Chewing on bitter bark and leaves has been a method of tooth and gum cleaning for thousands of years, and twigs from the neem tree have been used in Southeast Asia and other regions of the world to improve oral health. Neem toothpaste uses neem extracts to provide the benefits of the tree in a gel, cream, or powder form. It may be used alone or in combination with other toothpastes, and its benefits may include whiter teeth, healthier gums, fewer cavities, and better breath.
In India, it is not uncommon to see people chewing on sticks from neem trees. Bearing down on the bark releases juices directly to the teeth and gums. Preparations made from ground or pulverized bark and leaves serve as toothpaste where commercial varieties may not be available. Western countries have begun using neem toothpaste for its reported effectiveness among consumers with gum problems or gingivitis. Many users of neem tout its ability to restore gums, repel plaque, and eliminate bad breath where other products have shown little or no improvement.
Products created with neem oil generally are used externally in soaps and creams for skin health and for repelling insects. Adding this oil to toothpaste is typically not recommended and is widely considered unsafe. Using the bark and leaves of the tree in making neem toothpaste, however, may preserve its concentrated antioxidant and anti-fungal properties.
While many store bought varieties of oral care rinses and pastes are peppermint white, minty blue or cinnamon red, neem toothpaste may take some getting used to, as it generally is brown or red clay colored. In its powdered bark form, it can be less bitter than when chewed right off the tree, but it does have less of a sweet taste than most commercial toothpaste and can be gritty. Flavors and additives may be used in making neem toothpaste while maintaining the benefits of the bark or leave extracts.
Brushing with neem toothpaste from the tube is often the same as using standard fluoride or natural varieties. Ground bark in powder form generally comes in a jar. A toothbrush filled with paste can be dipped into the powder before brushing. Massaging the powder around the gums with a wet toothbrush also may be effective. When looking to try neem toothpaste, finding a brand made from the actual neem bark and leaves is typically the most important consideration.