Plants produce a number of antimicrobial substances and the roots of the shrub Salvadora persica have been demonstrated to possess antimicrobial activity. Sticks from the roots of S. persica, Miswak sticks, have been used for centuries as a traditional method of cleaning teeth. Diverging reports on the chemical nature and antimicrobial repertoire of the chewing sticks from S. persica led us to explore its antibacterial properties against a panel of pathogenic or commensal bacteria and to identify the antibacterial component/s by methodical chemical characterization. S. persica root essential oil was prepared by steam distillation and solid-phase microextraction was used to sample volatiles released from fresh root. The active compound was identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and antibacterial assays. The antibacterial compound was isolated using medium-pressure liquid chromatography. Transmission electron microscopy was used to visualize the effect on bacterial cells. The main antibacterial component of both S. persica root extracts and volatiles was benzyl isothiocyanate. Root extracts as well as commercial synthetic benzyl isothiocyanate exhibited rapid and strong bactericidal effect against oral pathogens involved in periodontal disease as well as against other Gram-negative bacteria, while Gram-positive bacteria mainly displayed growth inhibition or remained unaffected. The short exposure needed to obtain bactericidal effect implies that the chewing sticks and the essential oil may have a specific role in treatment of periodontal disease in reducing Gram-negative periodontal pathogens. Our results indicate the need for further investigation into the mechanism of the specific killing of Gram-negative bacteria by S. persica root stick extracts and its active component benzyl isothiocyanate.