Life Extension Magazine September 2008
Disease Prevention Begins in the Mouth
By Dale Kiefer
Nutritional Support for the Gums
In addition to brushing and/or rinsing with botanical-fortified dentifrices (preparations for cleaning the teeth), supplementation with vitamin C may also help support gingival health. Vitamin C is crucial for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue, such as the gums. In fact, one of the clinical signs of scurvy, the disease associated with vitamin C deficiency, is bleeding gums.44 (Vitamin C should not be applied to the teeth topically as ascorbic acid may erode enamel.)
The B vitamin, folic acid promotes gingival health by reducing redness and bleeding of these delicate tissues.17
Vitamin D is also important for oral health.45 Since many people do not generate adequate levels of the “sunshine hormone,” supplementation with vitamin D may be necessary to help ensure gum health.
Power of Pomegranate
Pomegranate is currently finding important applications in the field of dental health. Clinical studies have shown that this popular antioxidant superstar attacks the causes of tooth decay at the biochemical level, with remarkable vigor.12,46-49 When used regularly in combination with toothpaste that has been reinforced with bioactive botanical extracts and CoQ10, pomegranate-containing mouthwash may fight dental plaque and tartar formation by inhibiting the activities of the microorganisms that cause plaque. Additionally, pomegranate compounds possess anti-inflammatory properties that may help soothe irritated tissues.50,51
Pomegranate gets to the root of the problem by literally hitting bacteria where they live. Fascinating research shows that pomegranate extract suppresses the ability of these microorganisms to adhere to the surface of the tooth.12 The trick is to inhibit a common species of Streptococcus, preventing it from producing chemicals that create favorable conditions for fungi and other microorganisms to thrive. Plaque may involve four or more different microorganisms combining forces to colonize the surface of the teeth. Remarkably, nature’s own pomegranate fights the organisms’ ability to adhere by interfering with production of the very chemicals the bacteria use as “glue.”52
In fact, a recent study conducted by Brazilian researchers showed that pomegranate extract was more effective against the adherence of biofilm microorganisms than a pharmaceutical antifungal, when three or four microorganisms were involved.12 The results of this study suggest that “this phytotherapeutic agent might be used in the control of adherence of different microorganisms in the oral cavity,” concluded researchers.12
A study conducted at the Human Nutrition Center at Ohio State University in 2007 examined the effects of using a mouthwash containing pomegranate extract on the risk of gingivitis.53 Investigators noted that pomegranate’s active components, including polyphenolic flavonoids (e.g., punicalagins and ellagic acid), are believed to prevent gingivitis through a number of mechanisms including reduction of oxidative stress in the oral cavity,54-56 direct antioxidant activity; anti-inflammatory effects;57,58 antibacterial activity;59 and direct removal of plaque from the teeth.47 They also noted that a published pilot study has already shown that pomegranate extract can reduce the clinical signs of chronic periodontitis.46
For the Ohio State study, researchers recruited 32 healthy young men and women, who were randomly assigned to rinse with pomegranate mouthwash, or placebo, three times daily for four weeks. Subjects were instructed to rinse for five minutes per rinse. Saliva samples were evaluated for a variety of indicators related to gingivitis and periodontitis. Subjects rinsing with pomegranate solution experienced a reduction in saliva total protein content,53 which is normally higher among people with gingivitis60 and may correlate with plaque-forming bacterial content.61
Pomegranate-treated subjects also experienced significant decreases in the salivary activity of the enzyme aspartate aminotransferase. This enzyme is considered a reliable indicator of cell injury and is elevated among patients with periodontitis.62 Pomegranate rinsing also lowered saliva activities of alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down sucrose (sugar),63 while it increased activities of ceruloplasmin, an antioxidant enzyme.64 “The pomegranate extract-induced increase in ceruloplasmin activity can be expected to strengthen antioxidant defenses,” noted investigators. Subjects who rinsed with placebo solution did not experience any of these changes.53 Taken together, researchers concluded that these changes in saliva content indicated that routine rinsing with a pomegranate mouthwash, “…could promote oral health, including affecting processes related to gingivitis.”53
Double-Pronged Attack on Plaque
Commercial toothpastes rely largely on mechanical abrasion to remove the sticky film on teeth that, left unchecked, develops into plaque. Over time, plaque provides the perfect environment for the erosion of tooth enamel, leading to cavities. Mouthwashes may contain antibacterial compounds, flavorings, and other cosmetically appealing ingredients, but, until now, none have included the power of pomegranate.
Fortunately, pomegranate extract suppresses the activity of various oral bacteria and fungi, which join forces to cause tooth decay. When combined with toothpaste formulated with bioactive compounds, such as green tea leaf extract, aloe vera gel, CoQ10, lactoferrin, folic acid, and xylitol, this powerful dentifrice duo actively fights the root causes of plaque and gum disease.
Good oral hygiene is not simply a matter of maintaining appearances. In the absence of vigilant oral care, plaque and tartar will build up, resulting in gingivitis and possibly progressing to periodontitis. And periodontitis has been associated with increased risks of conditions ranging from heart disease to stroke and even pancreatic cancer. By harnessing natural bioactive components, such as pomegranate, green tea, CoQ10, lactoferrin, aloe vera, folic acid, and xylitol, these modern dentifrices have improved the odds of winning the battle against dental degradation and related systemic illnesses.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Health Advisor at 1-800-226-2370.
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