Thymol is abundantly found in thyme oil and it shares structural similarities with carvacrol. In traditional medicine, both thymol and thyme essential oils have been used as anti-inflammatory agents, antivirals, and antiseptics. People primarily use it for treating upper respiratory disorders. However, the studies have explored new therapeutic potential of such natural plant compounds which are primarily applied in oral care products.
Lister identified thymol and later a popular mouthwash was named after him, known as Listerine. Listerine comprises various essential oil elements, including thymol, menthol, and eucalyptol. Research has found that most mouthwashes and gargles containing essential oils or their constituents prove highly effective against dental issues.
In fact, a study showed that a mouthwash composed of four essential oils with phenolic properties – thymol, menthol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate has been available commercially for more than a century.
It all started in 1988 when the first over-the-counter oral rinse received the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Since then, similar generic alternatives have gained approval. Research studies have observed some reduction in plaque levels as well. While essential oil rinses may initially cause a mild burning sensation in the mouth, most people tend to adapt to it quickly. Hence, it becomes easier to incorporate thymol in most oral care products.
There are three major ways in which thymol plays an essential role in oral care:
Plaque and tartar control: Thymol can help control the formation of dental plaque, a biofilm of bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It can reduce plaque buildup and contribute to healthier teeth and gums.
Bad breath prevention: Thymol’s antimicrobial properties also make it useful for combating bad breath (halitosis) by targeting the bacteria responsible for foul odors in the mouth.
Flavor and aroma: Thymol contributes to the flavor of oral care products. It makes them more palatable to consumers. Hence, it can enhance the overall user experience of products like mouthwash and toothpaste.
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