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Will Thyme Oil Kill a Tooth nerve?

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Thyme oil can temporarily kill a tooth nerve because it's an analgesic but it's only effective in very limited situations. That means despite its analgesic property, it may not provide you with the tooth pain relief that you're seeking if you use it improperly.


thyme oil

However, you should keep in mind that the oil of thyme 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'll need to see a dentist to treat the etiology of your toothache.


Table of contents:


Does it work?

Thyme oil is an essential oil that is derived from the herb thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and it can help alleviate a toothache.


lemon thyme plant
lemon thyme plant

It works because it is a legitimate analgesic and it's effects have been proven in research studies. The bulk of its beneficial effects actually stems from the presence of carvacrol in the oil. That is a phenolic monoterpenoid that is found in many other essential oils (oregano, pepperwort, wild bergamot, etc) as well.


Carvacrol molecular structure
Carvacrol - Credit: Edgar181

In addition to the anesthetic potential, it also has a plethora of other helpful benefits as well.


It's an analgesic

Studies have demonstrated that thyme oil or rather, carvacrol is an analgesic and can potentially be used for analgesia. We'll provide three research studies as reference.


First study

This study tested the numbing efficacy of carvacrol for orofacial pain.

  • Lips of rats were injected with carvacrol.

  • Scientists applied various irritants such as capsaicin (hot sauce) on the lips.

  • Results concluded that the essential oil was effective in blocking pain signals.

Second study

Third study


In summary, this essential oil is a proven analgesic agent and will provide pain relief to all types of bodily ailments, which includes tooth pain.


Other benefits

  • Antimicrobial

  • Antitumor

  • Antimutagenic

  • Antigenotoxic

  • Analgesic

  • Antispasmodic

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Angiogenic

  • Antiparasitic

  • Antiplatelet

  • AChe inhibitory

  • Anti-elastase

  • Insecticidal

  • Antihepatotoxic and hepatoprotective activities


 

How to use it

There are three common ways to use thyme oil for toothaches.



Rinsing method

  1. Add 1-2 drops of the thymus vulgaris oil into a cup of water.

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

  3. Spit out and rinse out with water thoroughly.

  4. Repeat 2-3x per day.

Dropper method

Dabbing method


Where to buy

Thyme oil is readily available at most pharmacies and supermarkets in the vitamins and health supplement aisle. Alternatively you could always just purchase this online if you can't find it in person.


When it helps and doesn't

Despite thyme oil's tooth numbing potency 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 dramatically decreases.


When thyme oil is effective for a toothache

The thyme oil 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 tooth nerve. There is no physical barrier preventing this home remedy from exerting its analgesic effects.


When thyme oil doesn't work

The oil of thyme 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 all external stimuli with layers of dentin and enamel. These layers protect it from injury and also your toothache home remedy. That is the unfortunate truth.


Your dentist is able to bypass these barriers by drilling a hole through your tooth, thus creating direct access to the pulp chamber. From there, they can place whatever nerve calming medication directly into it.


Is thyme oil safe?

This home remedy is relatively safe to use and unlikely to cause any adverse effects when used orally for a toothache since it is a food. However, it can be harmful when misused or abused in very high doses.


One research study tested oral use of thyme oil on rodents for 28 days. They found that ingesting this essential oil for up to 500 mg/kg of bodyweight was still safe. There were no observed side effects when taken below this limit.


How much is 500 mg/kg of thyme oil?

  • We couldn't find the exact amount for the essential oil but for the supplement version, there is 800 mg per tablet when taken by mouth.

  • The average adult male is 70kg when coverted from lbs which means you'd need to take well over 44 tablets for it even bypass the safety limits.



thyme supplement 800mg
thyme supplement 800mg

In summary, based on our findings, it is highly unlikely for you to ingest enough of this stuff to cause yourself harm.


Used in food

At the end of the day, thyme IS a commonly used herb in many cuisines to add additional flavoring. We've all eaten enough of it in our lifetime so you should know that if it was harmful, you wouldn't find it readily available at supermarkets!


organic thyme sold in supermarkets

Food recipes with thyme:

  • Roasted potatoes with thyme

  • Sauteed carrots with thyme

  • Thyme tea

  • Mushroom pasta with goat cheese & thyme

  • Salmon with capers & thyme


It's a very tasty addition to food.


Better alternative for toothache

A better toothache home remedy than thyme oil is taking pain medication. It will be more effective because it exerts its analgesic effects systemically rather than topically.

  • Pain medication are systemic. You swallow these painkillers and they get distributed via your blood stream. 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 thyme, are to use it topically. Rinsing or dabbing it on the tooth will have trouble reaching the pulp especially for an intact tooth.


Medication which works for a toothache:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, motrin)

  • Acetaminophen (tylenol)

  • Aspirin


Best painkiller for toothache

In our opinion, the most effective toothache medication would be Advil dual action because it contains ibuprofen mixed with acetaminophen in its formulation. We consider it the most potent OTC painkiller on the market.


advil dual action

Studies have shown that when these two painkillers are taken together, they exert a greater analgesic effect than if you only took one of them. The reason is because they inhibit pain via slightly different mechanisms.


acetaminophen with ibuprofen pain relief chart
Credit: Paul A. Moore, DMD, PhD, MPH; Hersh Elliot V., DMD, MS, PhD

 

When to see a dentist

If you want to permanently kill your tooth nerve and prevent it from ever coming back again, you should see a dentist. There are only two known dental procedures that can get rid of your nagging dental pain forever.


Professional nerve pain treatment:

  • 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 offer temporary relief at best if it works.


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 good practices to help minimize your discomfort.

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

  2. Rinse frequently with salt water. This helps to keep your mouth free of debris and plaque. It can also help neutralize acids and keep the mouth in a balanced pH.

  3. Take pain medication. Our recommendation is to take the advil dual action, which is the most potent OTC painkiller.

  4. Avoid activities which irritate the tooth. Whatever triggers it, don't do those activities.


The Verdict

While thyme oil can temporarily kill a tooth nerve, it is unlikely to be effective when used as a home remedy. The only time it works well is if you have an exposed nerve where you can directly apply the essential oil with carvacrol to it.


However if your tooth is mostly intact and you're having some type of tooth nerve pain, the oil from the thyme will not be able to penetrate through the layers of the teeth. This means there will be little to no soothing effect despite the proven analgesic properties.


We stand by that the best thing to do is see a dentist if you're having a toothache. They can stop it quickly by directly treating the nerve instead of temporarily trying to cover up the pain. If you're in Long Island City, our dentists can help alleviate your toothache.

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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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