Essential oils have been used for thousands of years and are associated with a wealth of health benefits. Many of them have been proven to offer oral health benefits, like preventing decay and treating gum disease too. Here’s a look at 15 of the top essential oils for oral health and the science behind them.

Cocos Nucifera (Coconut Oil)
Coconut oil can help prevent gum disease and cavities. Researchers say the secret behind it is the lauric acid it contains, which reacts with compounds in saliva. It cleans as well as reduces plaque adhesion and accumulation. It also has antimicrobial properties, making it effective against cavity-causing bacteria, and can help keep gums moist—a major health boost for those with dry mouth.

Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil)
Tea tree oil can treat gum disease and diminish inflammation. Although initially used by the Aborigines as an antiseptic, the world caught onto the benefits of tea tree oil quickly. Research indicates it reduces inflammation and treats periodontal disease. Dental professionals also recommend it for the treatment of oral candidiasis (also called thrush or yeast infections).

Commiphora Myrrha Resin Extract
Myrrha decreases inflammation, kills bacteria, and treats gum disease. The use of myrrha, also called myrrh, dates back to the tale of the Three Wise Men. At the time, it was used in embalming because of its antibacterial properties, but research now links it to diminished oral inflammation and reduced gum disease as well as improved oral healing.

Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil
Eucalyptus oil is used to treat pain, reduce inflammation, kill germs, improve healing, and eliminate bad breath. It’s another ancient remedy with a host of benefits. Research indicates it has antibacterial and anti-plaque properties, which enables it to help fight gum disease and decay. Historically, it has been used to help heal wounds, address pain, and diminish inflammation too. It has a potent, yet refreshing, flavor. When paired with the other oral health benefits, addresses bad breath on a number of fronts.

Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Flower Oil
Clove oil is used to kill bacteria and soothe toothaches. It’s well-respected in dentistry today, with the medical community agreeing that the eugenol in it offers anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits. Additional research confirms it inhibits bacterial growth as well.

Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Bark Oil
Cinnamomum zeylanicum kills bacteria responsible for tooth decay. As the name
suggests, it’s the oil from cinnamon bark, which is often used as a spice. Of all the essential oils tested by researchers, cinnamon bark oil proved the most effective against S. mutans, the primary bacteria associated with tooth decay.

Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Oil
Vanilla oil is used to treat pain and inflammation. Although many are familiar with its use in baking, researchers say the oil is a powerful antioxidant which treats inflammation and the pain associated with it.

Cananga Odorata Flower (Ylang-ylang)
Ylang-ylang inhibits biofilm, kills bacteria, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Although most are probably familiar with ylang-ylang because it’s commonly used in cosmetics or aromatherapy, research shows it possesses a multitude of helpful compounds. Some address biofilm, which contributes to periodontal disease and decay, while others attack the bacteria itself, and others simply soothe inflammation.

Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil
Peppermint has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. It’s one of the most widely used essential oils because of its ability to inhibit biofilm and treat gum disease. It’s also an antifungal, meaning it is effective against oral candida as well. It offers a refreshing taste and can take care of bad breath too.

Gaultheria Procumbens (Wintermint) Leaf Oil
Also referred to as wintergreen, gaultheria procumbens leaf oil is used as a topical pain reliever and to kill bacteria. The active ingredient in it is methyl salicylate, which is related to the pain reliever aspirin. While reviews are mixed on its use in pain relief, the FDA recognizes its value in controlling plaque and gingivitis.

Mentha Viridis (Spearmint) Leaf Oil
Spearmint is an antifungal and freshens breath. Research shows spearmint is an effective antifungal, but it tends to be prized more for it’s sweet mint taste and freshening qualities. Many people believe it can help soothe toothaches too.

Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil
Lime oil offers antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammation benefits. It’s a bit of an unsung hero, as research indicates it can not only help fight cancer, but diabetes too. This in mind, it’s ideal to promote overall oral health, as the multitude of benefits can reduce periodontal disease, prevent cavities, and help angry gums settle down too.

Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil
Lemon oil is an antifungal. Research shows it’s an effective treatment for candidiasis.

Citris Paradisi (Grapefruit) Seed Oil Extract
Grapefruit seed oil attacks bacteria. Research indicates it’s effective on multiple strains of Staphylococcus aureus.

Citrus Aurantifolia Dulcis (Sweet Orange) Peel Oil
Sweet orange is antifungal, antibacterial, and offers pain relief. Although it’s often used in aromatherapy because its scent tends to relax people, which may contribute to its reported pain relief properties, research also shows it has antibacterial and antifungal properties too. This means it can potentially prevent cavities and gum disease as well as candidiasis.