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Robby Gardner is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles, specializing in fresh produce and health food ingredients.
Future ingredients for oral care.
Finding solutions for good oral health can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. But with a little help from academic and industry researchers, we might find our way towards a better oral environment sooner than later. Here’s a look at some ingredients that just might shape the future of oral-care products.
At the risk of bogging down Nutritional Outlook readers with research on green tea, it must be said that research is growing on the tea (and its extract) for oral-health measures. And it’s not just based on Japanese population studies.
Green tea’s catechins are potent antioxidants, so exposing the inside of the mouth to these catechins might be a good way to reduce oral inflammation. Experiments are encouraging so far.
Published studies support green tea catechins for reducing oxidative stress, but more telling studies have seen light in recent months. Last fall, researchers from the University of São Paulo measured dental erosion on tooth samples submerged for 10 minutes in Sprite and two types of Coca-Cola. With green tea added to the beverages, dental erosion from soft drinks decreased by 15 to 40%.
The mouth is a pesky war zone with resident bacteria as dangerous as poor dietary choices. If green tea can inhibit the production or activity of cariogenic bacteria, that’s added value. Last fall, researchers from the University of Naples Federico II School of Dentistry assigned 60 young patients to rinse their mouths with 40 ml of green tea extract or placebo three times a day for one week. Through close inspection of saliva, researchers observed statistically significant reductions of Streptococci mutans and Lactobacilli, two families of bacteria closely linked to tooth decay. A May 2011 pilot study saw similar benefit with a green tea mouth rinse reducing S. mutans and gingival bleeding.
Bacteria can also make the mouth stink, a condition scientifically termed halitosis. Experts credit sulfuric compounds with the tear-jerking effects of halitosis, and-you guessed it-green tea may be a worthy opponent even for these unwanted compounds. Recent studies on humans suggest that both green tea powder and extract may help eliminate sulfuric compounds in the mouth or mouth air.
Oral science looks good for green tea, but extra care should be taken when choosing an extract for product formulation. Green tea trials often note bitterness perceived by patients consuming green tea products. This bitterness is likely due to the tannins present in green tea.
Rest assured that some companies are working on green tea extracts with palatable taste. Not long ago, DSM Nutritional Products (Parsippany, NJ) developed Teavigo green tea extract. The ingredient’s exclusive distributor, Pharmachem (Kearny, NJ), says Teavigo should be recognized as much for its “flat flavor” as for its strength as a standardized extract (90% guaranteed content of EGCG–a notable green tea antioxidant).
By now, you’ve probably heard of at least one health condition in which coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) deficiency is considered a factor. Studies linking CoQ10 depletion to poor health grow by the year, and a link to the nutrient is showing up in oral-health science.
When researchers from the University of Sevilla analyzed the teeth of 58 adults, subjects identified as having periodontitis had elevated levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and significantly reduced CoQ10 levels compared to subjects without periodontitis. That’s solid evidence of CoQ10 having some play in the oral environment.
In clinical applications of CoQ10, adding CoQ10 to the body seems to provide equally positive outcomes. One recent study on 45 adults taking CoQ10 for two months found that CoQ10 use came with a decrease in gum bleeding and the amount of plaque adhering to teeth. Another study involved researchers applying CoQ10 to the tooth pockets of living patients. Only CoQ10-exposed pockets demonstrated reduced bleeding after probing, as well as improvements in gingival health scores.
But a more unique benefit from CoQ10 could be against dry mouth (xerostomia), a condition that can lead to further problems.
In a 2011 study, 66 patients were assigned to a CoQ10 supplement or placebo daily for one month. Compared to placebo, CoQ10 significantly improved salivary secretion, which researchers presumed could have been due to increased ATP as a result of CoQ10.
As CoQ10 shines in the oral-health space, eager manufacturers should also lend their eyes to comparisons between ordinary CoQ10 (termed ubiquinone in its non-reduced form) and reduced CoQ10 (called ubiquinol). In the aforementioned study on saliva production, patients received one of either form of CoQ10. The reduced-form ubiquinol appeared to provide greater benefit, and ubiquinol developer Kaneka Corp. (Pasadena, TX) was quick to point out the differences.
