Antioxidant and pro-oxidant activity of Vitamin C in oral environment

Indian J Dent Res. 2014 Jul-Aug;25(4):499-504. doi: 10.4103/0970-9290.142547.


Context: Antioxidant properties and Vitamin C.

Background: Vitamin C is a naturally occurring organic compound and a potent antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to lipids and other macromolecules. It can also exhibit bimodal activity as a pro-oxidant at a higher concentration. Vitamin C has a switch over role from being an antioxidant in physiologic conditions to a pro-oxidant under pathologic conditions. A systematic review of this role would help to elucidate whether it is an antioxidant or a pro-oxidant in the oral environment.

Objective: To review studies reported in the literature elucidating the activity of Vitamin C and determine whether it is an antioxidant or a pro-oxidant.

Materials and methods: Articles were searched in PubMed, MEDLINE using appropriate key words like "Vitamin C," "antioxidant activity," "pro-oxidant activity," "oral health" "oral disease." Hand search of journals was also performed. Articles were reviewed and analyzed.

Results: Search strategy reviewed 10 relevant articles which studied the dual role of Vitamin C. 65% of authors analyzed antioxidant action of ascorbic acid compared to 35% of the pro-oxidant potential. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and a pro-oxidant by a plethora of mechanisms. Factors determining its bimodal activity were studied, and the frequencies of their occurrence in the literature were depicted in percentage.

Conclusion: The data validates the role of Vitamin C as an antioxidant under physiologic conditions exhibiting a cross over role as a pro-oxidant in pathological conditions. Further studies are required to substantiate its pro-oxidant activity to draw concrete conclusions.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mouth / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ascorbic Acid