Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color, may have a role in the treatment of periodontitis thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. A review article on the substance was published on June 26 in the Journal of Periodontal Research.
When the use of curcumin is combined with other conventional periodontal therapies, such as photodynamic therapy and scaling and root planing, it may improve the treatment of periodontitis.
"Curcumin may be a simple and inexpensive therapeutic strategy for periodontal disease due to its broad-spectrum antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects," wrote the authors, led by Dr. Yongli Li from the Hospital of Stomatology at Jilin University in Changchun, China.
Worldwide, the incidence of chronic periodontitis is about 11%, with approximately 743 million people having the disease. Conventional therapies, as well as the use of antibacterial drugs, can improve the treatment of periodontitis. However, the use of these medications may lead to bacterial imbalances and drug resistance.
Therefore, the use of plant extracts such as curcumin has been explored as a possible alternative. In their article, Li and colleagues reviewed current studies in animals and humans to assess the progress of curcumin as a treatment for periodontitis.
In an in vivo animal study, researchers injected the molecule lipopolysaccharide, a component of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria, into the gingival tissue of rats to create an animal model of experimental periodontitis. The animals were then given curcumin that had been diluted in corn oil.
Lab tests detected expression of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) in the rats' gingival tissues. The results suggest that curcumin significantly inhibited the expression of cytokine genes at messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels while boosting the number of fibroblasts and amount of collagen, the authors wrote.
In trials in humans, patients diagnosed with periodontal disease were given curcumin to consolidate the treatment effect and prevent disease recurrence after they received scaling and root planing treatment. One trial showed that rinsing the periodontal pockets with a 1% curcumin solution could inhibit periodontal inflammation.
In another trial, patients' periodontal pockets were injected with curcumin sustained-release tablets. After one month of treatment, their probing depth, clinical attachment level, and plaque and gingival indexes improved significantly, the authors wrote.
Though the body of research suggests that curcumin is beneficial in the treatment of periodontitis, some academics believe the claims may be exaggerated. There is little research that clarifies the mechanism of curcumin's pharmacological effects, Li and colleges wrote, and additional studies are needed.
However, "in short, curcumin has shown promise in treating periodontitis," they concluded.