Essential oils have become very popular over the last few years. As more people are trying to live more holistic, clean lives with minimal exposure to man-made chemicals, people have turned to essential oils for their many aromatheraputic and medicinal properties.
But are essential oils safe for your mouth? Do they really help? What can they be used for? How can they be used?
I will tell you right now, they will not heal cavities, they will not “fix” a toothache, and they are not a “cure all” for all dental problems. If pain, swelling, or weird bumps in the mouth last more than 1-2 days, they should be looked at. You may have an abcessed tooth, a cavity, a cracked tooth, or maybe just receeding gums. And essential oils should never be over-used. They are very strong antibacterials and will kill the good as well as the bad bacteria in your mouth, which can lead to many other problems. Use them properly and they can be very helpful. Following are some essential oils I recommend and what they can be used for:
CLOVES: Cloves has a numbing and antibacterial effect that can be very helpful for dry socket, for nerve pain in or around a tooth, and for gum pain. It will not fix a toothache but can relieve your pain until you can get in to see a dentist or just help you rest.
APPLICATION: dilute 1:1 with a carrier oil (coconut oil, almond oil), place 1-2 drops on finger, Q-tip, clean cloth, or cotton ball and rub directly around tooth or area the pain is coming from.
*Do not use for teething pain in babies, see lavender below.
MELALEUCA (TEA TREE): Melaleuca is a great anti-fungal oil as well as being anti-bacterial and an antiseptic. It is the best oil for fungus. You may have a fungal overgrowth when the corners of your mouth crack, there is white or yellow patches growing inside your cheeks or on your tongue that are uncomfortable and painful when brushed away, or you have a bad taste in your mouth and pain swallowing. It is an over-growth of yeast, or candida albicans, a bacteria from the digestive tract, and is typically seen after antibiotic therapy. It is commonly called Thrush.
APPLICATION: On the outside of the mouth on the skin, apply oil directly to the affected area several times a day until gone. In the mouth dilute oil 1:1 with water. Use 1 tablespoon of mixture and rinse in mouth, gargle in throat, for 30-60 seconds. Spit out entire amount of mouthwash, do not swallow. Repeat several times a day to receive the maximum benefit and use only until mouth is healed.
GINGER, THYME, HYSSOP, SANDLEWOOD: These oils kill viruses, among other things, and the number one virus affecting the mouth is herpes labialis, or cold sores. These oils have been especially helpful in resistant viral strains that have mutated and aren’t being affected by medications anymore.
APPLICATION: mix equal drops of each oil in an equal amount of carrier oil (coconut or almond oil) and apply to affected area with a Q-tip several times a day or until lesion is gone.
CINNAMON BARK AND SWEET BASIL: There are many bacteria in the mouth that cause all sorts of problems, but none so despised as those that cause cavities. Cinnamon bark and sweet basil oil have been found to prevent the growth of these cavity forming bacteria and their sticky biofilm that they live in.
APPLICATION: Place one drop of each oil on index finger, place a piece of floss on your index finger with the oil on it, close thumb over the floss and rub oil across the length of the floss, then floss your teeth. Do once a month twice a day for three days. Repeat each month. This should only be used if one is prone to a lot of cavities and should never be done daily.
LAVENDER: Lavender is for calming, for soothing. It has many uses in and on the body that relate to the mouth that can range from dental anxiety, teething pain, to TMJ (jaw joint) pain.
- For teething, place 1 drop on finger and place on affected area. Roman chamomile oil can also safely be used in babies.
- For dental anxiety, place 2-3 drops on palm of one hand, rub palms of both hands together, and cup around nose. Breathe in several times. Do 15 minutes before dental treatment for best results. Orange can also be used for anxiety.
- For TMJ pain, clenching, and grinding, rub a few drops of oil on the back of the neck and on the bottom of your feet right before bed.
OTHER USES FOR ESSENTIAL OILS:
Other essential oils like wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, ylang ylang, helichrysum, blue tansy, blue chamomile, and osmanthus can be used to soothe and cool sore, achey muscles of the jaw or neck and are especially enhanced with a hot rice bag or towel on the affected area after the oil is rubbed on.
I am asked a lot about oil pulling. Oil pulling is swishing an oil, usually coconut oil, in the mouth for 15-20 minutes a day. As needed a few drops of antibacterial essential oils may be added to the oil as well. Oil pulling is a very old practice dating back several hundred years and has been found to be effective on some oral bacteria. It has also been found to be beneficial against plaque induced gingivitis, bad breath, and thrush. I have encouraged oil pulling for people with dry mouth or that have an active infection in their mouth as it will draw out toxins from the tissues. Otherwise, oil pulling is only marginally helpful and may not be worth the time involved.
You can use essential oils to keep your toothbrush fresh and clean. Add 5 drops of peppermint oil and 5 drops of melaleuca oil to 2 cups spring water and keep the head of your toothbrush submerged in enough solution to cover the bristles. Rinse the brush bristles off before using in your mouth. Keep the rest of the solution in a bpa free plastic bottle or class container and change liquid around the toothbrush once a week.
A few drops of essential oil can be used with some baking soda as a toothpaste. Be careful with baking soda, though, as it can be pretty abrasive. You can make your own toothpaste and use essential oils that are helpful to the gums to flavor it as in the following recipe:
- 1/2 c. coconut oil
- 2–4 tablespoons Bentonite clay (found at health food stores)
- Up to 1 tablespoon xylitol powder (optional)
- 20 drops lemon or tangerine oil
- 20 drops cranberry seed oil
- small glass jar with air tight lid to mix and store in.
I am not a big fan of mouthwash but here is a recipe for one made with essential oils. Scraping or brushing your tongue should get rid of bad breathe and if it doesn’t, you may have another problem and might want to have a check up.
A WARNING ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS!
As I said earlier, essential oils must not be over-used or used improperly. I do not recommend antibacterial essential oils in the mouth every day unless there’s a reason or you are directed by a dental professional. I do use essential oil blends with dental treatment but only for limited amounts of time. There are many antibacterial oils available that can be used in the mouth but oils do not distinguish between good and bad bacteria and will kill everything. You need good bacteria in your mouth to aid in digestion. What you do in the mouth sets the stage for everything that comes after in the stomach and in the whole body, so be cautious!