More and more people are adopting a “clean living” lifestyle these days, replacing chemical-based products with those consisting of more natural ingredients. There is a growing popularity of these natural products, such as essential oils, and it’s important to understand fact vs. fiction when it comes to your overall health.
Essential oils are derived from plants and extracted or distilled from their seeds, leaves, bark, stems, roots, or flowers. They are comparable to human cells and tissues in regards to their chemical structure; which makes it easy for the body to identify and accept them. Due to their small molecular makeup, they can be processed by the body very quickly and penetrate membranes and diffuse through the body and tissues with ease. Many can produce more than one therapeutic effect in contrast to synthetic chemicals that usually have only one action and many side effects.
Essential oils have been around far longer than current pharmaceutical technology but fell out of popularity due to the development of antibiotics and other medications. Centuries ago, the Egyptians used essential oils as medicines to treat many different ailments. There is also evidence that around 200 BC, the emperor of China used clove essential oil to improve his breath. This progressed into the 19th century when the use of essential oils in dentistry expanded into endodontics, periodontal therapy, temporary fillings, and other dental care.
Pure essential oils are distilled from the plant with no additives as opposed to adulterated oils with synthetic compounds added to improve their life, eliminate odors, etc. Since there are no specific standards for quality control of essential oils in the United States at this time, they can be brought to market and sold without government approval. This makes it difficult for consumers to verify the quality of their essential oils and adulterated oils may not achieve the desired effect. The FDA makes decisions about the regulation of essential oils on a case by case basis. To ensure you are buying an essential oil suitable for therapeutic purposes, consider the following:
You can use essential oils in three ways:
Essential oils have minimal or no negative side effects and can be used for a variety of health conditions. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your health care provider if you have any conditions that may contraindicate the use of essential oils.Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Refer to the Title 21 Code in the Code of Federal Regulations for a list of essential oils generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
Clove oil is probably the most popular oil in the dental field. It’s used in the treatment of dry sockets, tooth pain associated with pulpitis, and hypersensitivity for many years.Sweet basil, cinnamon bark, sweet fennel, peppermint, spearmint and a few others were studied to determine their antibacterial and antiplaque effects on the teeth. Cinnamon bark and sweet basil showed strong inhibitory effects against the bacteria. It was concluded that the use of essential oils in the prevention of cavities was supported.For treatment of periodontal disease, mechanical instrumentation (going to the dentist) in combination with a seven-day rinse with an essential oil, showed a significant reduction of bacterial counts in the shallow and deep pockets of patients studied. This demonstrates that essential oils can be effective in the treatment of periodontal therapy.Essential oils can also be very useful in reducing anxiety and improving mood by stimulating parasympathetic activity in the autonomic nervous system. This is the fight or flight response that can sometimes be triggered by going to the dentist. Certain essential oils activate and stimulate areas of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormones. Lavender is widely recognized for its calming effects. In one study, lavender oil showed a significant reduction in anxiety scores for male and female patients who were exposed to the lavender oil for just 15 minutes prior to their appointment. Orange essential oil showed promising benefits regarding children ages 6-9. It was concluded that implementing diffusers in the reception or operatories of the dental practice may be beneficial for patients experiencing dental anxiety.
While there are many studies available to support the use of essential oils in health-care, there is still a need for more knowledge, research, and training in chemistry and safety. However, many studies have proven their effectiveness when used for their antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Since the oral environment is full of bacteria that cannot be eliminated by brushing and flossing alone, it is advantageous to consider the addition of essential oils to your dental routine.In a study of five essential oils (tea tree, lavender, thyme, peppermint, and eugenol) against four common oral pathogens (Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus fecalis, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans), tea tree, peppermint, and thyme exhibited substantial inhibitory effects and are considered effective as an intracanal antiseptic solution.As an antifungal, tea tree oil (melaleuca) was found to be comparable to fluconazole during a 24 hour period against Candida albicans. But what’s interesting, is that on day seven, melaleuca continued to display antifungal action whereas fluconazole had lost its antifungal properties. Cinnamon oil was also shown to be effective against oral thrush in denture wearers who were being treated for this condition.
While essential oils should not replace your normal dental care products, they can be considered an acceptable and effective addition to your oral healthcare routine due to their antiseptic and non-toxic properties. Your oral health affects your overall wellness, so if you are looking to improve your physical health in a more “clean-living” sort of way overall, beginning with your oral health is a great place to start. Be sure to contact our dentist, Dr. Mundy-Burgett, today at Grin Dentistry in Fishers, IN for more information on how to take care of your beautiful smile!Book an Appointment!References: Dental Academy of CEThe content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.