Antioxidants are critical for good health — including healthy oral tissues.

Sources for antioxidants

Maintaining a good balance of oxidants and antioxidants is important for oral health as well as systemic health. Factors such as pollutants, alcohol, nicotine, hydrogen peroxide and dental compounds and procedures can upset the balance of oxidants in oral tissues, causing oxidative stress. Fortunately, antioxidants can counteract the imbalance.

There are several thousand antioxidants, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and compounds. Some antioxidants are produced within the body; others, such as vitamins A and C, must be provided by external sources. A healthy, varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts is an excellent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants may be supplied by other external means as well.

Research has also shown that antioxidant molecules only work on specific free radicals or in one area or tissue type. Also, certain combinations of antioxidants can work together synergistically for even greater impact.

Limitations to oral ingestion

Antioxidants ingested from foods, pills or other supplements, are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Increasing the amount of ingested antioxidants may increase the concentration in the bloodstream, but this may not be effective or safe. There is no way to ensure that antioxidants circulating in the bloodstream hit a specific target, such as oral tissues, or that there is a sufficient amount to be effective.

Further, the body cannot stockpile antioxidants for later use; excess amounts are excreted in urine. Some antioxidants in very high doses (e.g., vitamin E or vitamin A) can be toxic. In other words, megadoses of ingested antioxidants are of questionable benefit for oral or systemic health.

Topical antioxidants

An emerging field of science and health is the use of topically applied antioxidants. Scientific and clinical research has already shown that certain antioxidants applied topically can be counteract the damaging effects of free radicals on skin cells.

Studies published in peer-reviewed journals have identified a handful of antioxidants that are highly effective in protecting human skin from ultraviolet light-induced skin damage and oxidative stress. Specific combinations of vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid, and phloretin have been shown to reduce the amount of free radical compounds associated with UV-induced inflammation, i.e., sunburn. Based on the results of these scientific studies, the antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid and phloretin) have been formulated into compounds for topical application to skin cells. Further research has confirmed that this form of application is effective in counteracting the damage caused by UV rays on the skin.

New Research: Topical antioxidants on oral cells

The success of topical antioxidants on skin cells suggests a promise of similar effectiveness of topical compounds on cells in the oral cavity. Research studies are currently under way to examine the effectiveness of combinations of antioxidants applied topically to oral cells. Results from clinical studies, though incomplete, are positive. In addition, these published research studies confirmed that antioxidants that work on skin cells also have an effect on oral (gingival and periodontal) cells

  • Combinations of antioxidants reverse the inhibitory effects of nicotine on wound-healing associated cell migration.
    (Antioxidants Counteract Nicotine and Promote Migration via RacGTP in Oral Fibroblast Cells, J. Periodontology, 2010 Nov; 81(11): 1675-90. Epub 2010 Jul. 17.)
  • Nicotine impairs migration of gingival and periodontal fibroblasts. Treatment with combinations of antioxidants showed synergistic effects in restoring cell migration after wound creation.
    (Antioxidants Increased In Vitro Wound Healing of Nicotine-Treated Oral Fibroblasts, FASEB J. April 2010 24 (Meeting Abstract Supplement 181.2).
  • Antioxidants may have beneficial effects on regulating fibroblast proliferation during gingival healing or periodontal repair.
    (Antioxidants Promote Proliferation of Human Gingival and Periodontal Ligament Fibroblasts, presented at AADR Annual Meeting, March 3-6, 2010.)



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