Brushing The Teeth with Tea Tree Oil – Does It Work?

Brushing Teeth with Tea Tree Oil

Fluoride is the accepted mineral that’s added to products we use to brush our teeth. But what if you prefer a product that doesn’t contain this naturally occurring ingredient? You may be wondering, is brushing with tea tree oil a suitable alternative? 

The good news. Several dental products containing tea tree oil are available including toothpaste, mouth rinses, toothpicks, coated floss, and gels (1). 

However, it’s not recommended by dental health organizations around the world. So does help improve our gum health and will it prevent dental caries and gum disease?

Read on to find out what tea tree oil is and its medicinal qualities.  Then we consider why it will or won’t work in the prevention and treatment of major dental complaints. 

What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Melaleuca oil is more commonly known as tea tree oil. It is obtained by distillation from the foliage of the tea tree, Melaleuca Alternifolia. This tree is native to the warmer regions of Australia such as southeast Queensland and the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia (2).

It’s been used as a traditional bush medicine by the Aboriginal people for centuries. The native Australians used to apply a tea tree paste to wounds. They also made a kind of tea for throat ailments.

Tea tree oil has been shown to have many properties (3) including

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antiviral
  • antifungal properties

It is used in many topical products. But how does it work in the mouth?

How Is It Supposed To Work?

Bacteria are known to cause gum disease and dental cavities. The idea is that tea tree oil, acting as an antimicrobial and antibacterial agent, will help reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth.

These magical properties are attributed to terpinen-4-ol. 

In fact, tea tree oil has shown the ability to inhibit the adhesion of periodontopathic and cariogenic bacteria like P.gingivalis and S.mutans (1) – that’s some dentistry words that mean the bacteria that cause periodontal disease and cavities are prevented from adhering to your teeth and gums.

It has also been found to suppress inflammatory activity in cases of mouth infection in animal studies (4). 

It’s thought that the reduction in bacteria will prevent help cavities and gum disease. But does it actually work to prevent or treat oral complaints?

Does It Work In Dental Medicine?

Various studies have shown that tea tree oil reduces the number of oral bacteria. However, it doesn’t reduce plaque formation (5). 

If plaque formation isn’t reduced – the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis remains the same whether you use tea tree oil or not. 

Why Doesn’t It Reduce Plaque Formation?

Good and harmful bacteria live naturally in the mouth. They are present in a sticky biofilm on the teeth and along the gum line.  They’re also found on the surfaces of the tongue and cheeks. 

Tea tree oil is only effective at reducing the bacteria in the mouth at the time of use. It doesn’t get rid of all the bacteria. As the mouth is the ideal habitat for bacterial growth, the bacteria that are left in the mouth will replicate quickly. It will be as if you never used the tea tree oil within a short while. The plaque will start to form again.

Can Tea Tree Prevent Gum Disease or Dental Cavities?

Because tea tree oil has been shown to reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth, if we have gums that are 100% free of plaque, it’s possible that tea tree oil may have a role in the prevention of gingivitis and cavities if used in combination with oral hygiene that’s first-class as suggested by some of the scientific research. 

But if you have exceptional tooth brushing skills, is it the manual removal of plaque each day or the tea tree oil that’s working?

Beat Gum Disease Now

Can it Treat Periodontal Disease? 

Those with periodontal disease often have deep pockets where bacteria congregate and tooth roots that are covered in plaque. It’s difficult to brush away bacteria in the pockets or the roots, so brushing the teeth with tea tree oil would have no effect. 

Also, the tea tree oil can’t dissolve away the plaque even if you could get it down into the pockets and around the tooth roots. Only advanced dental techniques which manually remove the plaque are effective.   

Should We Use Tea Tree Oil Orally? 

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 (6).

With this in mind can use be certain that you aren’t swallowing any tea tree oil? A small amount might be okay on a single use but do you want to take the risk of the effects of swallowed tea tree oil building up over the years? 

If the amount of tea tree oil in dental products is at a safe level are those levels actually effective at reducing bacterial levels in the mouth –  if not, is there any point in using the product? 

In Short – Should You Brush your Teeth With Tea Tree Oil?

Some people may like to use an alternative to fluoride when cleaning their teeth. There is some evidence that tea tree oil can be used as a natural remedy. When used in combination with daily performed self-care it may help prevent early gum disease. It is toxic – do you want to risk using it orally?

Whether you choose to brush with tea tree oil or not it’s recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day, use a gum pocket brush and carefully clean the interdental spaces daily.


Beat Gum Disease Now

If you’re looking to prevent or treat gum disease at home we have some advice on the best technique. Find out more here. 


  2. Melaleuca Tea Tree Information: Learn About Growing A Tea Tree
  3. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties – PMC
  4. Suppression of Inflammatory Reactions by Terpinen-4-ol, a Main Constituent of Tea Tree Oil, in a Murine Model of Oral Candidiasis and Its Suppressive Activity to Cytokine Production of Macrophages <i>in Vitro</i>
  5. Carson, C. F., Hammer, K. A., & Riley, T. V. (2006). Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. Clinical microbiology reviews, 19(1), 50-62. Available at:
  6. Tea tree oil – Mayo Clinic
Sharon Fyles image

Written by Sharon Fyles

Periodontitis Expert & Writer

Sharon Fyles, BSc (Hons, SW), MSc, Dip,  is a Manchester-based expert dental writer specialising in periodontal diseases and their treatment.


Medically Reviewed and Verified by Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons), MFDS (RCPS Glasgow)

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