Turmeric in oral health: Benefits are touted on social media, but research results are limited

By Amanda Dutra, BSDH, Leslie BriceƱo, BSDH, Jackie Dent, BSDH, and Kathryn Bell, RDH, MS

Within the last several years, a growing interest in all-natural medicines and products has surfaced on popular social media sites and marketing agents, such as Pinterest and Livestrong. Social media continuously draw attention to the alternatives to traditional medicine. Turmeric has become a commonly recommended agent on these sites.

Turmeric has been touted to boost cognitive function, fight inflammation, support cardiovascular function, promote youthful skin, support joint and muscle health, boost detoxification, promote healthy mood balance, and support natural weight loss.1 Additionally, these sites also propose the use of turmeric as a tooth whitener, remedy for toothaches, and as an adjunct in tightening gums and healing gum inflammation.2

Turmeric is a widely used plant in Eastern medicine and is indigenous to Southeast Asia and cultivated in India.3 Turmeric belongs to the ginger family and is derived from an herb called the Curcuma longa. The active ingredient, curcuma, originates from the rhizomes of the Curcuma longa. The terms curcuma, curcumin, and turmeric are often used interchangeably. Curcuma or turmeric is typically orange with a rootlike structure. It can be found in various forms such as a dry yellow powder, tablets, or a liquid extract.

Its bitter yet slightly sweet taste is why turmeric is most commonly used as a fresh spice.3 However, research on turmeric also claims a wide spectrum of therapeutic effects such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and wound healing.4 Many developing countries rely on natural remedies such as turmeric for health care.3

Considering these recommendations are highly visible on social media, it is important to evaluate the current research supporting these oral health outcomes. The purpose of this article is to summarize the available literature regarding the use of turmeric for oral health benefits.