Natural Remedies are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Overuse of antibiotics has led to wide-spread bacterial resistance and “super bugs,” which is making alternative therapies a trendy topic in medicine and dentistry.
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, which make it well-suited to be an adjunctive therapy in dental treatment. Aloe vera juice has been found to block the inflammatory process and may help with immune system diseases. Aloe vera’s viscous secretion, called mucilage, contains amino acids, enzymes and antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, which all play a role in fighting oxidative stress. Aloe vera sap contains compounds that have antimicrobial properties by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis. One study found that daily consumption of aloe vera gel extract reduced the amount of species of Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutans in saliva, both of which are oral pathogenic bacteria. Aloe vera’s antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties synergistically work together to expedite wound healing.
There have been studies conducted that compared aloe vera’s abilities as a cavity disinfecting agent in comparison to a control and other medicaments. Aloe vera proved to provide a statistically significant reduction in oral bacteria when compared to the control, however did not proven as effective as chlorhexidine, which is a proven antimicrobial agent in dentistry and medicine.
There have also been studies evaluating aloe vera’s capabilities in treating periodontal (gum) disease. In comparison to the control, gum sites that were treated with aloe vera showed a statistically significant improvement in probing depths. One study also proved a statistically significant reduction in plaque levels, while another did not support such results.
Another study showed that an aloe vera mouthrinse used 3 times daily was as effective as benzydamine (the current standard treatment) in helping to delay the onset and severity of radiation-induced mucositis (RIOM) in patients with head and neck cancer (although neither treatment is capable of preventing it altogether). RIOM is a painful ulcerative condition in the mouth resulting from radiation treatment that makes it difficult to eat, drink and speak.
Currently, use of corticosteroids is the gold standard of treatment for oral lichen planus, which is an auto-immune condition that affects the mucous membranes in the mouth and can often be painful. One study found that aloe vera is effective for managing oral lichen planus, however it is not as effective as corticosteroids. This is promising for patients who cannot use corticosteroids.
Although it is clear that much more research is needed to further evaluate the efficacy of aloe vera in dental applications, the preliminary findings are very promising to help address such common dental problems. The greatest advantage of aloe vera use is that there are no contraindications and no side effects, meaning that at minimum, they may prove to be a viable alternative for patients who, for medical reasons, cannot utilize conventional treatment methods.
Written by: Anna Hautzenrader, Registered Dental Hygienist