Essential oils: The multiple role of oils in dental care


By Jamie Collins, HDR, CDA

The popularity of essential oils has blossomed in recent years, and its use in dentistry is no exception. This form of holistic medicine has been around since ancient times and is becoming increasingly popular as Americans seek holistic healing over chemical alternatives. Essential oils are used for a variety of ailments and prevention, and are believed to help mind, body, and spirit.

To produce essential oils, one of two processes is used – either extraction or distillation – and it depends on the source it comes from. All essential oils are derived from a plant source, whether leaf, root, bark, flower or fruit. The art of pure essential oil processing often requires many, many pounds of the plant source to obtain a very small amount of essential oil. In turn, the pure therapeutic grade oils produced are often expensive. Most pure essential oils are so potent that they must be diluted for safe use.

With nearly 3,000 known essential oils, there are endless possibilities to choose from, each with a list of potential benefits. Coconut oil is the most commonly used oil in the United States. It is believed to decrease oral bacteria and remove toxins from the body while providing an antioxidant effect. Additionally, sesame and sunflower oils can also be used in the practice of oil extraction.

Oil extraction

The ancient practice of Ayurdemic medicine that evolved 3,000 to 5,000 years ago believed that oil pulling was the body’s means of healing, and it has been used in cultures around the world for centuries. The general recommendation is to rinse with the oil for 10-20 minutes and expectorate, the oil binds to bacteria and draws toxins from the body. I have read studies that have stated that the oral effectiveness of oil pulling is comparable to that of chlorhexidine rinse in reducing gingivitis and bleeding.

Studies also show that coconut oil, which is not an essential oil (but is used to dilute essential oils), has a comparable effect in reducing the number of S. Mutans bacteria without adverse health effects. , and can be used as a preventive therapy. at home in conjunction with professional and recommended home care.(1)

For patients interested in the homeopathic and therapeutic use of oil-pulling, I personally find no contraindication to this. It is considered safe to use and, unlike chlorhexidine, it does not stain. The downside to oil pulling is a time commitment, and rinsing for 10-20 minutes can be difficult for many people, not to mention that rinsing is difficult for an extended period of time.


Essential oils can also be used as aromatherapy through the use of diffusers. Not only do they smell nice, but they can also help with memory, mood, and hormones. Some offices will have a diffuser in practice, but they should bear in mind that any product in the office must also come with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

Lavender oil, or a blend containing lavender, offers a calming anti-anxiety aromatherapy choice and has been suggested to reduce injection pain during needle insertion.

Lavender is a favorite additive to Epsom salts for relaxation and stress relief. As we all know from years in dentistry, your back and shoulders can hurt at the end of the day. Personally, I find that lavender-infused Epsom salt in the bath often relieves a sore back or hip.

Many will use roller applicators to apply essential oils topically to the skin for everything from stress relief, migraines, and allergy relief, among others. They are often in a suspension that is easily absorbed and rapidly distributed throughout the body to stimulate and strengthen the immune system.

For beginners, many products on the market are already ready to use, where others offer the possibility of mixing yourself. Finally, essential oils can be ingested by placing the oil under the tongue for absorption, adding it to food, or taking it in capsule form. However, before ingesting any oil, make sure that it is safe for consumption.

Antibiotic properties

As antibiotic resistant bacteria become more and more common, it is increasingly important to find alternative products or additives. Essential oils, unlike antibiotics, do not seem to have resistant properties or lose their effectiveness over time. The antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of various essential oils for oral and overall health intrigue me and many others.

Although many traditional methods of treating infection and disease are necessary, prevention and maintenance are imperative for a long, healthy life. With the ability to use natural ingredients to prevent and treat disease and reduce drug dependency, it can provide lifelong relief for many.

Peppermint oil, clove and cinnamon

When clinicians think of essential oils, many of us first think of toothpaste and mouthwash. With so many choices, it can be overwhelming for patients. The most common ingredient found in over-the-counter dental products is peppermint, which is found in most mouthwashes and toothpastes.

