A comparison of the antibacterial efficacies of essential oils against oral pathogens

Oral Microbiol Immunol. 2004 Feb;19(1):61-4. doi: 10.1046/j.0902-0055.2003.00111.x.


Cariogenic bacteria and periodontopathic bacteria are present in dental plaque as biofilms. In this study, we investigated the antibacterial effects of essential oils on the following oral bacteria: Porphyromonas gingivalis, Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Streptococcus mutans, and Streptococcus sobrinus. We tested manuka oil, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, lavandula oil, and romarinus oil and determined their minimum inhibitory concentration and minimum bactericidal concentration. The essential oils inhibited the growth of the bacteria tested, manuka oil being the most effective. Minimum bactericidal concentration values showed that lavandula oil acts bacteriostatically, and the remaining oils, bactericidally. Periodontopathic bacterial strains tested were killed completely by exposure for 30 s to 0.2% manuka oil, tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil. Tea tree oil and manuka oil showed significant adhesion-inhibiting activity against P. gingivalis. All the essential oils tested inhibited the adhesion of S. mutans. This study showed that, among the essential oils tested, manuka oil and tea tree oil in particular had strong antibacterial activity against periodontopathic and cariogenic bacteria. From the viewpoint of safety, we also examined the effects of these essential oils on cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells and found that, at a concentration of 0.2%, they had little effect on cultured cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans / drug effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Eucalyptus
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Lavandula
  • Leptospermum
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology
  • Porphyromonas gingivalis / drug effects
  • Streptococcus / drug effects*
  • Streptococcus mutans / drug effects
  • Streptococcus sobrinus / drug effects
  • Tea Tree Oil / pharmacology
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils
  • Tea Tree Oil