Some differences were significant though. The melatonin group had more bone-healing proteins. They also had less swelling. Perhaps most significantly, the melatonin group reported less pain on every day researchers asked: day 1, day 3, and day 7 following surgery

Other Studies Show Melatonin Healing Benefits

Although this study didn’t show significantly improved bone healing related to melatonin, other studies have also suggested that melatonin’s role in healing can’t be ignored. Another study published this year suggested that sedation dentistry itself improves healing from periodontal surgery. 

In this study, patients receiving surgical treatment for gum disease received either sedation or no medication. Researchers then tracked the healing of the two groups. In the sedation dentistry group, 48% reached a key healing stage by day 14, compared to 35% in the non-sedation group.

Researchers attributed the improved healing to elevated melatonin levels. Sedation dentistry increases melatonin. They also found that everyone who reached the key healing stage had higher melatonin levels than those who didn’t achieve that stage, whether they took sedation or not. It’s hard to know why this study showed significant healing differences where the other did not. The melatonin impact on collagen production should be just as important to bone healing as to gum healing. Perhaps it’s a question of timing. This study’s endpoint was just 14 days post-surgery–and seven days after subjects stopped taking sedation. Researchers didn’t take bone density measurements in the wisdom tooth removal study until six months after surgery. It would be nice if the gum surgery study examined pain levels to compare the effects.

Melatonin and Sedation Dentistry

So, if melatonin can help with anxiety and healing, does that make it a good alternative to sedation dentistry? Not necessarily. 

Researchers recently studied the effectiveness of taking melatonin before a dental appointment, compared to sedation and a placebo. The results showed that melatonin provides statistically significant anxiety reduction compared to placebo. However, the reduction was not as big as the reduction for people receiving sedation medication. This means that people with very minor dental anxiety might benefit from taking melatonin before their appointment. However, it might not be enough for most people with noticeable dental anxiety. 

We also don’t know how well melatonin can help with other benefits of sedation dentistry, such as controlling a strong gag reflex or helping patients who have difficulty getting numb. Until we know that, melatonin might not effectively replace sedation dentistry for most people. 

There’s no prescription necessary for melatonin supplements. If you decide to take melatonin on your own to combat dental anxiety and help healing, let your Rochester holistic dentist know. Evidence suggests that combining melatonin and dental sedation is safe, but we must approach it carefully to be sure. If you take melatonin, we may recommend against sedation or alter your dosage to find the right anxiety control and safety blend. 

Improving Oral Health with Holistic Dentistry in Rochester, NY

At Contemporary Dentistry in Rochester, NY, we are dedicated to improving your oral health using the latest proven techniques. Whenever possible, we utilize holistic dentistry approaches that work just as well as–and sometimes better than–mainstream dentistry approaches. We are always happy to discuss the latest science about our techniques, and can offer alternatives that best fit your situation. 

To learn how our Rochester holistic dentists can improve your oral health naturally, please call  (585) 244-3337 or use our online form to request an appointment at Contemporary Dentistry in Rochester, NY.