People have used essential oils for oral health for centuries, and clinical studies are finally proving reeeir safety and efficacy. Unfortunately, there's not much funding for plant-based therapies, and there is relatively little research on the subject, compared to studies funded by Big Pharma. But that's another story for another day… 😉
Essential Oils for Oral Health in Dentistry
We know from childhood visits to the dentist that bacteria in the mouth cause all sorts of disease and ill effects, but we also know from growing interest in holistic oral health that not all bacteria are bad. For this reason, antiseptic mouthwashes that kill everything on contact may not provide the best option for our oral needs. But essential oils, while often suspect as well due to their germ-fighting capabilities, may actually provide a very beneficial, functional option in this area of our healthcare.
Natural products are, thankfully, much less concerning than man-made, over-the-counter products, so essential oils give us little reason to be concerned about broad elimination of oral bacteria. For example, in the words of Robert Tisserand: “Whether [essential oil] constituents might then negatively affect the bowel flora is pure speculation.” (1)
In this same regard, we cannot assume that all oral flora are negative impacted by exposure to essential oils. Their applications in oral health tend to work to maintain balance rather than upset it, making them a much more reliable choice for oral health than harsh antiseptic formulas.
One recent example comes from a 2014 study published in the Journal of International Oral Health, entitled “Possible Use of Essential Oils in Dentistry.” This review provides an overview of research that demonstrates essential oil' potential in helping maintain oral health. The full text is available for free, but there are a few key points about essential oils for oral health use that I will highlight here: (1)
- Supports oral hygiene. A solution of essential oils and ethanol achieved better results in inhibiting the growth of subgingival periopathogens (a cause of gingivitis) than a rinse with essential oils without ethanol or a saline control. As a bonus, the essential oil solution won't stain teeth as other options, such as chlorhexidine rinses have been known to do. (2)
- Relieves anxiety. Lavender essential oil has been shown, in a variety of circumstances, to lessen mild anxiety and calm heightened emotional states. Utilizing it in dental waiting areas has been shown to calm nervous patients and even lessen perceived pain during needle insertions. (3,4) Another anxiolytic, orange essential oil, can be useful for anxious children, with inhalation reducing cortisol levels in saliva and slowing anxious pulse rates. (5)
- Benefits in wound care. Wound dressings that include protective essential oils, clove in particular, were shown to improve healing time and therapeutic effects in one prominent study. (6)
- Aids in dental implants. When essential oils for oral health, notably melissa and lavender, are applied to dental implants, they have been shown to limit the amount of biofilm produced. (7)
- Antimicrobial activity. One study demonstrated the ability of some essential oils in exceeding the antimicrobial benefits of methylparaben – a substance typically used in the preservation of various cosmestics. While essential oils may not automatically replace the preservatives we typically see used in the cosmetic industry, we do have reason to believe that they may serve a supportive role in providing antimicrobial effects. (8)
Essential Oils for Oral Health Applications
So, how does one use essential oils for oral health and to clean their prosthetic devices of biofilm? Quite simply really!
- Make a cleansing solution. Add 25 drops of essential oil to 1/4 cup of 190 proof alcohol and stir. Slowly add in ¾ cup distilled water. Add your oral prosthetic and allow it to soak for 15 minutes. Dispose of solution after use.
- Brush. Using your homemade toothpaste, rub/brush dental implants and allow them to receive the same TCL you’d give your God-given pearly whites! And, of course, the same strategy can be used for people without implants.
Here's a rundown of some essential oils for oral health facts that will help you apply them in holistic oral health preparations:
- When brushing is contraindicated – as can be the case with severe fever, indigestion, asthma, coughing, vomiting, and mouth ulcers – you can achieve a deep clean by oil pulling with essential oils blended in coconut oil, preventing bad breath and gingivitis. (2, 3, 4)
- Hospice patients diagnosed with terminal cancer have been helped with peppermint, lavender, tea tree, and geranium blended for oral health purposes. (12)
- Clove essential oil is an antimicrobial standby. (13)
When filling your oral health natural medicine cabinet, you have several oils to choose from.
Three of the most effective and commonly used essential oils for oral health are peppermint, orange, and clove. Combinations often found in traditional remedies utilize these oils heavily, with others added for synergy and added benefits. Here are some blends of the best oils to use for oral health:
- Lavender to battle canker sores: dilute 3 drops in 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil and apply twice daily.
- Peppermint to temper halitosis: Use peppermint essential oil to make your homemade toothpaste and brush twice a day. Alternatively, you could add 3 drops of peppermint to 1 tablespoon of a regular toothpaste and mix thoroughly before applying to your toothbrush with a clean utensil to brush. The rest of this mixture can be saved in a covered container and used within a week. Using hydrosols as an antiseptic mouthwash could also be helpful. Check out the suggestions found here for more information.
- Clove and orange to soothe sensitive teeth: add 1 drop of each in 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil and apply to affected tooth and gums.
- Eucalyptus, rosemary, and orange to whiten teeth: pick one or more oil from this list and add 3 drops total to 1 tablespoon of a regular toothpaste and mix thoroughly before applying to your toothbrush with a clean utensil to brush. The rest of this mixture can be saved in a covered container and used within a week. Likewise, you could pick one of these oils or use a blend of them in the homemade toothpaste recipe linked above!
- Lavender and eucalyptus to relieve blood blisters – dilute 2 drops of lavender and 1 drop of eucalyptus in 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil and apply twice daily.
- Blend your favorite oils to fight plaque, ward off infections and make the most of their antimicrobial effects! Dilute 0.5% – 1% essential oil in your carrier oil of choice and swish it around your mouth as a mouthwash or in oil for oil pulling. Alternatively, this is another area where hydrosols can be used as a mouthwash to help maintain oral health. Peppermint hydrosol is an excellent option to try for fighting off germs that lead to oral health issues.
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Responsibly Managing Your Oral Health with Essential Oils
While there are many ways in which we can apply essential oils to our oral health, it is important to keep a few things in mind. To assure safe practice and usage that will give you the best chance at having a long-term relationship with essential oils without developing sensitivities, consider the following:
- While we discuss many ways essential oils can be used, this does not mean there is a need for you to implement everything discussed here. Use what is needed in your life for the appropriate amount of time to address the concern.
- Long-term use of stronger oils, such as clove, could pose potential risks in developing sensitivities. Go for more strength where more strength is required rather than as a daily regimen.
- Using stronger, hard-hitting oils: depending on your need, the stronger oils – such as clove – are usually best suited for acute needs. Acute needs are addressed in the short-term (in general over about a week), to help gain control of a situation before moving on to lower-impact (but still effective) maintenance treatment.
- The longer your treatment plan requires, the more gentle your long-term approach to you aromatic care will be. You’re not going to use maximum dilutions of clove over several months when managing oral infections, for example. But it may be appropriate temporarily to help improve a more intense situation in preparation for a long-term care plan. Something like hydrosol oral rinses are a perfect example of an extended use complement to acute treatment.
No matter what oral needs you are faced with, there are a variety of aromatic options available to assist you in your journey toward healing and health!