“The researchers noted that ubiquinol is transported into lymphatic tissue during the absorption process independent of a NADPH-reductase,” said product development manager at Kaneka Nutrients LP, Sid Shastri, MSc. “By virtue of being pre-converted, ubiquinol does not require reduction (electron donation via NADPH-reductase), and this may account for its higher increase in salivary secretion.”
A scattering of international oral-care products is already premiering CoQ10 formulations, and it seems only a matter of time before mainstream oral-care markets fully embrace the nutrient. For more news on CoQ10, watch for the 7th Conference of the International Coenzyme Q10 Association, to be held this November in Spain.
For news on the pomegranate (Punica granatum), look no further. The so-called fruit of the gods (fruit of the underworld, fruit of love, etc.) has taken on an increasingly scientific look, and a recent India study has a standardized pomegranate extract looking good for oral care.
Researchers from the S.D.M. College of Dental Sciences assigned 30 subjects to four days of twice-daily mouth rinse containing pomegranate extract, chlorhexidine (a chemical antiseptic), or placebo, and assessed the growth of three periodontal organisms.
Compared to placebo, the pomegranate extract and chemical antiseptic were equally effective. That pomegranate extract was Pomella, a standardized extract from Verdure Sciences (Noblesville, IN). And the company says that while the researchers behind this study credit flavonoids for the bacterial takedown, it’s the flavonoids specific to pomegranate that make all the difference.
“Pomella is standardized to quite special polyphenols unique to pomegranate, called punicalagins,” says Verdure Sciences technical director Blake Ebersole. “These compounds account for the bulk of the activity of Pomella and pomegranate juice, and, unlike many flavonoids, punicalagins not only exhibit potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects but are also water-soluble.”
This isn’t the first study on Pomella and oral health. And it likely won’t be the last.
In much the same way that they support the digestive tract, probiotics may help keep good bacteria afloat and bad bacteria at bay in the mouth. While some popular methods for treating oral bacteria completely eliminate select organisms, the management of oral bacteria may be better suited for controlling rather than killing, says Tim Gamble, president and CEO of probiotic developer Nutraceutix (Redmond, WA).
“Many other approaches-even natural ones-to prevent halitosis or hinder tooth decay do so by killing bacteria in the mouth,” says Gamble. “However, they are not highly selective in this approach and can weaken or outright kill the good bacteria along with the bad. This leaves the oral environment barren and susceptible to the reintroduction of pathogenic bacteria.”
Rather than killing select bacteria, probiotics can foster an oral environment with a balance of bacteria to create a desired environment of equilibrium-ideally with enough good bacteria to take out the bad.
Studies based on the probiotic theory have thus far been largely successful on human volunteers. Dairy-based beverages, gums, ice creams, and other carriers have encouraged lower levels of bad-breath compounds, lower levels of harmful cariogenic organisms, and reduced levels of cavities.
But the entire arena of probiotics can’t rest its merits on a few strain-specific studies. (For instance, various strains are understood as having varying abilities of adhesion to the oral cavity.) Strain-specific research is a must in order for consumers to embrace probiotics from an already unfamiliar market.
“Nutraceutix has produced a variety of proprietary strains that were originally isolated from the healthy oral cavity where they were identified as natural colonizers,” says Gamble. “Nutraceutix currently produces these organisms under contract by their owners who, should further research be pursued, will be the ones coordinating it.” The company adds that an emerging sector of the probiotic market is in dietary supplements where potency and shelf stability may be better maintained than in other applications.
A conversation about bodily bacteria would not be complete without a mention of cranberry (Vaccinium microcarpon). The American cranberry has strength when it comes to research on bacterial infections-primarily those in the urinary tract, where the berry’s proanthocyanidin flavonoids discourage bacteria from attaching to bladder walls.
Experts hope the cranberry’s bacterial defense can carry over to the mouth; so far, in vitro studies suggest that much. Through mechanisms yet to be fully understood, cranberry proanthocyanidins appear to inhibit attachment and coaggregation of periodontal pathogens to gingival tissues, while also reducing inflammation.