There’s no mistaking the freshness that a piece of peppermint chewing gum imparts to your mouth or the clean, fresh breath you get when using a minty mouthwash. There’s a good reason for that and it’s based in essential oils. After all, Listerine is one of the world’s most popular mouthwashes and its active ingredients include essential oils such as mint, thyme, wintergreen and eucalyptus. Besides making our mouths and breath feel fresh and clean, there’s a scientific basis for using essential oils in oral care products.
Ruthi Bosco, owner of the EsScential Wellness Center in McMurray, is a firm believer in the power of essential oils and sells and uses the doTERRA line of essential oils. She stresses the importance of using therapeutic essential oils, not those that are synthetic, and says the use of clove essential oil for dental health goes back centuries.
“This essential oil is so effective that we now have a full plethora of products and one of the most used is toothpaste,” Bosco says. “It kills the bacteria and supports your immune system. They help balance the body.”
She explains that a blend of cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, wild orange and rosemary oil also comprises an essential oil mix that works as an effective mouthwash. Some essential oils can be used internally or you can use them for something called oil pulling, which is a technique that stems from traditional Indian medicine.
“You use coconut oil with a few drops of melaleuca or lime oil and you swish that in your mouth,” Bosco explains. “It pulls toxins through your gums and it is a very effective technique.”
Often described by Western holistic practitioners as a way to “pull out toxins,” it effectively cleanses the mouth by controlling oral bacteria, especially along the gum line and in the periodontal pockets.
Dr. Mark Buzzatto, DDS, whose practice is in Bethel Park, regularly uses essential oils in his holistic dental practice. He is also a fan of oil pulling and says, “Vitamins and minerals in the coconut oil are absorbed, while pathogenic microbes are bound up in the oil and ultimately removed from the mouth. The coconut oil also nourishes the gums and teeth, prevents the growth of bacteria and also relieves pain and inflammation.”
Scientific research backs up these claims. An article in the Journal of International Oral Health cites studies that show essential oil rinses are found to be equally as effective as fluoride in inhibiting plaque and that they have shown to possess antimicrobial activity against gingivitis. However, another study shows that essential oils alone are not very effective without the presence of ethanol (which is in most store-bought mouthwashes).
Buzzatto recommends essential oils as an integral part of a natural oral care routine. “Three of the most effective and commonly used essential oils for oral health are peppermint, orange, and clove,” he says. “Peppermint is extremely effective at killing anaerobic bacteria – the type of bacteria that thrive in a low oxygen environment, such as the mouth, and can cause gum disease.”
He says peppermint oil also inhibits dental plaque formation and has therapeutic benefits for treating periodontitis, gingivitis and halitosis. He uses wild orange essential for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and points to the germicidal properties of clove oil.
“Another important oil is melaleuca, which provides therapeutic properties for periodontal disease, ulcers, caries (cavity) prevention, healing cold sores and toothaches,” Buzzatto says.
And he also uses an essential oil toothpaste on his patients. “DoTerra toothpaste is our preferred recommendation for toothpaste in our practice,” he says. “On Guard, a blend of cinnamon, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus and wild orange, have been studied for their strong abilities to kill harmful bacteria and viruses and stimulate the immune system.”
Patients in Buzzatto’s practice not only get the benefits of essential oils in their toothpaste, but also in their mouthwash with no harsh additives, such as alcohol, which can be rough on oral tissue.
“Natural, preservative free, oral rinses that contain certain essential oils offer antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties typically not found in most commercial mouth wash products,” says holistic hygienist RoseMarie Lamagna-Immel, who works in Buzzatto’s dental practice. “Natural mouthwash contains no ‘mystery’ ingredients and helps keep your mouth and body healthy. Essential oil mouthwash has natural antibacterial properties without the use of alcohol, which lowers PH and causes dry mouth.”
She says the antibacterial effect of essential oils in a natural mouth rinse has been shown to be highly effective in preventing gum disease without contributing to the rise of antibacterial-resistant bacteria.