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
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.
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).
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.
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!)
5. BOURBON OR WHISKEY
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).
6. WARM SALT WATER
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!
7. BAY BERRY BARK AND VINEGAR
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