Oral hygiene is one of the most important steps to ensuring good oral health. Typical oral hygiene includes brushing and flossing, but for some people a mouthwash may also be recommended to help control plaque and prevent gum disease.
Unfortunately, many commercial mouthwashes have additions that aren’t good for oral health. Alcohol, dyes, and other additions may do harm to your oral microbiome or your teeth. And prescription mouthwashes may also have harsh chemicals that can sterilize your mouth, killing helpful oral bacteria as well as dangerous ones. As holistic dentists, we like to recommend natural products whenever possible for just these reasons.
Now a new clinical trial shows that at least one natural alternative offers comparable health benefits to harsh chemical mouthwashes. This may make it a better choice for some people who need extra help controlling oral bacteria.
Comparing Neem Mouthwash to Chlorhexidine
For this trial, researchers wanted to look at a group of people who often benefit from adding mouthwash to their oral hygiene routine: those with fixed orthodontic appliances (braces). In the long run, straightening teeth can provide good oral health benefits, but in the short term it can lead to increased gum disease because it’s hard to clean around braces. Mouthwash can help people reduce plaque buildup and gum disease while they’re wearing braces.
To test the benefit from different types of mouthwash, researchers selected 60 people who were getting braces and divided them into three groups. One group would rinse their teeth with distilled water as part of their hygiene routine. The second group would rinse with chlorhexidine, while the third group would rinse with a neem-based mouthwash.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a tree that is native to India. It’s long been used for oral health and other applications in Ayurveda medical practices. More recently, it’s been shown to have genuine health benefits when used as an oral rinse. As a result of its proven benefits, neem-based mouthwashes are available in the US.
They took baseline measurements of oral bacteria on the day the braces were placed, then took measurements 30 days later to gauge the effectiveness of neem mouthwash.
The results showed that both chlorhexidine and neem led to significant reductions in plaque, gum disease index, and count of the common oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans. Although both were statistically different from water, they weren’t significantly different from one another.
This means that a neem-based mouthwash could be a great alternative to chlorhexidine for people who are concerned about the chemical effects.
Mouthwash Isn’t for Everyone
As we noted above, most people don’t need mouthwash to maintain good oral health. Mouthwash is marketed to everyone by an industry that wants to expand its customer base. However, it’s best to save mouthwash for situations where your dentist recommends it.
If you’re looking to learn more about strategies for maintaining good oral health with a minimum of chemicals, we can help. Please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with Rochester, NY holistic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry.