Tea tree oil is a popular component of various at-home dental remedies, said to help control plaque, freshen breath, ease tooth pain, and treat periodontal disease. And natural, DIY remedies are attractive to people for many reasons, not least because tooth pain can strike at times the dentist's office isn't open. There's a big "but" coming: the oil can be toxic if ingested, so it must be used in products that are spit out, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. The threshold of human toxicity when consumed orally isn't well understood, either. That's why it's so important to check with a health professional before trying products or remedies that are new to you. Talk to your dentist before trying any at-home oral care remedies. To learn more about tea tree oil and your teeth, consider these three common questions along with their answers.
Tea Tree Oil & Your Teeth
When we talk about tea tree oil, we're referring to pure essential oil from a shrubby tree from the Melaleuca genus — and usually Melaleuca alternifolia, a shrubby tree native to Australia. Fragrance oils and blended oils won't have the same benefits as 100 percent tea tree essential oil. The volatile oil distilled from the plant has a sharp, camphorous odor, and it's traditionally popular in home remedies. It turns out this popularity has scientific backing — a variety of clinical studies have shown the oil to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activity, in addition to some early evidence of anti-inflammatory action.
In theory, the antibacterial properties in tea tree essential oil can help control bacteria in the mouth. This can help keep mouths healthy, avoiding tooth decay and plaque buildup. Plaque buildup is related to periodontal disease, which can lead to complications like receding gums. The tricky part is that you don't want to ingest tea tree oil. The Mayo Clinic says tea tree oil is generally considered safe when applied topically, but to avoid oral use, as it can be toxic when swallowed.
Some people advocate making DIY toothpastes and mouthwashes with tea tree oil with the caveat that it should always be completely spit out and never swallowed. If that seems like a risky proposition, a more straightforward way to approach tea tree oil might be to look for products that contain tea tree oil, and ask your dentist about those specific products. If there are people in your household who might not understand that these products shouldn't be swallowed, such as children, consider keeping them out of reach or opting for products with other types of active ingredients.
In general, tea tree essential oil seems to show promise for the support of oral health. Research supports claims of the oil's antimicrobial properties, and hopefully more research into the use of tea tree oil for oral care will add to our body of knowledge. If you are interested in using tea tree oil, ask your dentist about products containing the ingredient. Be sure not to swallow any preparations made with tea tree oil, as it can be toxic when consumed orally.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.