An Introduction to Neem by Dr. Dan Sindelar

Often the “Best New Solution” is something remarkable that has been around for a long time. That “Best New Solution” is neem (Azadirachta indica).

Neem—while relatively new to Western civilization—is a cornerstone of Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medical systems and has been used continuously for nearly 4,500 years. Neem is known as “sarva roga nivarin” or “healer of all ailments.”

As the co-founder, past president, and board member of the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health, I have found myself at the forefront of one of the fastest growing areas of preventive and integrative health. I have had both the pleasure and honor to be involved with the developing awareness of just how important oral health is to overall health. Oral health is now uniquely connected with heart disease, diabetes, strokes, pre-term births, Alzheimer’s disease, erectile dysfunction, respiratory disease, pancreatic cancer, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, colorectal cancer—the list goes on and on.

So a while back I asked the question, “Why, when, where, and how did the mouth become separate from the body?” when it is, in fact, the most important part of the body.  The bottom line is a healthy mouth really matters, and research now shows us neem plays an important role in achieving a healthy mouth.

The National Academy of Sciences stated, “Even some of the most cautious researchers are now saying that ‘neem deserves to be called a wonder plant.’”

Neem is extraordinarily high in antioxidants. It has also been shown to exhibit extraordinary antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory qualities.

Neem’s unique ability to remove oral plaque and biofilm makes it an essential component in daily oral care. In case studies, it has been shown to reduce bleeding gums by up to 80% over traditional brushing.

One of the most exciting new research papers about neem shows us that it can reduce a certain oral bacterium that makes a person 13 times more likely to have a heart attack than someone without it. (To put it into perspective, a heavy smoker is just 7.5 times more likely to have a heart attack than a non-smoker.)

A study at University of California School of Dentistry showed neem’s ability to reduce the bacteria that cases plaque and biofilm formation. In a six-week trial, neem extract was shown to be significantly more effective in reducing bleeding gums than chlorhexidine gluconate, a harsh chemical rinse with several side effects.

Another study showed that neem reverses the initial cavities that progress to more serious decay. And even on a recent episode of The Dr Oz Show it was stated that brushing with neem is comparable to brushing and flossing combined.

We all hear the word “inflammation” constantly today. Most of our worst diseases are inflammatory diseases. They cost us our health, our money, and often our happiness. What most people do not realize is that the number one source of inflammation in the body is the mouth. Research undeniably links inflammation in the mouth with inflammation throughout the rest of the body. The key to oral inflammation is oral biofilm, complex colonies of bacteria that are sometimes referred to as dental plaque.

Oral biofilm is a bacterial infection. If you were to take the area of the pockets around our teeth and spread it out, it would be approximately the same size as the inside of your arm from elbow to wrist. If you had a bacterial infection that large, you would probably be rushed to the hospital STAT!.

I’m very involved with the importance of oral bacteria/biofilm and its effects on diseases—especially heart disease.

In the past, researchers were unable to see what was actually there. Now with genetic testing and the tools from the Human Genome Project, we have advanced research resulting in a better understanding on the important role oral biofilm plays in our health. One can safely say that oral biofilm plays a key role in many diseases and their underlying mechanisms. One can also safely say that a healthy mouth will reduce the risk for most diseases for most people.

Every dentist—myself included—has a group of patients that for some reason or another have excessive dental plaque (oral biofilm). Their gums bleed excessively, they have rampant tooth decay (cavities), and they are often are troubled with bad breath. In my practice, we have joined the ZT4BG movement—that is to say, “zero tolerance for bleeding gums.”

In my office, I have these patients—all at high risk for not only dental problems, but likely also at risk for overall health problems—using neem products to reduce their bleeding gums with a success rate of 65-75%.

So neem has been shown to both reduce clinical gum disease and also the bacteria that cause it. Research continues to show that neem products for oral care are an important part of achieving good oral health—which, as we know, is important for achieving good overall health.  In a world of rising healthcare costs, it’s time to get back to basics, geting upstream and preventing problems rather than waiting to get sick. I believe neem is going to be a major player in this wellness movement.

Of course, professional dental care is important and cannot be overlooked. But what you do in the comfort of your home sets you and your family up for better health now and for years to come.