Cinnamon is a spice that has long been celebrated for its medicinal properties and warming aroma and flavor.
The spice is made of dried bark from various trees of the Cinnamomum genus, while cinnamon essential oils are extracted from the tree’s bark, leaves, fruits, and flowers.
Research suggests that some of the compounds in cinnamon have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties (
This may be why some people throughout history have used the spice to help treat toothaches and other ailments (
This article explores whether cinnamon may benefit your gums, oral health, and dental hygiene.
Cinnamon’s antimicrobial properties may help fight off pathogens like bacteria and fungi (
Because many infections of the mouth are caused by bacteria and fungi, cinnamon has been studied as a potential treatment for dental ailments.
Some of the main beneficial compounds in cinnamon are (
- cinnamic acid
- cinnamyl acetate
- cinnamyl alcohol
Cinnamaldehyde appears to be among the most powerful compounds in cinnamon. Additionally, the spice contains other healthy plant compounds known as polyphenols (
These compounds fight bacteria by damaging their cell walls and preventing cell division, thereby inhibiting bacterial growth (
Multiple studies have found cinnamon bark oil to be effective against the Streptococcus mutans bacterium — a common cause of cavities, tooth decay, and enamel erosion — in children with cavities (
Cinnamon and cinnamaldehyde also appear to be effective against fungi, including strains of the Candida genus of yeasts (
Candida strains are a common cause of yeast infections like oral thrush in the mouth and throat. It’s normal to have some Candida on your skin and in your body, but overgrowth and infections can occur in people with compromised immune systems.
One test-tube study found that cinnamon oil fought Candida albicans directly, while cinnamon extracts displayed anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, both the oil and extracts helped prevent the growth of biofilm and strengthened the mouth’s protective barrier (
Another test-tube study also found cinnamon oil prevented Candida biofilm (
Biofilm is a slimy layer of fungi or bacteria that often forms on teeth and in the mouth. Although biofilm is common, it can progress into plaque and gum disease if it’s not regularly brushed and flossed away.
Yet, even though cinnamon may help fight fungi strains and prevent the prevalence of biofilm, human studies are needed.
A few of the compounds found in cinnamon, particularly cinnamaldehyde, act as antimicrobials that help fight off bacteria and fungi. Whether these benefits can be applied to promote oral health in humans remains to be proven.
Cavities, bacteria, and inflammation are all common causes of pain in the teeth, jaw, and other parts of the mouth.
Because certain compounds in cinnamon fight bacteria, they might help prevent toothaches from developing or progressing (
Furthermore, a recent study found that those who took a cinnamon powder capsule daily for 2 months had less inflammation and shorter, less intense migraine pain than those who took a placebo (
Although this study is not specific to toothaches, it demonstrates cinnamon’s potential anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
Other studies likewise support cinnamon supplements’ potential to increase antioxidant capacity, inhibit inflammation biomarkers, and significantly reduce levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin 6, two measures of inflammation (
Cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory properties might help relieve pain, while its antimicrobial properties may help prevent an underlying infection from occurring and causing pain.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums caused by plaque or bacteria. It often leads to swelling or bleeding and can be painful. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more advanced stage of periodontal gum disease.
Promisingly, emerging research shows that cinnamon oils may have the potential to help prevent gum infections.
One test-tube study found that the essential oil of cinnamon bark may inhibit Porphyromonas gingivalis, a type of bacteria that can cause gingivitis and gum disease (
Two other test-tube studies have further determined that cinnamon oil may act as an antibacterial agent against Enterococcus fecalis, which is another common cause of gum disease, especially among people who’ve had root canals (
However, human studies are needed to confirm whether cinnamon spice or essential oils can help treat these conditions outside of test tubes.
In test-tube studies, cinnamon oils have been shown to work against various bacteria strains that can cause gingivitis.
In traditional medicine, cinnamon is often applied directly to the affected areas in the mouth. Some may chew on cinnamon sticks, rinse with cinnamon water, or mix ground cinnamon with honey and apply it to the area in pain.
However, there’s limited evidence supporting the effectiveness of such techniques. Plus, most studies on cinnamon for toothaches and mouth infections have used either cinnamon extracts, essential oils, or individual compounds isolated from cinnamon — not the ground spice.
Thus, the best ways to use cinnamon for oral health and dental hygiene remain uncertain at this time, although a few studies have started investigating how cinnamon could be added to common products and become a part of your daily hygiene routine.
One older study found that chewing cinnamon gum for 20 minutes significantly reduced the number of bacteria in human saliva. However, the study was small, and similar effects were observed for sweetened gum that didn’t contain cinnamon (
A more recent study observed that a cinnamon toothpaste helped reduce the presence of Streptococcus mutans (
Other studies found that cinnamon oil may prevent Candida biofilm from emerging on dentures and dental implants, suggesting that the oil could be used to clean dentures, retainers, mouth guards, and other dental appliances (
Overall, cinnamon and its compounds show potential as beneficial ingredients in toothpaste and powders, mouthwashes, chewing gums, teas, and more, but more research is needed.
Cinnamon may be a helpful addition to oral hygiene products, though only a few human studies have measured how effective it is when applied directly to the teeth.
In general, cinnamon is considered safe for human use. No evidence has suggested that it could be toxic to cells in the mouth (
Nevertheless, there may be risks to using cinnamon for certain groups of people or those who apply it directly to their mouth.
For example, one team of researchers found that high exposure to cinnamon extract could change the tooth enamel — the outer layer of the tooth — and that overexposure may cause changes in tooth color (37, 38).
Also, some people may be sensitive to cinnamon and cinnamon flavors and even react to cinnamon ingredients with swelling and inflammation of the mouth and lips (
What’s more, some people are allergic to cinnamon. Some signs and symptoms include experiencing the following in the mouth and throat region (
- skin irritation
Lastly, consuming too much cassia cinnamon — the kind most commonly used in cooking — is associated with some health risks due to its high amounts of coumarin (
Some people may have allergies or be highly sensitive to cinnamon. Applying too much of the spice or its extracts to the teeth could damage the enamel or cause discoloration.
Cinnamon oils, extracts, and their compounds may help prevent cavities, treat gum disease, and fight fungal and bacterial infections. Thus, hygiene products containing cinnamon may have some uses for oral health and pain relief.
However, home remedies like chewing on cinnamon sticks or applying ground cinnamon directly to the mouth may not be effective. They can also pose risks for some groups of people, including those with allergies or sensitivities to the spice.
It’s best to consult your dentist or another trusted medical professional before attempting to use cinnamon or other home remedies to treat specific dental conditions.