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List of Home Remedies For a Toothache: Which Ones Work?

Are you having an unbearable toothache that has paralyzed you from focusing on daily activities and even sleeping? You're desperate for pain relief, so desperate that you've been scouring the internet for toothache home remedies.


But, will they give you the tooth pain relief that you've been seeking or are they simply delaying the inevitable, seeing the dentist? Unfortunately, the answer is the latter. Today, we're going to review all of the purported home remedies for a toothache and explain why they're mostly ineffective at alleviating your tooth nerve pain.


Table of Contents:


 

Why toothache home remedies fail

There are 3 major reasons why home remedies won't kill your tooth nerve permanently.

  • They're NOT an analgesic.

  • They're unable to penetrate through the tooth to affect the tooth nerve.

  • They can be outright dangerous.


An effective remedy for alleviating tooth pain should be able to numb the tooth nerve. However, it needs to be able to reach the nerve because if it can't, it's useless. Last but not least, it must be safe for oral use otherwise it's not worth the risk.


Unable to penetrate tooth nerve

Most of these remedies fail to penetrate through the tooth and reach the tooth nerve. What we mean by that is, your tooth has two layers protecting the pulp, the dentin and enamel. These two layers act as a barrier and prevent your remedy from contacting the nerve, thus rendering it completely ineffective.


Tooth Anatomy - Mouthhealthy
Credit: Mouthhealthy - ADA

If what you're using doesn't reach the pulp of the tooth, it will not work.


 

List of home remedies for tooth pain

This is an extensive list of alleged home remedies for killing nerve in tooth. We're going to provide a brief description of what they are and then grade their effectiveness based on the three criteria above.


Baking Soda

Baking soda has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and can potentially be used for arthritis. It is also recommended as a rinse for pregnant women with morning sickness induced vomiting. Despite these benefits, it has very little effect on your tooth pain.

  • Not an analgesic.

  • Unable to penetrate through dentin and enamel.

  • No adverse effects from rinsing with it. Can even prevent enamel erosion.


Bleach

Allegedly, some people have tried using bleach to kill a tooth nerve. Yes, the same exact product you use to clean your bathroom with. However, this remedy isn't recommended due to its unsafe side effects.

  • Bleach can kill the nerve.

  • Unable to penetrate through dentin and enamel.

  • Can cause sodium hypochlorite accident, which requires hospital visit.



Brake Fluid

We're honestly not sure where the use of brake fluid for a toothache came from. Using an automotive product for oral purposes is as dangerous as it sounds. Keep it for your car and out of your mouth!

  • Brake fluid can't kill the nerve.

  • Unable to penetrate through dentin and enamel.

  • History of mass poisonings with a lethal dose of 1 ml/kg body weight.


The same rules also apply to using gasoline for a toothache, please don't do it.


Cold Compress

A cold compress is very useful to reduce post-surgical swelling such as from wisdom teeth removal. It's not exactly an analgesic but the cold can numb the area giving you a sense of pain relief.

  • Doesn't numb the tooth nerve but does numb the skin around the jaw.

  • Unable to penetrate through dentin and enamel.

  • Safe to use with 15 mins on and 15 mins off.


Essential Oils

Essential oils are oils extracted from a plant which gives it the essence of its smell. The word essential does not indicate a critical need for the human body. However, these oils often come with anti-inflammatory or antibacterial properties.


Essential Oil

Analgesic

Affects Tooth Nerve

Safe

Basil oil

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes


How to use essential oils for toothache:

  • Mouth rinse - add a few drops into a cup of water and swish with it.

  • Apply on tooth - add a drop onto a q-tip or cotton ball and dab it on the affected tooth.


Hydrogen Peroxide

A hydrogen peroxide rinse is a powerful antiseptic and oral debriding agent. It can be used as a first aid to treat small cuts and abrasions. Some use it as a daily mouthwash while others use it as a whitening mouthwash. However, what it doesn't do is deaden the tooth nerve.


Listerine

Listerine is a wonderful antiseptic mouth rinse that can eliminate 99.9% of bacteria in the mouth. However, that doesn't mean that Listerine can kill your tooth nerve since it doesn't have any anesthetic effects.

  • Listerine is an antiseptic and not an analgesic.

  • Unable to penetrate through dentin and enamel.

  • Can cause intoxication if accidentally swallowed.


You can rinse with it to reduce bacterial load in your mouth but don't expect pain relief.


Natural Food Based Remedies

Pain medication, whether in pill form or gel form, is effective at temporarily relieving a toothache. For the most part they are safe when used as instructed but where they fall short is their inability to treat the source of the pain. You still need to see a dentist for permanent treatment.


These are natural home remedies that are all food based. They're mostly harmless so you can give them a try if you want. However, their efficacy in alleviating toothaches leaves much to be desired.


