Toothaches can cause significant discomfort and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. However, there are many options to help relieve the pain. These remedies simply treat the pain and it is important to contact your dentist to cure the underlying problem.
Causes of toothaches
Cavities, chipped or broken teeth, damaged fillings, infections, and abscesses can all cause tooth pain.
Other causes of tooth pain include sinus infections and repetitive movements of your jaw.
Depending on the cause, your doctor or dentist will determine the most appropriate treatment. However, while waiting for your appointment, here are some options to relieve the discomfort.
Traditional pain relievers
Over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin can help provide pain relief.
Ibuprofen and naproxen can also help reduce any swelling associated with the toothache.
Over-the-counter (OTC) numbing medications
Benzocaine, a local anesthetic, is available in many OTC medications to help numb the painful area. Orajel and Anbesol are just a couple of the name-brand numbing medications available. Various preparations (oral rinse, gel, liquid) are available.
Homemade oral rinses
Salt water rinse — use 1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.
Hydrogen peroxide rinse — use an equal part of hydrogen peroxide mixed with water (ie. 1 ounce Hydrogen peroxide in 1 ounce of water).
These rinses can be used similarly to mouthwash. Use by swishing them around the mouth and spitting them out. Do not swallow the rinse. They can help clean the affected tooth and provide relief.
Alcohol containing products
Commercially available mouthwashes containing alcohol (Listerine) can be used to relieve toothaches. The alcohol in the mouthwash helps to numb the painful tooth.
Vanilla extract can be used by placing a small amount of the liquid on the painful tooth. The extract contains alcohol to numb the tooth.
Clove oil — The active ingredient, Eugenol, acts as an anesthetic and can be used to provide temporary relief of tooth pain. It should be applied directly to the area of pain.
Garlic — Allicin is released by garlic cloves and can provide toothache relief. It can be used by placing chopped bits of garlic clove on the tooth or by chewing a clove. Burns to the lining of the mouth and tongue have been associated with raw garlic use. Contact a healthcare professional prior to using this method.
Ice and cold compresses
When swelling is present, cold compresses or an ice pack can help. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
In addition, massaging an ice cube on the skin of the back of the hand in the webspace between the thumb and index finger has been shown to relieve tooth pain. This spot is called the “Hoku Point”. Use the hand on the same side as the pain and massage until the area is numb.
Numerous herbal remedies have been used over the years to help alleviate toothaches. However, many of these may be difficult to obtain and have not been shown to clearly provide benefits. These include:
- Herbal tea such as peppermint, ginger, or chamomile tea bags — cooled and placed on the tooth
- Guava leaves
- Cola nuts
- Mango bark
- Sweet potato
- Sunflower leaves
Seek medical attention
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Therefore, all tooth pain that lasts for more than a day (24 hours) should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
If you experience fevers, chills, or severe pain, seek immediate medical attention.
Toothaches lasting more than 24 hours should always be evaluated.
Pain can be relieved with traditional medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or numbing medications.
Cold compresses and ice can provide relief.
Homemade rinses and commercially available mouthwashes can be used with success.
Herbal remedies like clove oil and garlic can also be used but talk with your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist before use.
Journal of the American Dental Association. Garlic burn of the oral mucosa A case report and review of self-treatment chemical burns.
Canadian Medical Association. Relief of dental pain by ice massage of the hand.
International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research. Study of Chemical Composition and Medicinal Properties of Volatile Oil from Clove Buds (Eugenia caryophyllus).