Natural Dental Products: Good or Bad for Your Clients?

As a consumer standing in front of a well orchestrated display of oral care products, one word comes to mind; overwhelming! Added into the already overwhelming list of products is an entire line up of natural oral health care products. Marketing is aimed to have every product promise to deliver something wonderful. That may be the case, however, is that ‘something’ wonderful suited for your clients' needs? Is what your client is putting in their mouth good for them? Even if they are natural products?

 

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An informed decision making process is required right then and there in the dental product aisle of the local drug store. Do clients know what’s in their mouth to make a decision that will not cause damage or harm in either the short or long term? There are many effective and safe natural oral health care products. The key is to determine if they support oral health based on individual needs. While most natural oral health products won’t do any damage to our clients overall oral health, there are some natural dental products that you may want your clients with preexisting oral health issues to stay clear of.


Common Oral Health Issues That Natural Oral Health Products May Not Be Supportive Of

  • High Caries Risk: Requires a product with an ingredient to remineralize enamel that has been demineralized from acid attacks. Countless studies have proven fluoride is the leader in the prevention of tooth decay. Naturally sourced fluoride may not deliver enough remineralization to combat acid attacks. A person with a high caries risk is not a good candidate for fluoride free toothpaste or fluoride free mouth rinse. On the natural side of the product options, the use of sugar-free products with xylitol along with fluoride would be beneficial.
  • Xerostomia (Dry Mouth): Requires a non-abrasive and non-alcohol based product so the client doesn’t experience further dehydration and irritates the oral tissue. A person that suffers from dry mouth is not a good candidate for baking soda based products. However, they may do well with natural products that have aloe, essential oils, are free of color, free of preservatives, etc. To further complicate the situation for clients that want to use natural dental products with xerostomia, lack of saliva creates an elevated caries risk, therefore, back to the high caries risk category above, this group also needs fluoride delivered via toothpaste and or mouth rinse.
  • Gingivitis: Requires a product to combat bacteria at the gingival level. The mechanical action of debridement of plaque at the gum line paired up with the right ingredient is important to reverse gingivitis. Plaque sitting at the gum line creates an inflammatory response with red puffy gums that may bleed. Baking soda and peroxide are not recommended for the person with gingivitis as both could cause abrasion to that already frail gingival margin. In the natural product list, a suited ingredient may be aloe vera, natural herbs, essential oils, etc.
  • Periodontitis: The bone loss associated with periodontitis cannot be reversed but the inflammatory process can be halted. As such the same would apply as the above noted gingivitis.
  • Sensitivity: Sensitivity can originate from a variety of sources. Overall general sensitivity, abfractions or even more serious conditions such as broken teeth, caries and/or infection. Once again, the goal is to not irritate these areas any further. With sensitivity, the key is to stay away from products that would whiten teeth such as peroxide or products to further abrade the teeth. Hydrated silica could pose an abrasion issue depending on the size and shape of the particle (the larger the size and the more ‘corners’ on the particle, the more abrasive it is). Baking soda can be added to the lineup of what not to use with sensitive teeth.
  • Restored Dentition: If a client presents with many or few composite restorations, porcelain, ceramic, etc. the use of certain natural products that are newer to the market do not have the studies for long term impact on abrading such restorative materials. A client having financially invested in their restorative oral health would need to be educated of the ‘unknown’ abrasive outcomes of baking soda, charcoal toothpaste or charcoal powder in the longevity of use.

Do Dental Products Labelled As Natural Mean They Are Good For Your Client?

From all the natural product ingredients activated charcoal is gaining the most popularity. As a dental professional, deciphering evidenced based decision making, one needs to ask, is charcoal popular based on good marketing tactics or due to positive oral health outcomes. This is where health communication and media marketing become conflicting. Just because an oral health product is popular does not necessarily mean it is due to health communication, meaning, the benefits to oral health. Specific to charcoal, on the American Dental Association there are several articles surveying charcoal toothpaste. Two articles conclude charcoal had a reduction in caries rate. One article concluded charcoal had no impacts on oral health to list. Lastly, Three articles had negative outcomes including enamel abrasion and increased caries.

It’s buyer beware. The marketing claims of a natural oral health product may not align with a clients’ individual needs. The oral health claims made with the use of charcoal paste are antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and detoxification. However, there is no supporting evidence in which these claims are no more than leaver marketing tactics to attract consumers 4. Just like any new product in dentistry, research, research and more research! Dental professionals need to have a complete view of the product's indications for use, directions for use and both short and long term impacts of use.

To Sum It Up

In a world where consumers are trying their best to make more natural oral health decisions, dental professionals must direct clients to natural oral health products they want, but also products that don’t exasperate their pre-existing oral health conditions. Natural products dental professionals recommend must have the evidence to support their oral health benefit claims and not just attractive marketing promises and slogans.



Sources:

  1. McCarthy, Brantley, Nicholas Le_eri, Jim Singletary, and Carolyn Primus, Ph.D. “Whitening dentifrice effects on resin composites.” 62, no. 2 (2017): 110-11. Accessed November 30, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.denabs.2016.07.059.
  2. Pertiwi, U. I., Y. K. Eriwati, and B. Irawan. “Surface changes of enamel after brushing with charcoal toothpaste.” Journal of Physics: Conference Series 884 (2017): 012002. Accessed November 30, 2017. doi:10.1088/1742-6596/884/1/012002.
  3. John K. Brooks, Nasir Bashirelahi, and Mark A. Reynolds, “Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices,” The Journal of the American Dental Association 148, no. 9 (2017), accessed November 30, 2017, doi:10.1016/j.adaj.2017.05.001.
  4. Dagli, N., & Dagli, R. (2014). Possible use of essential oils in dentistry. Journal of international oral health: JIOH, 6(3), i–ii.
  5. Chandra Shekar, B. R., Nagarajappa, R., Suma, S., & Thakur, R. (2015). Herbal extracts in oral health care - A review of the current scenario and its future needs. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 9(18), 87–92. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.16210

Michelle Aubé (Simmonds) RDH, maxill Dental Hygiene Educator

Michelle is a Dental Hygiene Speaker, Consultant and Educator with over 21 years of experience as a RDH and 4 years as a CDA. She has written dental hygiene articles for CDHA’s OH Canada professional publication and continues to practice clinically and teaches both clinical dental hygiene and practice management at Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario. She has served on the Discipline Committee at Algonquin College and held the position of a CDHO Quality Assurance Assessor for 7 years.