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Neem – Oral Healthcare in Developing Countries

Did you know that neem is one of the products used in oral healthcare in developing countries? For example, India has been using the neem tree and its products to create toothbrushes [1] for centuries. A person chews one end of the neem twig until it somewhat resembles the bristles of a toothbrush, and then uses it to brush the teeth. And chewing sticks made from the neem tree are a common form of oral hygiene tool used in the Middle East in addition to other parts of the world. But another interesting fact is that there is some science supporting the use of this product. According to the Department of Preventive Dental Sciences at the College of Dentistry in Saudi Arabia, several studies have revealed that there are in fact anti-plaque, anti-cavity and antibacterial effects from using these sticks. For this reason, developing countries recommend using chewing sticks as oral hygiene tools for improved dental and health promotion. However, it is also important to note that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to endorse any neem-based products.

So what is neem? Neem, a tree in the mahogany family that grows in tropical and semi-tropical regions, is native to India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. In addition to being used as a toothbrush or as a chewing stick, the neem tree has been revered as the “village pharmacy,” because of the belief in its many medicinal properties and its holistic power to treat health problems. Every part of this “miracle tree,” as it is often referred to, is used for health benefits including the twigs for toothbrushes, its bark for treating gum disease [2], its oil for soap, and its leaves for medicinal uses. Neem also has horticultural uses, it is used as a natural pesticide and as a vegetable in certain Hindu festivals.

While it is interesting to learn about products used in other parts of the world, Dear Doctor does not endorse the use of neem-based products or any other products that have not been accepted through the thorough testing and strict guidelines of the FDA and/or the American Dental Association (ADA).