Dr. Sinkin's Blog: The Dental And The Incidental

7 Home Remedies for Toothache….A Dentist’s Opinion

September 12th, 2011 by

As a dentist, I don’t normally use Google to find remedies for dental problems, however, I know that a lot of people do. Especially in the middle of the night or when the dentist’s office is closed. So. I got to wondering what comes up on Google when someone searches “How to Relieve Tooth Pain” and surprisingly, I discovered that the results are mostly lists of home remedies for toothache!

I don’t normally prescribe most of the home remedies that I found in my Google search, but I set out to research the most frequently recommended ones and dispel some of the myths. To my surprise, many of them actually make sense scientifically.

So, here we go:

Common Home Remedies for Toothache

1.     ASPIRIN

Many people believe that placing an aspirin on the gum of the affected tooth is a good way to relieve tooth pain. Don’t do it! Aspirin is an acid and it will burn your gum. (You’d be surprised by how many people I have seen over the years who have tried this only to have caused harm to their soft tissue.)
Note: If you had a headache, would you put an aspirin on your forehead? Swallow the aspirin.

2.     GARLIC

In addition to warding off vampires, garlic does have medicinal value. When crushed or finely chopped two chemicals in the garlic join to form Allicin, which has antibiotic properties and can offer some relief.  You must crush the garlic to form Allicin. Be aware that crushed garlic can be irritating to the gum so restrict it to the cavity in the tooth.
Note: Garlic powder is not a substitute (it’s great on pizza, though).

3.    ONION

A lot of sites tell you to put a piece of raw onion on the affected tooth, and this may give a slight bit of relief because onion also has antimicrobial properties.
Note: This is not good for one’s social life.

4.     CLOVES

Oil of Cloves, also known as Eugenol, is a very common ingredient in dental products and has both antimicrobial and pain relieving properties. Mix 2-3 drops with olive or cooking oil and saturate a piece of cotton. Place the cotton in the tooth cavity and bite down with another piece of dry cotton over the tooth. Also, if you grind or crush whole cloves with a few drops of cooking oil, you can get the same relief that oil of cloves will yield.
Note: Not only will you possibly get some relief, but you’ll smell like the holiday ham. (I can think of worse smells!)


Alcohol is indeed an antiseptic and an astringent and I do have to report that some patients do get some relief by swishing their mouths with bourbon or whiskey. However, the relief is most likely because the irritating effect of the alcohol on gums “distracts” the brain from the pain signals of the tooth.
Note: You’re better off drinking the booze (neat, not on the rocks because cold will aggravate your painful tooth).


This goes down as one of the most recommended and effective ways of soothing a toothache.  Place 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of salt in 8 ounces of very warm (not hot) water. Swish around in your mouth. The salt water “draws” fluid from the tissues of the affected area and reduces pressure on nerve endings.
Note: Eating salty potato chips does not have the same effect!


Enough has been written on the web about mixing ground bay berry bark and vinegar into a thick paste to be applied to the hurting tooth that I had to give it an honorable mention.
Disclaimer: I have no idea what bay berries are.

And there you have it! A review of some of the most commonly mentioned home remedies for tooth pain found on the web. If you have a home remedy that works for you, or that your grandma passed down, I’d love to hear about it.


A toothache is a horrible thing to endure and it always signals that something is wrong. If left untreated it can lead to serious health problems beyond the affected and most likely infected tooth.  If you are in pain or have swelling in or around your mouth, contacting a dentist should be your first priority. If you are stricken with a toothache during “off hours”, call your dentist’s office anyway. Most dentists have emergency numbers.

At my office, when a patient calls with an emergency when the office is closed, they will get my personal cell number (so help is literally a phone call away.) I usually tell them to drink a big glass of straight bourbon and call it a night (kidding).

For over-the-counter and very effective remedies for toothache pain, check out my blog post 5 Ways to Get Relief for a Toothache

Dr. Michael Sinkin is a general dentist in New York City. He loves being a dentist and is known throughout the city for taking wonderful care of his patients and for his wicked sense of humor. For more about Dr. Sinkin, click here

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DISCLAIMER: The advice I offer in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, I am in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. My intent is solely educational and my responses to your actual questions serve as springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.

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32 Comments on “7 Home Remedies for Toothache….A Dentist’s Opinion”

  • jacqueline morris September 30th, 2012 11:52 pm

    Salt water mom always had us do that- booze Ok that may help…. Garlic, onions not so much. I know I need this tooth pulled- hopefully this week a UW Dental school (their great, – cheaper- no insurance- & low on funds). I could sit in the ER for hours for a little relief- we’ll see how the night goes. I don’t- I have a regular dentist right now. I wish there were call in Dental ER’s – lol something, I’ve been married faster. —- So I didn’t have to sit in the reg ER for 6 – 8 hours…. It would be so cool to have a couple of pain pills called into Walgreens until I get to the dentist tomorrow- Tues at the very latest …. Just random venting – thanks doc~!!

