Can Rinsing With Salt Water Make A Toothache Worse?

Updated: 5 days ago

You're having some throbbing tooth pain and you're wondering if there is a mouth rinse that you can use to calm down the toothache. Does salt water work?

Girl with toothache
Girl with toothache

Table of Contents

How to rinse with salt water for a toothache

Putting together a salt water mouth rinse is a very simple process because all you need is just a cup, some salt, and water.

  1. Fill up an 8 oz glass with room temperature water.

  2. Dissolve a teaspoon of table salt into the water by stirring.

  3. Rinse for at least 30 seconds but you may rinse for up to 2 minutes.

  4. Spit out the mixture.

  5. You may repeat these steps several times a day as needed.

Will rinsing with salt water make a toothache worse?

Rinsing with salt water could potentially make your toothache worse but only in certain scenarios and we will explain why.

  • Using very cold water for the salt water rinse. If you make the rinse with ice cold water, it could make the tooth pain worse, especially if the tooth was already sensitive to temperature before the rinse. For example, if the tooth was sensitive to cold and anything cold that touches it will cause pain, you will definitely have an even worse toothache if you try rinsing with a cold water salt rinse! To rectify this situation, use room temperature water.

  • Using the rinse on an open cavity. If the tooth has a very big cavity that is wide open to the oral environment, it will cause some pain. This is because the inside of the tooth, the dentin is exposed. Any sort of external stimuli will aggravate the nerve pain resulting in a toothache.

Open cavity
Open cavity

  • If your crown falls off or your temporary crown falls off. This scenario is when your crown falls off and the tooth never had a root canal, which means that it is very much alive. When a live tooth is not covered, anything that touches it will be sensitive and that includes the salt water. Even if it was just plain water, it will aggravate it as well.

Half of crown fell off
Half of crown fell off

Salt water may seem pretty harmless since they are literally two very common ingredients, it may worsen your tooth pain when used in certain situations, especially with the ones above. These situations also share a lot of similarities with hydrogen peroxide rinsing.

When rinsing with salt water will help a toothache

Despite the scenarios above, the salt water rinsing can in fact help relieve toothaches in other situations. We will explain when rinsing with salt can be beneficial.

  • After a tooth extraction. If you just had a tooth extracted, a salt water rinse is the perfect mouth rinse to use on an open extraction socket. This is because anything that is alcoholic or acidic will burn the open wound. Think of when you get a cut and you apply alcohol on it to clean. You're only suppose to do it one time and then after that you're suppose to just use clean water. The same applies to after a tooth removal procedure. You don't want to aggravate it so use salt water only please. It will help reduce inflammation as well as prevent food from getting stuck in the hole.

  • After gum treatment. If you just finished periodontal treatment such as a deep cleaning where you had scaling and root planing for your teeth, your gums were bleeding a lot during the procedure. In order to get the gum swelling and gum bleeding down, you should rinse with salt water. Salt water rinses help with inflammation.

  • Normal everyday bleeding gums. It doesn't have to be after visiting the dentist, if your gums are bleeding on an every day basis, you can use the salt rinse to help control the bleeding. In fact, it means you should be brushing, flossing, and rinsing even more than what you are doing right now. If it doesn't resolve, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist.

Final thoughts

Salt water rinsing is a very simple home remedy to fight toothaches. It will work for some situations and it also won't work for other scenarios. It all depends on the cause of the toothache. If you are unsure, it is best to just schedule a dental check with with your dentist. Our long island city dentists are always available to take your call.

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