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It seems to me that essential oils are the new trend right now, but their roots lie in ancient medicine. Several months ago I found myself asking how they really can help, and what the science shows. Being a dentist, of course, I have known about the use of essential oils in mouthwash but have never researched it. Many of the oils are touted as the “end all be all” of whatever ails you. But does the science prove this? Well, a quick Pubmed search gave me some insight on how beneficial they are in mouthwash. I love scientifically backed answers! So here is what I found about essential oils in mouthwash.

One study I found looked at 2 groups of people – one used Listerine – one used placebo (probably water). After 14 days of rinsing twice daily, the Listerine group had 53-95% reduction of bacteria over the placebo group. But Listerine has alcohol in it, and that kills bacteria, so that is why the reduced levels – right? Well, no – I found a separate study, in which they tested both alcohol and non alcohol containing essential oil mouthwash, and the results show similar reduction in bacteria – for both mouthwashes! This is due to the antimicrobial nature of essential oils! Listerine is the brand most people are aware of – with the active ingredients including menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate, eucalyptol, and alcohol. But many of my patients are interested in more organic or “natural” alternatives, and many people request an alcohol free rinse. I researched and came across something called “Thieves” mouthwash. Thieves contains all edible ingredients – Oil of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary, spearmint, vetiver, and peppermint. And no alcohol. Another exciting ingredient in Thieves is something called a liposome. This is a soy derived ingredient that is used to “attach” the oils to the gum tissue for long acting antimicrobial action! I have seen improvement with my own eyes and dental mirror. Lets meet my patient Ms. L.

Ms. L came to me recently with what I would classify as severe gingivitis. She maintains good oral hygiene – brushing twice daily and flossing daily. She had great habits but had not been to the dentist for a cleaning in a few years. Her gum tissue was irritable and bled easily as I cleaned her teeth. Normal, healthy gum tissue should not do this! I suggested to her she try an essential oil mouthwash – and initially I suggested Listerine. She agreed but was interested in trying a non-alcohol containing brand so I recommended “Thieves”. She was excited to try it and was interested in being a study participant – I was excited to see the results!

At her follow up appointment, 2 weeks later, I saw a visible difference in the health of her gingiva. When probing the gum tissue there was almost no bleeding and the tissue appeared pink and healthy. She reported not noticing bleeding when flossing at home either. Seeing the results first hand with my patient, coupled with the scientific studies, clearly indicate the positive role essential oils can have on oral health, particularly the gum tissue. Enough to make me recommend it to patients!