Food

Analgesic

Affects Tooth Nerve

Safe

Apple cider vinegar

No

No

Yes

Cayenne pepper

Yes

No

No

Cinnamon

No

No

Yes

Coconut oil

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Guava leaves

No

No

Yes

Honey

No

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

Wheatgrass

No

No

Yes


Pain Medication

Pain medication, whether in pill form or gel form, is effective at temporarily relieving a toothache. For the most part they are safe when used as instructed but where they fall short is their inability to treat the source of the pain. You still need to see a dentist for permanent treatment.


Medication

Analgesic

Affects Tooth Nerve

Safe

Acetaminophen

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ibuprofen

Yes

Yes

Yes

Anbesol

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes


Unbeknownst to most, there are pain medications which combines multiple painkillers into one formulation. In our experience, these tend to work better than taking them individually.


Rubbing Alcohol

While isopropyl alcohol can be used to disinfect a lot of things, you shouldn't use it for your mouth. It's certainly not an anesthetic because it burns when you use it on an open wound so don't expect rubbing alcohol to kill your tooth nerve.

  • Rubbing alcohol is an antiseptic but not an analgesic.

  • Unable to penetrate through dentin and enamel.

  • Can cause intoxication if accidentally swallowed.


This product is better served as a first aid ointment after a small cut or scrape.


Salt Water Rinse

Salt water is a simple but effective antiseptic rinse that is often used after tooth extractions. Using it may make you feel better by keeping the tooth clean but it doesn't have actual analgesic properties.

  • Salt water is an antiseptic and not an analgesic.

  • Unable to penetrate through dentin and enamel.

  • Very safe to use and harmless.


How to use:

  1. Add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water.

  2. Stir the saline mixture lightly.

  3. Rinse vigorously for 2 minutes by swishing around.

  4. Spit out and repeat as needed.


Tea bags

In lieu of drinking brewed tea for comfort and pleasure, they've also been used to address tooth pain. They can be soothing and often come filled with antioxidants.


Type of Tea

Analgesic

Affects Tooth Nerve

Safe

Green tea

No

No

Yes

No

No

Yes


How to use:

  1. Brew hot water and steep tea according to instructions.

  2. Let it cool for a few minutes.

  3. Swish it around your mouth for 1-2 minutes.

  4. Repeat as necessary.


Toothache Plant

Lab studies have shown that it can block A-delta mechanonociceptors thus resulting in reduced pain. Eating this plant will cause you to hypersalivate, cooling of the throat, tingling, and numbing of the mouth. It is actually very similar to a sichuan peppercorn.


Other names of toothache plant:

  • Spilanthes acmella

  • Jambu

  • Electric daisy

  • Paracress

  • Buzz button

  • Eyeball plant

  • Szechuan button


Willow Bark

The bark of a willow tree has been used since ancient times to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. People were often advised to chew on it to receive these benefits. It is also called "nature's aspirin" since it contains salicin which is similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). In fact, it was how aspirin was developed back in the 1800s.


willow bark extract - now foods
willow bark extract - now foods

What it can do:

  • Willow bark is an analgesic, similar to aspirin.

  • Can systematically affect pulp and offer relief

  • Contraindications: aspirin allergy, asthma, diabetes, gout, gastritis, hemophilia, stomach ulcers, or with kidney or liver issues.


 

When to see a dentist

If you're experiencing tooth pain, you should see a dentist especially if its severe enough to throb. However, even if it's just a mild toothache, you should still go just to get it checked out.


The reason is because even if the home remedy that you use has analgesic properties, it will only temporarily relieve the pain. To get rid of the discomfort permanently, you need to treat the source of whatever is causing it and only a dentist can do that.


Causes of toothaches:

  • Tooth nerve pain. Pain stemming from the pulp needs to be treated with a root canal.

  • Tooth decay. Cavities need to be excavated and then restored with a filling.

  • Abscess or infection. These need to be drained or have the tooth extracted.

  • Broken tooth. Home remedies can't repair a chip or fracture.


Only your dentist can permanently kill your tooth nerve and give you long lasting pain relief.


Our recommendation for at home pain relief

The best thing to do is to see a dentist but while you're waiting for your appointment, there are a couple of things you can do to alleviate the pain.


How to relieve toothache at home:

  1. Take advil dual action (it contains ibuprofen AND acetaminophen).

  2. Keep your mouth clean. This means brushing and flossing because plaque and food can irritate the teeth.

  3. Rinse with salt water. Helps to keep the teeth clean and it's the most gentle rinse.

  4. Elevate your head if you need to sleep.

  5. Use a cold compress.

  6. Avoid triggering foods. Sweet, spicy, or acidic foods can make the pain worse.


The most underrated pain relieving technique is not taking ibuprofen with acetaminophen. It's almost as if its a well kept secret but research shows that when taken together it can be as effective as opioids.


Note: Please follow the directions on the product label!


 

Takeaway

Unfortunately, most toothache home remedies don't work because they're either not an analgesic, they can't reach the nerve, or they're just not safe to use. Rather than waste your time and money trying solutions that you know won't work, you should just see a dentist.


Getting professional help from one of our dentists in Long Island City is the fastest way to relieve your tooth pain permanently. Any home brew remedy will only prolong the time that you're in pain and delay what inevitably needs to happen.

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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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