Clinical applications of Neem in Dentistry
The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) has been known as the wonder tree for centuries in the Indian subcontinent. Though Neem had been used in households for long, it was only during the 1920s, that Neem tree was given its due recognition, with a number of researches being conducted on an international level to understand the benefits and potential of Neem. It has become important in the global context today because it offers solutions to the multiple concerns faced by mankind. Neem not only helps in curing diseases, but it also provides us with the strength of fighting diseases by enhancing our immunity. The inclusion of Neem based products into future dental practice will be a major improvement over the existing practice.
Neem extract on dental caries
The prevalence of dental caries in industrialized countries like India is on the rise. The chewing sticks have been in tradition for several decades without knowing the scientific value of it. The microbial flora of the mouth is highly complex, containing a wide variety of bacterial species. Mutans Streptococci is the most cariogenic pathogen as it is highly acidogenic, producing short chain carboxylic acids which dissolve hard tissues such as enamel and dentin. Extracts from Neem sticks or bark have been shown to inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans and significant reductions in bacterial adhesion in vitro, suggesting that it can reduce the ability of some streptococci to colonize tooth surfaces. In addition, other Streptococcus species which are involved in the development of dental caries such as Streptococcus salivarius, Streptococcus mitis and Streptococcus sanguis are also inhibited by Neem extracts. A considerable antibacterial activity of Neem aqueous extract on Lactobacillus sp has also been noticed at higher concentrations.
Neem extract as a potent root canal irrigant
Endodontic infections are polymicrobial. E. faecalis and yeasts in particular of candida genus are commonly isolated from recalcitrant endodontic infections and root canals with pulp necrosis. Several in vitro studies have shown that Neem leaf extract is a viable medicament against C. albicans, E. faecalis and even their mixed state. As the global scenario is now changing towards the use of non toxic plant products that have traditional medicinal use, extensive research and developmental work therefore should be undertaken on Neem and its products for their better economic and therapeutic utilization as root cana irrigants.
Neem extract in gingival diseases
The utilization of antimicrobial mouthrinses has been considered a useful adjunct to oral hygiene. Several compounds have been evaluated for their effectiveness on supragingival plaque and gingivitis. Chlorhexidine has been utilized for several decades and it is still considered one of the most effective anti-plaque agents in dentistry. However, long term use of chlorhexidine is limited by altering taste and staining of teeth. Various studies have demonstrated that Azadirachta indica based mouth rinses are highly efficacious and may be used as an alternative therapy in the treatment of periodontal diseases. The results may have an important impact in order to create an effective and inexpensive oral health intervention in low-socioeconomic communities.
Neem extract in oral hygiene products
Neem has been declared non-toxic to humans and each part of the tree is used as an active ingredient in different industries. After the tree overcame the initial resistance, it is used on a commercial basis and now, Neem finds immense use in a number of products in industries ranging from cosmetics to agriculture, from pharmaceuticals to Ayurveda. Neem parts are used as an active ingredient in a number of tooth pastes and tooth powders because of its antibacterial properties. It’s usage are proven to be beneficial for tooth and gums health.
Systemic usage of Neem extract
Neem leaves and roots are good for blood circulation and blood purification. Neem elaborates a vast array of biologically active compounds that are chemically diverse and structurally complex. All parts of the Neem tree- leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, roots and bark have been used traditionally for the treatment of inflammation, infections, fever, skin diseases and dental disorders. Neem leaf and its constituents have been demonstrated to exhibit immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycaemic, antiulcer, antimalarial, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic properties.
As the global scenario is now changing towards the use of non toxic plant products that have traditional medicinal usage – ethnomedicine – extensive research and developmental work therefore should be undertaken on Neem and its products for their better economic and therapeutic utilization. Neem is a wonderful cure for diseases and gives much to humans including shade, good air, health and overall well-being. Among all the plants on this planet that have proved useful for humanity, a few are distinguished by their astonishing versatility. Among these, the Neem tree is one of the most important one.
Dr Atul Kaushik (Reader, Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Faculty of Dental Sciences, SGT University)
Dr Renu Tanwar (Reader, Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Faculty of Dental Sciences, SGT University)
Dr Monika Kaushik (Senior Lecturer, Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences, SGT University)