Silver has long been promoted as an antibacterial treatment. As a result, silver has been proposed for use in many applications for controlling bacteria and fungus. This is very intriguing for oral health, and now many companies are offering toothbrushes that are infused or coated with silver.
But are these truly effective for controlling gum disease and preventing receding gums?
How Silver Attacks Bacteria
We’re not entirely certain how silver attacks bacteria and fungi. But there are a number of theories that have been proposed.
One of the most common theories is that silver can bind with and deactivate certain key enzymes on the surface of single-celled organisms. This happens at the surface of the cell, where it can bind with enzymes that are necessary for the bacteria to “breathe.” When these enzymes are deactivated, single-celled organisms can suffocate or starve.
Others think that silver can enter a cell and attach to the DNA breaking it apart.
One observed effect of silver exposure is dehydration. It’s not clear why this occurs.
Are Silver-Coated Toothbrushes Effective?
Since we know that silver can significantly damage oral bacteria, it makes sense to think that coating or infusing a toothbrush with silver will give them antimicrobial properties. However, evidence on this is limited.
One study looked at silver-coated toothbrushes to see if they inhibited the growth of oral bacteria on the brush heads. Researchers looked at the effect of silver on many common oral bacteria and fungi, including Streptococcus oralis, S.mutans, S. sanguis, Actinomyces viscosus, Lactobacillus casei, and Candida albicans. The results showed that there was generally no effect from silver on the growth of bacteria and fungi. In fact, two of the microorganisms seemed to grow better on the silver-coated toothbrushes.
On the other hand, silver nanoparticles did seem to inhibit the growth of C. albicans and other species in an experiment.
Although it’s possible that there is some positive effect, it’s certainly no silver bullet against oral bacteria.
Can Silver Be Harmful?
The benefit of silver as an antimicrobial is that its toxicity is much higher for bacteria than it is for human cells. Silver can kill or inhibit oral bacteria at levels where human cells experience essentially no effect.
But that is not the same as saying that silver is a “safe” antimicrobial treatment. Silver can accumulate in the body over time, and may not be eliminated at the same pace as it is ingested. Over time, this can lead to a potentially toxic buildup of silver in the body.
Overall, it’s probably not worth it to try a toothbrush that’s been coated or infused with silver.
If you have experienced receding gums from gum disease or other causes, we do have an effective treatment you should try. Please call (949) 551-5902 today for an appointment with an Orange County cosmetic dentist to learn whether you are a good candidate for gum rejuvenation.