Aloe vera gel equal to toothpaste in battling caries

By Rabia Mughal, contributing editor

August 5, 2009 -- The aloe vera plant has a long history of healing power. Now a team of dental researchers from India have found that aloe vera tooth gel can be as effective as toothpaste for fighting tooth decay.

Aloe vera tooth gel is intended to perform the same function as toothpaste: eliminate pathogenic oral microflora. However, the gel's ability to actually do so has been a point of contention for some dental professionals, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

The preliminary results of a recent study showed that aloe vera tooth gel and two commercially available toothpastes were equally effective against certain microorganisms.

But the authors of a recent study in General Dentistry concluded that aloe vera gel is just as effective, and in some cases even more so, than commercial toothpastes in controlling caries-causing microorganisms.

The researchers used an in vitro study to compare the germ-fighting abilities of an aloe vera tooth gel, Forever Bright, with two commercially popular toothpastes, Pepsodent and Colgate. They tested the toothpastes against seven pathogenic microorganisms: Streptococcus mutans, Candida albicans, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus mitis, Enterococcus faecalis, Prevotella intermedia, and Peptostreptococcus anaerobius.

To conduct the experiment, the researchers made three wells (4 mm in diameter and 3 mm deep) using a sterile metallic template, with a rubber teat in each plate. They streaked agar plates with the respective microorganisms, and dispersed the toothpastes and gel into the wells.

The researchers then incubated the plates at 37° C for 48 hours. After incubation, they examined the wells to identify locations where no bacteria growth occurred.

"The preliminary results showed that aloe vera tooth gel and the toothpastes were equally effective against Candida albicans, Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecalis, Prevotella intermedia, and Peptostreptococcus anaerobius," wrote co-authors Dilip George, M.D.S.; Sham Bhat, M.D.S.; and Beena Antony, Ph.D. In addition, the aloe vera tooth gel demonstrated "enhanced antibacterial effect against S. mitis," they noted (General Dentistry, May/June 2009, Vol. 57:3, pp. 238-241).

Natural anthraquinones

The antimicrobial effects of aloe vera have been attributed to the plant's natural anthraquinones, chemical compounds that are used in healing and arresting pain because of their analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effects. Aloe vera tooth gel also does not contain the abrasive elements typically found in commercial toothpaste so it tends to be less harsh on teeth, making it a good alternative for people with sensitive teeth or gums, according to the AGD.

However, not all aloe vera tooth gel contains the proper form of aloe vera. Products must contain the stabilized gel that is located in the center of the aloe vera plant to be effective. They must also adhere to certain manufacturing standards, the AGD emphasized.

Dr. George, a senior lecturer and assistant professor in the department of pedodontics and preventive dentistry at the Pushpagiri College of Dental Sciences, explained that aloe "must not be treated with excessive heat or filtered during the manufacturing process, as this destroys or reduces the effects of certain essential compounds, such as enzymes and polysaccharides."

Dr. George suggested doctors and consumers consult nonprofit associations such as the International Aloe Science Council to find out which products have received the organization's seal of quality.

"Thankfully, consumers with sensitive teeth or gums have a number of choices when it comes to their oral health, and aloe vera is one of them," said AGD spokesperson Eric Shapria, D.D.S., M.S. "If they are interested in a more alternative approach to oral hygiene, they should speak with their dentist to ensure that it meets the standards of organized dentistry, too."

Although this preliminary in vitro study demonstrated that aloe vera tooth gel was as effective as two popular toothpastes, additional long-term clinical trials should be performed that incorporate more isolates from clinical samples to guarantee these results and the effectiveness of these tooth care products, the study authors concluded.

Copyright © 2009


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