Pine Bark Chewing Gum Improves Dental Health
Using a chewing gum that contains pine bark extract (Pycnogenol®) after each meal and throughout the day may reduce bleeding of the gums and plaque formation, according to a study in Phytomedicine (2002;9:410–3). The findings of this study suggest that people with gum disease or poor dental hygiene may be able to improve their overall dental health without necessarily having to brush their teeth more frequently than standard recommended practices, such as brushing after each meal.
The value of pine bark extract (Pinus pinaster) was first discovered by French explorer Jacques Cartier in the early sixteenth century, when he found that drinking a tea brewed from pine bark was able to reverse the oral effects of scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), such as bleeding gums. Although pine bark extract does not contain significant amounts of vitamin C, the authors speculate the decrease in gum bleeding may be due to pine bark extract’s anti-inflammatory activity. The beneficial effect might also be attributable to the flavonoid content of the extract, as flavonoids are known to support the effect of vitamin C in preventing and reversing scurvy.
In this two-week study, 40 dental students were assigned to chew six pieces per day of gum that did or did not contain 5 mg of pine bark extract per piece. Each piece of gum was chewed for a minimum of 15 minutes. Participants chewed one piece after each meal and the other three periodically throughout the day. Measurements of gum bleeding and plaque scores were taken before and after the experiment.
Gum bleeding was reduced by more than 50% in those who chewed the pine bark extract gum and plaque formation remained stable. However, in those who chewed regular gum, bleeding remained unchanged and plaque formation significantly increased. These results suggest that chewing the Pycnogenol gum decreased bleeding and prevented the buildup of plaque. Since this study used chewing gum, it is unknown whether an oral supplement of pine bark extract would produce similar results.
Studies have shown that other nutritional supplements are useful for preventing or treating gum disease. Using a mouthwash containing 0.1% folic acid one to two times a day may help reduce gum bleeding. However, this treatment should be used with the supervision of a doctor, since using large amounts of folic acid can mask a common laboratory test used to diagnose pernicious anemia. Taking 60 mg per day of coenzyme Q10 may also help decrease gum bleeding and improve the integrity of the gum tissue. Other studies suggest that limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates in the diet may help reverse gum disease. Each of these treatments should be used for a minimum of two months to determine whether they will be effective or not. People with gum disease should consult a dentist or periodontist before undertaking a new treatment.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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