It never fails. Just when you’re almost heading out the office door on a Friday afternoon, you realize that the mildly tingly tooth of yours starts to become a little more than just annoying. Now it’s aching – to cold, hot, air and hurts to bite – and of course all the dental offices in town are closed for business until Monday. The good news is that there are some great natural ways to soothe a toothache at home that are fairly effective at holding it at bay for a few days.

First, let’s go over some things NOT to do:

1) Do not place aspirin tablets along the gums thinking that it will “absorb” into the tooth. Chemical erosion and ulcers are real – and very painful!
2) Gels or creams like Anbesol or Orajel can be quite effective for ulcers or denture sore spots, but it does very little to penetrate a tooth to soothe a true toothache caused by the decay of a cavity.

3) If you experienced some trauma where the tooth chipped off or fractured, do not throw the tooth away. Place it in a Ziploc and bring it to your dentist. Sometimes, a piece of your own tooth can be utilized to restore it.

Now, for the things you can do at home to help relieve tooth pain: **Please remember that these are suggestions to make the pain go away, not to get rid of the underlying problem. The best thing you can do for yourself is to call your dentist to evaluate why something’s hurting before it gets worse!


1. Cloves

Cloves make an incredible (and inexpensive) home remedy for toothaches. Long before modern medicine, dentists used cloves to help pain because they contain eugenol, a natural form of anesthetic and antiseptic that helps get rid of germs. Eugenol is still used in dental materials today in a purified form that separates it from the essential oil.

There are 3 ways that cloves can help your toothache: Ground cloves, whole cloves, or clove oil. A clove oil compress seems to be the most popular form due to its ease.

Ground: If you already have ground clove in your spice pantry, you’re in luck! Wash your hands (always, by the way, when you are going to put anything in your mouth!) and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Take a pinch of the ground cloves and apply it between the gum and your cheek where the ache is. Your saliva will eventually mix with the powder and soon after the pain relief will be on its way.

Whole: Again, wash your hands and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Take 2 or 3 cloves and keep them in your mouth as close to the sore area as possible near your teeth and gums. In a minute or two, they will soften and you’ll be able to chew on them. Chew lightly and the oils will be released to your aching tooth or gums.

Clove Oil Compress: You’ll need a few ingredients for this one. But this compress is probably the most effective way to help your pain.

You will need…
Clove essential oil
– Cotton balls
– 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil

I think you know what comes now: Wash your hands and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Mix a few drops of clove essential oil with ½ teaspoon of olive oil. Soak a cotton ball in this mixture and then hold it gently but firmly against the sore tooth or gum. You can even try using a cotton swab and placing it directly on the sore spot, but this can be particularly painful if the tooth is broken down or you have an open sore spot.


2. Peppermint

Did you know that peppermint is one of nature’s most effective pain killers? Peppermint contains menthol, which is manufactured in many over the counter pain relief agents such as gels, creams, and sprays. The molecules in menthol bind to a type of receptor that blocks the brain’s perception of pain. You may be familiar with menthol producing a cold sensation. Menthol doesn’t actually change temperature – it just tricks the brain into registering the sensation as “cold.”

You will need…

Pure peppermint essential oil
-Cotton balls or cotton swabs

You got it. Wash your hands and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Mix about 10 drops of peppermint essential oil into 2 tablespoons of olive oil. It’s important to dilute the oil first to avoid any irritation because peppermint is particularly strong. Soak a cotton ball in the oil and pack it around the sore tooth. Repeat as needed.


3. Warm Salt Water Rinse

If you have no means to get your hands on either cloves or peppermint, good old regular warm salt water is extremely helpful in reducing the pain of a sore tooth. The salt neutralizes the acid that is eating away at your tooth and it slows down the process of decay. The salt also helps with inflammation because it pulls the fluid out of inflamed tissue.

You will need…

-1 cup of warm salt water
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Mix the salt into a glass of warm water. Swish the water around for 1 minute, then spit it out. Repeat until the glass is gone, then as necessary throughout the day.

Remember, these tips are not at all replacements for seeking professional dental care. These will help you get through a couple of days before you can get to a dentist, but you shouldn’t hold off on making that call. If you have a large infection somewhere in your mouth, keep in mind how close your mouth is to your brain and other vital parts of your body so you definitely want it to not spread anywhere else.

These days, folks are quick to grab some Tylenol or Ibuprofen when something hurts, and I’ve had many patients tell me that the pain was so bad they took old prescriptions for some narcotics. As it is, our country is suffering from a pandemic of opioid addiction as well as a generalized over-prescription of antibiotics by healthcare providers, which leads to more strains of bacteria that become resistant to treatment with antibiotics. I certainly believe it is my duty to seek out some alternatives that can help oral pain without recommending that drugs is always the answer. And just for the record, I’ve tried all these as well so they are tried and true! Yes, dentists get cavities too. =)

1 Response

Mark McMillion

Great advice from my favorite dentist!

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