Tea tree oil has been used for centuries for its antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and general cleansing properties. Besides toothpaste, tea tree oil is a common ingredient in soaps, facial cleansers and preparations used to treat acne, athlete's foot and nail fungus, among other conditions. Tea tree oil is usually used in concentrations of less than 5 per cent.
Tea Tree Oil Toothpaste Precautions
Before using tea tree oil toothpaste, it may be a good idea to ask your dentist whether this would be a good choice for you. Although tea tree oil can be effective for gingivitis and other oral infections, it does not help to remove plaque. As with any toothpaste, even if you are not allergic, it is wise to avoid swallowing the product.
A small percentage of people experience an allergic reaction to tea tree oil, and should obviously avoid its use in any form. It's a good idea to apply a small amount of the tea tree oil product you intend to use to your skin first, and wait 24 hours to see if itching or rash results.
Side Effects of Swallowing Tea Tree Oil
Most of the people who have developed severe side effects have developed them from using tea tree oil by mouth, but since even a small amount can cause a negative reaction, toothpaste users should be aware of the possibilities. These include drowsiness, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, rash, inflammation of the corners of the mouth, slow or uneven walking, confusion, reduced immune system function or coma. Some people have experienced unpleasant taste, burning sensation, nausea and bad breath following oral tea tree oil use.
If a product containing tea tree oil has been swallowed in large amounts, call your poison control centre for advice. Tea tree oil toothpaste is unlikely to have any serious side effects if a small amount is accidentally swallowed. As of 2006, the American Association of Poison Control Centers had not received a single report of fatal tea tree oil poisoning. Activated charcoal has been used to remedy tea tree oil poisoning in children.
Spit, Don't Swallow
It's never a good idea to deliberately swallow any type of toothpaste. Any toothpaste containing flouride has been required to carry a poison-control warning since 1997. Small children should never be left unsupervised with a tube of toothpaste nearby, and kids need to be taught to spit and rinse their mouths after brushing from the very start.
The amount of any toothpaste needed to brush is unlikely to have serious negative effects. However, if you experience any negative effects of tea tree oil toothpaste or any other personal care product, stop using it and talk to your medical care provider.