Melatonin shows promise in fight against periodontal diseases

Literature review looks at the role melatonin could play in the oral cavity.

CHICAGO--Melatonin could be the latest supplement to join the fight against periodontal diseases.

According to a literature review in the June issue of the Journal of Periodontology, melatonin may promote bone formation and stimulate the body's immune response, which are two factors that can affect a person's periodontal health.

Since its discovery in 1917, melatonin has been found to be involved in many biological functions such as setting the body's sleep rhythms and fighting off free radicals that may lead to cancer and other autoimmune diseases.

The authors of this study conducted an extensive review of the literature (e.g., PubMed, Science Direct, Web of Knowledge, etc.) to evaluate the potential effects of melatonin on the oral cavity, including: melatonin as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger; melatonin as a host modulation agent; melatonin as a promoter of bone formation; and melatonin and periodontal disease.

This review found strong evidence that melatonin may play a key role in periodontal health by helping to maintain bone levels in the oral cavity through suppressing the cells that work during bone resorption, and enhancing the body's host response to the periodontal bacteria. One of the most devastating effects of periodontal disease is bone loss in the jaw which often leads to tooth loss.

"Although the review did not directly look at melatonin as a treatment option for periodontal diseases, this is an area that might be worth investigating in the future," said review author Antonio Cutando, DDS. "Melatonin has important physiological functions that have not yet been explored in dentistry or in the treatment of periodontal diseases."

Melatonin also has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that help to improve the body's immune response to infection. Recent studies have shown that salivary melatonin levels may actually vary according to the degree of periodontal disease, indicating that melatonin may act to protect the body from periodontal bacteria and inflammation.

"While natural supplements such as vitamin D, calcium, and vitamins E and C have been shown to have possible effects on periodontal diseases patients should be aware that supplements alone are not a substitute for periodontal care," said Preston D. Miller, Jr., DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

"Patients should make an effort to know their pocket probing depths, which are the key to understanding their periodontal disease. A healthy probing depth of one to two millimeters with no bleeding represents a healthy mouth. Probing depths of three to four, that bleed, generally need more than a simple cleaning- they may require a procedure called scaling and root planing. When probing depths reach five millimeters or greater the patient as reached a level which may require surgical treatment to restore lost bone. Patients should keep this pocket size guide to their oral health in mind and should not hesitate to ask their dental professionals about their probing depths if this information is not volunteered."

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