Why are antioxidants important?
There is a lot of hype about antioxidants these days, and most of you know that antioxidants are good for your overall health. Antioxidants are large molecules that pair with and inactivate free radicals. In a normal, healthy body, there is a balance between antioxidants and free radicals. When that balance is disturbed, the body has too many free radicals and can go into a state known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is thought to be involved in various diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression. There are many different factors that can upset this balance between free radicals and antioxidants. Some of the things that produce an overabundance of free radicals in the body are ingestion of toxins, stress, systemic diseases like diabetes, and chronic infections or inflammations.
How does this apply to the mouth?
Because the mouth is full of bacteria, it is a high risk area for infections. In a normal, healthy mouth, the saliva contains antioxidants that maintain the healthy balance. In an infected or inflamed mouth, the saliva may be unable to produce an adequate amount of antioxidants to naturally fight the disease process. Current research is identifying the specific antioxidants that significantly fight the inflammatory response associated with periodontal disease and its specific pathogenic bacteria. This research is also showing the effectiveness of using topical antioxidants to treat oral inflammation. Studies have shown significant improvements of the gum tissues in patients with chronic periodontal disease, oral lichen planus, and chronic smoking when topical antioxidant gel is regularly applied to the oral cavity. Rather than using an antibacterial medication to kill the bacteria, this therapy focuses on boosting the mouth’s natural defense system: the saliva!
Who can benefit from oral antioxidants?
This research has compelled us to learn about the available topical oral antioxidants and select one for our patients to use when indicated. There are many different indications for topical antioxidants.
Chronic periodontal disease
Inflammatory diseases of the oral mucosa, like lichen planus and geographic tongue
Severe dry mouth, either medication-induced or Sjogren’s Syndrome
Smokeless tobacco use
Extensive dental work or dental surgery
Talk to Dr. Jill or Dr. Lara if you fall into any of these categories. They will inform you of your risk areas and the benefit of oral antioxidants to your specific condition.