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Do You Put Orajel On The Tooth or Gums?

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

Orajel is an over the counter local anesthetic in the form of a gel that is used to alleviate toothaches at home. The primary numbing agent in it is benzocaine, which is the same thing that your dentist uses prior to giving you the injection.


With that being said, if you're having a toothache where are you suppose to apply the orajel? Do you put it on the tooth or do you put it on the gums? The reason why you're probably asking is because the instructions on the label are a little bit vague.

Here is the exact label:

orajel directions label

The label simply states, "Apply to affected area up to 4 times daily or as directed by a dentist or doctor."

All it states is that you should apply it to the affected area but it doesn't specify if it should be placed on the gums or the tooth. That is most likely the cause for the confusion.

Our purpose here today is to provide you with more specific instructions on where to apply the orajel. We'll also give you our reasoning as to why you should do that.

Can you put orajel directly on the tooth?

Of course you can apply the orajel directly on the tooth if you're having a toothache. The instructions definitely says that you should put it on the affected area. If the tooth is the affected area then yes you would put the numbing gel on your tooth.

Orajel 4x

However, you should be aware that this will only be effective if the pain that you're feeling is indeed coming from the tooth. What we mean by that is, most people use the term toothache to refer to generalized pain in the oral cavity without any specifics.

Unfortunately, the dental pain that you're experiencing could be coming from the tooth or it could be coming from the gums. You need to be able to determine which one it is coming from first.

For example, if you're having a gum issue but you put the orajel on the tooth, its not going to help the pain coming from the gums very much.

Therefore, for this method to be effective you must be having pain that is coming from the tooth itself. Applying orajel on the tooth directly if the tooth is causing you pain will give you the best results.

Can you put orajel directly on the gums?

There are no restrictions to using orajel directly on the gums. The instructions on the label do say that you can apply it to the affected area and if its the gums that is affected area then yes you can use it.


Once again, we do want to emphasize that applying orajel on the gums will only be effective in relieving tooth pain if the pain is coming from the gums. Putting the numbing gel on the sore and tender gums will offer you pain relief.

If you put the orajel on the gums but the pain happens to be coming from the tooth, you won't see much of an effect at all. This is why it is important to figure out where the toothache is coming from.

Where should you put the orajel, on the tooth or on the gums?

Where you should be applying the orajel would depend on where the pain is coming from.

  • If the pain is coming from the tooth, you should put it on the tooth.

  • If it is coming from the gums then you should put it on the gums.

That makes sense doesn't it? If you put the numbing gel in the wrong spot, it won't help you with pain relief! Of course this would all depend on whether or not you're able to pinpoint what exactly is bothering you.

Are you having a tooth problem or are you having a gum problem?

What if I apply the orajel to the tooth and the gums?

You may be wondering... if you're unsure about where the pain is coming from could you put the orajel on both? You may be surprised but you can in fact apply the numbing gel to the entire tooth and the gums if you're unable to determine the source of pain.

There are no side effects with numbing the entire region. Therefore, this is an option if you don't really know where the pain is coming from.

How to make it more effective

Sometimes people may not get enough of a numbing effect or pain relief from the orajel and the reason is due to saliva. If you let saliva pool around the area, it will wash away the orajel and also dilute it. This in effect will decrease the effectiveness of the OTC numbing gel.

Here is what you should do to make it more effective:

  1. DRY the tooth and gums with some paper towels.

  2. Rub the orajel onto the tooth and the gums for about 1-2 minutes.

  3. Let the numbing gel sit there for about 5-10 minutes.

  4. Try your best to keep the area dry so that the numbing effect is maximized.

  5. Rinse out your mouth.

Just so that we're clear, the numbing effect of the orajel does not last forever. It does have a set numbing time limit. Read our article here to learn more about how long orajel lasts.


Where you should be applying the orajel would depend on where the pain is coming from.

If it is your tooth that is giving you pain, you should put it on the tooth. That would make it more effective. If you're putting it on the gums while the tooth is hurting, you won't see much of an effect.

The same is true for gum pain because if its your gums that are hurting, you should apply it to the gums. If you put it on the tooth, the gums will continue to be in pain!

Last but not least, if you're unsure about where the pain is coming from you can actually just apply it to both the tooth and the gums so that it numbs both. Of course, this isn't as specific and you are wasting more of the product but if its a last ditch effect then we do understand.

Our only tip is that orajel works the best if you're able to keep the environment dry. Try your best to dry the area and keep it dry while the gel is working its magic. You'll find much more effective pain relief if you do that.

When people think that their orajel is not working it is most likely due to incorrect use and also the presence of saliva. If you're really not sure you can always make an appointment for a dental check up so that your dentist can get down to the root of it!


David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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