Peppermint is one of the most widely used essential oils in oral care products, largely due to its antibacterial, antifungal, and biofilm inhibiting properties. Peppermint oil has the ability to inhibit biofilm formation in the oral cavity in addition to providing therapeutic benefit in the treatment of periodontitis, gingivitis, and halitosis.(2).

In addition to peppermint oil, clove oil is also widely used in dentistry. The proven properties of antifungal, antioxidant and antibacterial properties make it a commonly added ingredient in eugenol-based dental products. If you’ve ever had dry socket paste in the office, you’ll recognize the strong smell of clove oil. Clove oil has been proven to have a strong inhibiting effect on Staphylococcus, which is often resistant to antibiotics.

Cinnamon oil has also been shown to have properties related to inhibiting the growth of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and fungi. An interesting effect of cinnamon essential oil when given orally to animals is the anti-melanoma effect it may possess. This may be related to the antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects of cinnamon.

The benefits of cinnamon oil extend beyond the oral cavity to the entire body and endocrine system. It indicates to have an anti-mutagenic effect which can protect against spontaneous mutation in human cells. Cinnamon is often recommended to diabetics and people with insulin resistance to improve insulin sensitivity, often helping with blood sugar control. It can also improve systolic blood pressure and body fat percentage. Whether it’s taking a cinnamon supplement, application as an oil, or sprinkling a little cinnamon on your morning latte, it can help improve insulin productivity. Cinnamon oil can be used effectively for candidiasis, which diabetics are more prone to with weakened immune systems.

Additionally, lemon oil has been shown to inhibit certain strains of Candida and may be effective for denture wearers.


Melaleuca, also known as tea tree oil, has been proven to have many uses, from cleaning the house to applying to wounds. It is also very promising in the oral cavity. The use of Melaleuca has been suggested to provide therapeutic properties for periodontal disease, aphthous ulcers, caries prevention and toothache. It has been shown to inhibit bacterial colonization and dental biofilm through numerous studies.

Tea tree oil’s ability to have an anti-cariogenic effect makes it a good choice of essential oil that is added to a variety of products. I have personally used a variety of products containing Melaleuca for shampoo, household cleaners, and as an additive to oral care products. Melaleuca oil is one of my favorites for many different uses, including as an antiseptic.

Oral care delivery

With so many choices and options, it’s often difficult to find the best essential oil option, as well as the best delivery method. No two patients are the same; therefore, the same method does not work for all. In my opinion, one of the best options for oral administration methods is to use a Waterpik Water Flosser or oral irrigator. Waterpik has models designed with the ability to withstand the use of additives in the water without damaging the unit or the tubing.

Many patients will often ask me about an additive, whether it’s adding their favorite mouthwash or essential oil. I encouraged patients to add their choice of essential oil or mouthwash to the water, if desired. For many years I have recommended the use of a Waterpik device to all patients with periodontal disease and implants. It provides the ability to irrigate and clean where flossing can’t reach, especially at the base of pockets. In practice, I have seen great improvement in many of these patients with the use of a Waterpik device. Adding a rinse or essential oil helps multiply the antibacterial and antimicrobial benefits.

Oral essentials manufactures a range of rinses and pastes derived from a group of natural ingredients such as Dead Sea salt, mint, clove, aloe and xylitol, among others. It can be a good alternative for those looking for a holistic treatment method without any chemical additives. There are many homeopathic products available online and in stores. Take the time to research the ingredients to make sure they contain good quality essential oils and ingredients.

Although a quality essential oil or combination of oils can be expensive, it is an investment in your systemic and oral health. The benefits of a natural, homeopathic treatment and prevention plan can reduce the need for antibiotics and other drug therapies, encouraging a happy, healthy body, mind, and spirit.

Jamie Collins, RDH, CDA, resides in Idaho with her husband, Cory, and their four children. She currently works as a full-time hygienist as well as an educator at the College of Western Idaho. Additionally, she is acting as a content expert and contributor to several upcoming textbooks. She can be reached at [email protected]




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