  • jacqueline morris September 30th, 2012 11:54 pm

    Oh- my mouth does look like there’s a golf call- yeah very attractive, very painful~!!

  • jacqueline morris September 30th, 2012 11:56 pm

    * golf ball…. editors nite off too, on a roll….

  • Candy Garrison November 28th, 2012 11:37 am

    Although i still have this annoying toothache your humor has made me feel better!

  • Cheryl Johnson January 1st, 2013 9:11 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I found this to be informative as well as comical. Hilarious!

  • john mitchell February 26th, 2013 1:13 pm

    I’m begging for a pro bono dentist. I have had 2 broken off teeth in the back of my mouth for years. They hurt for 4-5 days periodically but in the last few weeks the pain has became so intense I cant stand it. I’ve had the role on the floor and cry pain. Thats just the beginning. this pain is more like its been hurting for 2 weeks straight not subsiding. I took 8 Vicodin 10/325’s all broken in half the other day barely touched the pain. It did knock me out though. I’m 24 white male i have a son and wife. please one of you dentists rip these devils out of my face. Have mercy.

  • Michael Sinkin February 27th, 2013 2:55 pm

    I have no doubt that your pain is real and I’m sorry for your suffering. Dental schools and hospital-based dental residency programs offer dental care for a very modest fee. You owe it to yourself, and your health, to do so. Good luck!

  • Edith Ann May 19th, 2013 10:58 pm

    You are right about the aspirin, somebody told me to put one on my gums around the tooth and it burned my gums up, no wonder they say drink plenty of water after taking an aspirin. I get the chewable baby aspirin now, lot milder.

  • Michael Sinkin May 21st, 2013 8:18 am

    As I said, you don’t put an aspirin on your forehead if you have a headache.

  • julia creighton February 18th, 2014 2:38 pm

    Dear Dr. Sinkin: I am writing to ask how I can get through two weeks with a cracked tooth in the top of my mouth. I cracked it while eating almonds and unfortunately there is a sharp point of tooth pushing into my cheek. It is particularly painful at night when I am sleeping. My dentist is away for two weeks. Many thanks for any hints you can give me. Julia

  • Michael Sinkin February 19th, 2014 7:21 am

    Dear Julia,
    My first question is whether your dentist has someone covering his emergencies…2 weeks is a long time not to have contingencies.
    If sufficient tooth remains, get some Dentemp from the pharmacy. Dentemp is a putty-like temporary filling that can fill the void. Good luck to you.
    Dr. Sinkin

  • tasha May 10th, 2014 12:37 pm

    I have a broken tooth in the back of my mouth at the top. And it got my gums hurting to. It’s only one my left side. Do you think aspirin will help and do you think baby orajel will help until I get to the dentist? What can I do?

  • Michael Sinkin May 17th, 2014 7:46 pm

    Dear Tasha,
    I suspect that this is not your first dental emergency. Taking aspirin or any of the NSAID (like ibuprofen, Advil, Alleve) assuming you have no sensitivities to such medications or tylenol will help with the pain. Orajel can help the gums if they’re irritated but not if you have an access forming- in which case you need an antibiotic. You need to see a dentist and hopefully he can save your lone left tooth from the same I’ll fate its neighbors suffered.

  • catie July 13th, 2014 9:23 pm

    Hello, I’m 24 female I have a broken tooth that is completely gone well, two actually. One on the top left side of my mouth and the bottom right side. Both molars. I am unable to afford a dentist as are others that I have asked for loans. I have tried to go to clinics to go on a sliding scale but unfortunately I “make to much money” to get a proper disscount.. this pain is absolutely killing me to the point where I want to go to the e.r… do you have any tips for me please.. I’ve taken 4 800mlg ibuprofen and nothing has worked, not any of your rememdies. :(

  • Michael Sinkin July 14th, 2014 7:31 am

    Dear Catie,
    I am so sorry for your troubles. At 24, you are at a possible dental crossroads of sorts. 2 broken teeth and possibly other as yet undiagnosed unknown dental problems lying in the lurch. You need a good, conscientious dentist to relieve your pain -even as a stopgap measures to alleviate your pain. Dental first-aid-not necessarily definitive treatment like root canal or extraction to give you relief from pain and time to l figure out a way towards dental health. Such emergency dental care will not break the bank and should be of modest cost.
    An emergency room is not the best place to solve your problem. Besides, the cost of an emergency room visit is far in excess of what the cost should be to deal with your current situation. (Whether you personally pay the E.R., your medical insurance pays or the hospital absorbs the cost if you’re uninsured and passes it onto everyone else.) And the likelihood is all you will get from the hospital is pain medication and possibly antibiotics to treat your symptoms and not solve your actual dental problems.
    As I said before, at 24 you could be at a critical point which depending on your course of action can have significant impact on your dental future. Seek out a dentist who can help you with your problem and can offer some guidance. Ask your physician and anyone else you know who can make a recommendation of a good dentist who will be willing to help you. Good luck.

