How Long Does ORAJEL Last: The Truth

Updated: Nov 7

Orajel can be purchased over the counter at any pharmacy but how long does it last for a toothache? Does it only work for mild toothaches or would it also work for more severe tooth pain? Our long island city dentists will tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.



How long does Orajel last?

According to the labels on the three most popular Orajel products, there is no official stated duration of effect. I want to emphasize that one more time, there is no statement on the product label which states how long the effects of Orajel last.


In order to prove this to you, we will go over all three products. What ingredients are in them and what their stated effects are.


Orajel - Medicated For Toothache Gel


Orajel

This particular product is meant to provide instant pain relief for mild toothaches only. There is no mention of how long Orajel lasts for pain relief.

  • 10% Benzocaine to relieve oral pain

  • Provides instant pain relief

  • Easy to apply

Ingredients:

  • 10% Benzocaine - oral pain reliever


Orajel 3X Medicated For Toothache & Gum Gel


Orajel 3X

This product is meant for toothaches and painful gums. The 3X does not mean that it has three times the effect but rather that it has 3 ingredients within it. There is no mention of how long Oraljel 3x lasts for pain relief.

  • 20% Benzocaine to relieve oral pain

  • Cooling relief to soothe gums

  • Relieves gum irritation

Ingredients:

  • Benzocaine 20% - oral pain reliever

  • Menthol 0.26% - oral pain reliever

  • Zinc chloride 0.15% - oral astringent


Orajel 4X Medicated For Toothache & Gum Gel


Orajel 4X

This product is meant to provide instant pain relief for severe toothaches and painful gums. The 4X does not mean that it is four times as effective but rather that it has four ingredients within it. There is no mention of how long Orajel 4x lasts for pain relief.

  • Clinical strength pain relief

  • Proven to kill harmful bacteria

  • Helps prevent infection

  • Cooling relief for gum irritation

Ingredients:

  • Benzalkonium chloride 0.13% - oral antiseptic

  • Benzocaine 20% - oral pain reliever

  • Menthol 0.5% - oral pain reliever

  • Zinc chloride 0.15% - oral astringent


Comparison of the 3 Orajel products

The strongest Orajel product is the 4X and it has more four times as many ingredients as the original. The 4X also has one more ingredient than the 3X and slightly higher concentrations. The concentration of benzocaine, which is the main numbing agent seems to have topped out at 20% for both the 3X and 4X. The menthol provides a cooling sensation which can help a little with the numbing effect similar to using an ice pack.



Is there a way to figure out how long the pain relief from Orajel lasts?

Even though Orajel won't tell us how long the effects lasts, we can still figure it out via extrapolated knowledge and clinical studies. You may be surprised but our dentists in long island city actually use a product that contains almost identical ingredients to Orajel.


Benzocaine

The product that we use as a numbing gel contains the same ingredient as Orajel, which is 20% benzocaine. The only difference is that this cannot be purchased over the counter and requires a dental license. Even though you may not be able to purchase it, the ingredient is identical.


The only ingredient within topical anesthetic that can numb the tooth and gums is Benzocaine so we should examine studies in relation to that.



Studies on Benzocaine's duration of numbing effect

The first study indicated that a 20% concentration of Benzocaine takes about 30 seconds to start producing a numbing effect. Then it took another 2-3 minutes for the full depth and intensity of numbing to be achieved. After that, the numbing lasted for as long as 5-15 minutes.


The second study stated that Benzocaine typically had a rapid onset of less than 1 minute before the numbing took effect. Then the effective duration of how long the numbing lasted was between 5-10 minutes total.


Conclusion based on the two studies

According to both studies, the numbing effect of Benzocaine can last up to 20 minutes at most. Since Orajel contains the same exact ingredient, we can confidently say that Orajel can last up to 20 minutes with each application.



How long does Orajel last in clinical practice?

In case you did not want to believe the two studies from above, we can provide you with real life evidence about how long Orajel lasts and how effective it is at numbing your tooth.


Your dentist uses the Orajel-like product as a pre-numbing gel. Emphasis on it being a PRE numbing gel and not a numbing gel. This is how your dentist uses it for numbing your tooth.

  1. Dry the gums with a piece of gauze.

  2. Apply the Orajel on a Q-tip and rub it on the gums.

  3. Let the gel sit for 1-2 minutes.

  4. Numb the tooth with an injection from a dental needle.

If you recall the last time you had a tooth filling, the above 4 steps was how the procedure went. Even after applying the Orajel, when your dentist gave you that dental injection it still seriously hurt. I'm sure you were thinking in your head, did that numbing gel even do anything?! If the Orajel truly numbed your tooth, that injection needle shouldn't hurt at all right? So yes, basically the gel does not numb you enough for you to not feel pain from the needle.


Last but not least, if you were to get a cavity filling and your dentist only used the Orajel, you would feel a lot of pain once they started drilling. You NEED that second numbing shot to fully numb the tooth. The Orajel is NOT enough to numb a tooth completely!



Why doesn't Orajel numb the tooth completely?

The reason why Orajel isn't very effective for numbing the tooth is because the gel isn't able to penetrate the surface of the tooth to reach the tooth nerve. This is why the product is labeled as a "topical" anesthetic. The label of topical means that it only works on the surface and not beyond that. This means that if you are having nerve pain coming from within the tooth, applying the gel on the surface won't do anything for the pain because it can't reach inside of the tooth!


The Novocaine or Lidocaine that your dentist uses to fully numb your tooth is not a topical anesthetic but rather a "local anesthetic". This means that it works in a localized region and it's not limited to just surface effects like the topical anesthetics.



What's the VERDICT?

Basically, the effects of Orajel will only last up to 20 minutes but it isn't very effective to begin with. Its not able to fully numb the tooth because the gel isn't able to penetrate through the tooth and into the nerve to numb it. At most it'll offer a tiny bit of relief but only for a mild toothache and it'll only last for 20 minutes.


If you were to use an Orajel product, we would recommend that you skip the original and the 3X and go straight for the Orajel 4X. Based on our research above, even the 4X won't provide you with the pain relief that you want if you have a severe toothache so there is essentially no point in using the weaker Orajel products.


Nonetheless, if you really need to relieve a toothache, you should come see one of our emergency dentists in long island city instead because we are experts at relieving tooth pain.


Author: This article was written by Dr David Chen, a restorative dentist in long island city.

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!