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Does Peppermint Oil Work For a Toothache?

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Peppermint oil can temporarily help alleviate a toothache because it is an analgesic but it's only effective for specific tooth conditions. That means despite its analgesic property, it may not provide you tooth pain relief if you use it for the wrong conditions.


Now - Peppermint oil

You should also keep in mind that the oil of peppermint is still a home remedy which means it does not treat the tooth pain source. If you want to kill your tooth nerve permanently, you will need to see an emergency dentist that can treat the etiology of your aching tooth.


Table of Contents:


Does it work?

Peppermint oil is an essential oil that is extracted from the leaves of a peppermint plant and it can help reduce your tooth pain by numbing the nerve. It is able to do this because of the active ingredient menthol within the oil.


The TRPM8 receptor is activated by menthol which provides a cooling sensation for your sensory neurons. That's where the calming, cooling, and pain relief comes from.


Analgesic property

Studies have demonstrated that peppermint oil or rather menthol is an analgesic and can be used in place of traditional anesthesia. We'll provide three research studies as reference.


First study: Post-herpetic neuralgia is a very painful condition but one study showed promising results using the oil of peppermint instead of other types of analgesics.

  • Patient applied the solution which contained 10% menthol to the affected area.

  • Woman experienced near instantaneous improvement in pain.

  • The pain relief even lasted for 4-6 hours after application.


Second study: The analgesic and anesthetic effects have been well documented for GI (gastrointestinal uses) particularly for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

  • Animal model studies demonstrated a relaxation effect on GI tissues.

  • Analgesic and anesthetic effects were observed in the central and peripheral nervous system.

  • Immunomodulating actions and chemopreventive effects were also possible.


Third study: Menthol has been well studied for the relief of acute and inflammatory pain in sports injuries, arthritis, and other painful conditions. In animal models, topical, oral or systemic administration of menthol elicited analgesia for acute, inflammatory, and neuropathic pain.


Dentists use essential oils

Believe it or not but dentists do use essential oils in their professional products. The most notable would be clove oil (eugenol) which is found in IRM (intermediate restorative material).


IRM - material sheet

This product is used as a sedative to calm down an irritated tooth nerve and provide pain relief. This is just additional evidence that if the essential oil has a numbing effect, it can work. However, you should be aware that there isn't a RX dental product that uses peppermint oil. Although the OTC product, orajel does contain menthol in it!


 

How to use peppermint oil for tooth pain

There are multiple ways (rinsing, dropper, dabbing) to use peppermint oil for a toothache. Give them all a try and see which one works best at alleviating your tooth pain.


Rinsing method:

  1. Add 1-2 drops of the peppermint oil into a cup of water to dilute it.

  2. Rinse with it by swishing around for 1-2 minutes.

  3. Spit out and rinse out thoroughly.

  4. Repeat 2-3x per day as needed.


Dropper method:

  1. Place a drop of the oil directly over the affected tooth.

  2. Let it sit on your tooth for as long as possible.

  3. Spit out and rinse if you accumulate too much saliva.

  4. You don't want to swallow excessive amounts of this essential oil.

  5. You may repeat this 2-3x a day as needed.


Dabbing method:

  1. Squeeze a drop of peppermint oil onto a cotton ball or q-tip.

  2. Dab it onto the affected tooth and surrounding gums.

  3. Leave it on the tooth for as long as possible.

  4. If you start pooling saliva, spit out.

  5. Rinse out once you've finished.

  6. Repeat 2-3x per day.


How long for it to work

After applying the peppermint oil via any of the above three methods, you should feel a cooling numbing effect within a few minutes. The reason is because it contains menthol and the most notable sensation is that minty sensation.


How it can last

According to that one study above with the post-herpetic neuralgia pain, the relief from peppermint oil lasted about 4-6 hours. That kind of relief is similar to taking pain medication.


When it helps and doesn't

Despite peppermint oil's analgesic effect it works most effectively if you're able to apply it directly onto the tooth nerve. If you're not able to place it into the pulp, the effectiveness will dramatically decrease.


When it works

The menthol is most effective at relieving a toothache when you have an exposed nerve. That means you've an open cavity or when a dentist drills a hole through the tooth to expose it.


It works because the essential oil is able to act directly on the inflamed and irritated nerve tissue. There is no barrier in the way preventing this home remedy from exerting its numbing and cooling effects.


When it doesn't work

The oil of peppermint is NOT effective if you're trying to douse an intact tooth with it. The essential oil will never be able to penetrate through the layers of enamel and dentin to even reach the tooth nerve.


Tooth Anatomy - Mouthhealthy
Credit: Mouthhealthy - ADA

Nature has designed the pulp of the tooth to be protected and insulated from external stimuli via the layers of dentin and enamel. Both of these layers protect it from injury and also your toothache home remedy. That is the unfortunate truth.


 

Side effects

Peppermint oil or rather, menthol is found in a lot of products including foods. In small quantities and low concentrations it is relatively harmless but excessive amounts can be harmful.


In fact, there was a near fatal case of overdose on this particular essential oil.

  • Patient was in a comatosed state and in shock.

  • The exact amount that caused the overdose was unknown but the patient intentionally did it as an act of suicide.


  • Heartburn

  • Nausea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dry mouth

  • Allergic reaction (rare)


Alternatives for toothache relief

A better alternative for a toothache home remedy than menthol from peppermint is taking pain medication. It is more effective because it exerts its analgesic effects systemically rather than topically.

  • Pain medication are systemic. You swallow these painkillers and they get delivered via your bloodstream. This helps it bypass the dentin and enamel which protect the nerve.

  • Essential oils are topical. Unfortunately the only way to apply these oils including peppermint, are to use it topically. Rinsing or dabbing it on the tooth will have trouble reaching the pulp especially for an intact tooth.


Medications which are effective for a toothache:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, motrin)

  • Acetaminophen (tylenol)

  • Aspirin


Any of the above will help alleviate your tooth pain. If it is mild it may get rid of it completely at least temporarily. However if it is severe, you may only see a mild improvement.


Professional help

If you want to permanently kill your tooth nerve and prevent the pain from ever coming back, you need to see a dentist. There are only two dental procedures in the world which can get rid of your toothache forever.


Toothache relieving dental procedures:

  • Root canal. This endodontic procedure will physically remove the nerve from the tooth, thus separating it for good.

  • Tooth extraction. This surgical procedure will physically remove the entire tooth along with its nerve from your jaw.


Both of these methods require mechanical treatment of the tooth nerve. You're not able to achieve this at home thus, all DIY home remedies will only offer temporary relief at best.


Tips on what to do in meantime

The best thing to do is book an appointment with your dentist. However, while you're waiting to be seen here are some tips on how to minimize your discomfort.

  1. Brush after every meal. Yes, you want to reduce irritants in your mouth like residual foods, acids, and plaque.

  2. Rinse frequently with salt water. This helps to keep your mouth free of debris and also helps to neutralize acids.

  3. Take pain medication. Our recommendation is to take Advil dual action, which is the best pain reliever for tooth pain.

  4. Avoid activities which irritate the tooth.


advil dual action

Takeaway

While peppermint oil can potentially alleviate a toothache, the pain will return if you don't treat the source. This home remedy is only meant as a temporary measure to hold you over until you can see your dentist. They can stop it quickly by directly treating the source of your aching tooth. FYI, our emergency dentists in Long Island City can help get you out of pain!

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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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