    Dr. Sinkin

  • buck July 30th, 2014 2:19 am

    Hey Doc… My Filling came out a while ago didnt bother me…but not the past few day it’s been killing me and also giving me a headache.. what to do

  • Michael Sinkin July 31st, 2014 6:05 am

    Hey Buck,
    Sounds like it’s time to make a phone call to a dentist. Fillings generally don’t just fall out unless you were chewing something gooey like taffy or a jolly rancher. You may have had a cavity underneath which destabilizedc and undermined the restoration. If this was the case the decay process may have continued. It will not get better by itself and will likely worsen. You don’t want to develop an abcess. So please seek out a dentist for care.
    Best wishes.
    Dr. Sinkin

  • tabytha August 1st, 2014 7:25 pm

    Hey doc, I have been in unbearable agonizing pain in the right side of my mouth and unable to get to a dentist. Nothing works at all!! Any suggestions! O have tried everything!

  • Michael Sinkin August 2nd, 2014 6:45 am

    Dear Tabytha,

    I don’t have any magic words to offer you. If you are on that much pain, you need professional care and not some stop gap home remedy. Please see a dentist ASAP. Good luck.

    Dr Sinkin

  • Christina August 11th, 2014 6:38 am

    Hello doctor thank you for answering our questions :) my questions are, I’ve been told all of my back molars have severely “hooked roots” and dentists refuse to work on my teeth, they say I need a speacialist, why is that :( and also a friend of mine told me to start oil pulling, what are your thoughts on that. Thanks again Dr.

  • Michael Sinkin August 17th, 2014 9:13 am

    Dear Christina,

    It’s not exactly clear to me why dentists refuse to treat your molars unless you are in need of extractions or root canal treatment. Root formation continues for about two years after the tooth first erupts through the gums. It is not uncommon for the roots to curve or deviate from a straight line, especially if forces are applied to the tooth as occurs during orthodontic treatment. Teeth with severely curved roots can be challenging to treat if they need to be removed. That’s the difference between a simple extraction and a more involved surgical extraction which might be more easily performed by an oral surgeon. Root canal treatment can be more complicated in a severely curved root and special techniques are utilized to negotiate the tortuous path to the root tip. A root canal specialist has more experience with these more challenging situations. Certainly in these situations if your dentist feels that you would be better served by the hands of a specialist, he/she is exercising good clinical judgement.
    Oil pulling is a topic for another day.

    Dr Sinkin

  • Jennifer May 6th, 2015 9:17 pm

    I am 6months pregnant and have such severe pain that I can’t eat or sleep. Saw my dentist today and have to wait two weeks to have a cavity filled because of inflammation in my gums from periodontal disease. I tried Tylenol with absolutely no pain relief. What can I do? I have to eat and sleep for the health of my baby but cannot because I’m in so much pain.

  • Michael Sinkin May 8th, 2015 9:17 am

    Dear Jennifer,

    You are in quite a predicament, but something sounds amiss. I understand why your dentist might not be able to place a “permanent” filling in your tooth if your gums,are so inflamed. But, there is much that can be done in the way of dental treatment that can give you relief. I suggest you call your dentist back and tell him that the pain has worsened and you need help. If it’s your tooth hurting, a medicated filling or possibly root canal (if the nerve is exposed or “infected”) can be relief. If your gums are the cause of your pain, then a different course of treatment may be warranted, such as a a deep cleaning and possible antibiotic therapy.
    That you are six months pregnant is all the more reason to have the problem addressed sooner than later. As an aside, untreated gum disease is not desirable in any circumstance, especially during pregnancy and it has been correlated to low birth weight. If your dentist doesn’t respond to your request for care, I would seek out a second opinion. There is no home remedy I can offer aside from Tylenol and warm salt water rinses.

    Good luck and please let me know how you make out.
    Dr Sinkin

  • Danielle June 22nd, 2015 3:58 am

    I went to the dentist about a year ago to get a filling. about a month ago the tooth that I had fixed came out in pieces. What is the cause of this? Is it normal for this to happen, or is it a mistake made by the dentist. I see a new dentist Tuesday for pain from that tooth, because I’m terrified to go back to the original doc. Also, is tooth whitening toothpaste bad if you have bad teeth that need repairing?

