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Will Bleach Kill a Tooth Nerve?

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Bleach can kill your tooth's nerve but under ordinary circumstances it'll be totally ineffective, such as rinsing with it at home. We recommend against attempting this home remedy due to safety concerns.


Clorox bleach toilet bowl cleaner

There are much safer and effective ways to alleviate tooth nerve pain that won't land you in the emergency department. Let us tell you all about it but we'll debunk some other other home remedies while we're at it as well.


Table of contents:


Can bleach kill the tooth nerve?

Bleach (NaClO) can in fact kill the nerve of your tooth because it is the main irrigant that is used to disinfect the canals during a root canal treatment. The sodium hypochlorite is so potent that it can literally dissolve the pulp and it's nerve tissues within the tooth.


If you don't believe us, there are plenty of studies which prove it to be true. Here is one study from the Journal of Endodontics which compared the efficacy of bleach vs chlorhexidine (antibacterial) in disinfecting the canal.


  • Biosynthetic alterations in cellular metabolism

  • Phospholipid destruction

  • Formation of chloramines that interfere in cellular metabolism

  • Oxidative action with irreversible enzymatic inactivation in bacteria

  • Lipid and fatty acid degradation


Put simply, bleach coming into contact with the pulp results in liquefaction of organic tissue.


Is bleach really used during endodontic therapy?

For those of you who've had a root canal before, you may recall having a rubber dam placed on your tooth as well as smelling bleach during the entire procedure. The reason you were smelling bleach is because your dentist was constantly disinfecting and flushing out the canals with sodium hypochlorite.


Although your dentist most likely isn't using pure Clorox because they usually purchase a dental specific one that has other ingredients mixed in it for increased effectiveness. It is all for the sake of permanently eliminating your aching nerve.


edge endo sodium hypochlorite
Sodium hypochlorite

Nonetheless, the main ingredient in the nerve disinfectant killer is predominantly sodium hypochlorite which is bleach. Thus, if you thought you were smelling bleach, you weren't wrong.


That brings us to our next point, which is why you had a rubber dam placed on your tooth. If you recall, it was a huge rubber contraption. The reason you have that on is to prevent sodium hypochlorite accidents, which is you swallowing the bleach. The rubber dam protects you from bleach incidents.


rubber dam on manikin
Credit: Coltene - Hygienic

Is rinsing with bleach safe?

While bleach is able to kill your teeth's nerve, it is unsafe to rinse with it because you could end up at the hospital. The reason your dentist gives you a rubber dam is to prevent you from swallowing any of it because you could end up with a sodium hypochlorite accident.


Side effects:

  • Chemical burn

  • Tissue necrosis

  • Rapid tissue swelling

  • Sudden onset of pain

  • Acute sinusitis

  • Bruising and ecchymosis


Treatment for these symptoms may necessitate hospitalization. You will most likely be administered IV antibiotics and steroids. Potential drainage and debridement may also be necessary to reduce the swelling.


Does that sound safe to you and is it something you want to risk? Clearly the answer is no, because you shouldn't do it.


Why this home remedy doesn't work

Putting aside all of the adverse effects, there is another reason why you shouldn't use bleach to kill your own tooth nerve. If you attempt to rinse your mouth with bleach, it will have zero effect on your tooth pain.


In order to kill the tooth nerve with bleach, it needs to be able to come into direct contact with it. Under normal circumstances, the pulp of the tooth is protected from the external oral environment by the dentin and enamel layer.


tooth anatomy diagram
Credit: Mouthhealthy - ADA

In other words, the bleach is unable to penetrate through the layers of the tooth in order to exert its effect on the nerve. Thus, if you were hoping to kill the nerve in 3 seconds or less, you should temper your expectations.


In case you were wondering, it is a different story for your dentist because they first drill a hole through the enamel and dentin for direct access to the pulp. Once there, then they irrigate the tooth nerve directly with bleach.


What we're trying to say is that unless you're able to drill through your own tooth to create a pathway for the bleach to kill the nerve, your efforts will be for naught.


Other popular home remedies

There's a plethora of proposed home remedies to kill the tooth nerve but they all fail in the same manner. None of them can penetrate through the tooth to reach the pulp. In order to even make it remotely effective, you need to drill a hole through the tooth to reach the nerve.


Other home remedies which also doesn't work in killing nerve of tooth:

  • Listerine

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Clove oil

  • Salt water

  • Vanilla extract

  • Brake fluid


Guaranteed way to kill the tooth nerve

If you're experiencing an unbearable toothache, the best way to kill the nerve is by seeing a dentist. The pulp is well insulated and protected by layers of dentin and enamel which prevents home remedies from affecting it.


Your dentist is able to bypass this hurdle because they can drill through the layers of your teeth to create a direct pathway to the nerve. From there, they can physically remove the nerve via root canal treatment and eliminate the remaining pulp tissue with bleach.


What if I am unable to make it to the dentist

We understand that not everyone will be able to get to the dentist immediately which is why we'll provide one way to temporarily lessen the tooth pain that you may be feeling.


In lieu of the home remedies which we described earlier, you should try taking a specific pain killer, Advil Dual Action. It's not just ibuprofen because it is ibuprofen mixed with acetaminophen.


advil dual action

The combination of the two pain medications can drastically increase the pain alleviation much more so than taking a similar dose of each of them separately. Make sure you follow the instructions on the label properly.


The Verdict

No, you shouldn't attempt to use bleach in any form or way to try and kill your tooth nerve because it won't work. It is dangerous and can potentially send you to the hospital. What you should do instead is see a dentist as soon as possible so you can get permanent tooth nerve pain relief.


In the meantime while you wait for your appointment, you should consider taking Advil dual action to help reduce the discomfort. Just make sure you're not allergic to either of the medications and that there are no contraindications to any of your health conditions.


PS: Our emergency dentists in long island city can provide you the tooth pain relief that you've been looking for.

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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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