  • Michael Sinkin June 23rd, 2015 7:19 am

    Dear Danielle,

    No, it is not normal for a tooth to crumble like that, but I have no way of knowing the condition your tooth was in when it was last treated. Why don’t we wait to see what your new dentist thinks. Good luck today.
    Dr. Sinkin

  • Barbara July 29th, 2015 8:18 pm

    I guess I’d be a rare case … I’m allergic to most medicines n locals. I’ve called a few oral surgeons in my area it’ll cost over $1200 to pull one tooth n I can’t afford that. Nor have I been to the dentist in 20 yrs cuz the last one almost killed me with novacaine Yay me. Wanted to say thank you for your garlic remedies. After 6 days of salt water it worked the pain has lowered in intensity…. ty

  • Michael Sinkin July 30th, 2015 5:07 pm

    Dear Barbara,
    I am glad you found relief from a more unconventional remedy. That said, you really need to see a dentist before you develop an infection. It is not uncommon for people to have allergies/sensitivity to medications, local anesthetics are no exception. Fortunately, there are many local anesthetics available. Some people are allergic to the preservative in the anesthetic solution. Some people are sensitive (not allergic) to the epinephrine in some formulations which can yield palpitations. ou should find a dentist who can listen to your past experiences and come up with a treatment approach. Novacaine has not been used in dentistry for many many years, but it is a term commonly used for local anesthetics (much like Kleenex is a term used for a tissue). I believe a reasonable treatment approach is possible with necessarily involving general anesthesia.
    Dr Sinkin

  • Esther hecker August 5th, 2015 7:39 pm

    I stumbled upon your website and I’m glad I did. It is very nice to have a dentist to ask a question to.
    I am 50 and I have only some front teeth no back teeth left.I can barely afford to pay my bills as it is. I don’t know what to do anymore. I live in Texas. I have dental insurance but I don’t have enough money to do the work that I need I think I need dentures or partials. Just venting thanks for listening.

  • Michael Sinkin August 6th, 2015 7:10 am

    Dear Esther,

    I am so sorry for your travails.
    Since you have dental insurance, you may want to call your insurance carrier and see if they have participating dentists that will accept your insurance.
    Might I suggest that you seek out a dental school or teaching hospital with a dental residency program. You may find affordable care there and they can help you with your insurance claim.
    We also found a list that may help you: http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/texas_free_dental_clinics.html
    And, another option is a third party lending institution such as Care Credit (http://www.carecredit.com/) that offer loans for dental care with attractive rates and a variety of terms. I wish you the best, don’t give up hope.

    Dr. Sinkin

  • Nikki August 22nd, 2015 2:58 am

    Would like to know your opinion on swishing with peroxide, I’ve dine this in the past for gum infection and it cleared it up well. I use 3% peroxide mixed half and half with water and within 5 minutes my toothache is dulled to the point I barely notice it. My wisdom tooth went bad fast, within 6 months after it first cut through it just started crumbling so the back half of it is gone and now the nerve is bothering me. Just waiting for my appointment to have it pulled next week but was wondering if swishing peroxide is a good or bad idea.

  • Michael Sinkin August 22nd, 2015 9:47 am

    Dear Nikki,
    In as much as you have made arrangements to have your wisdom tooth problem appropriately addressed, the home remedy of rinsing with a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide is probably ok. Long-term use of a peroxide rinse is not something I would recommend and in fact, I would discourage as it can dry the tissue of the mouth and disturb the normal pH (acidity). Overuse of Hydrogen peroxide can also disrupt the delicate balance of healthy bacteria that resides in the oral cavity. I recommend that my patients rinse with warm salt water which has a soothing effect. Feel better and good luck with your treatment.
    Dr Sinkin

  • Nikki August 22nd, 2015 4:25 pm

    Thanks for the response. On another note, I had a different tooth pulled about a 1½ yrs ago, the dentist fought to have me save it but I couldn’t afford to at the time so I decided to have it pulled and get a bridge or implant in the future. He cut my tooth into pieces and pulled the roots out in sections leaving a bunch of splinters behind, I still have some splinters, how would I go about getting them out of my gums? I can feel them shifting in my gums which is uncomfortable but bearable and on occasion I rub over it with slight pressure til I feel a piece break through and I can pull it out with tweezers, I’m seeing a new dentist next week but the previous one claimed he didn’t see any pieces on xray or visual exam and sort of brushed me off. I know it shouldn’t take this long to expel splinters, is there something I can request from the new dentist to get rid of them?

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