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Managing Tooth Pain

Medically reviewed by Til Jolly, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on January 7, 2023

That aching tooth might be a warning sign. Like most problems, it will only get worse the longer you ignore it. A toothache caused by decay or gum disease means the pulp of the tooth is irritated. This pain usually increases when you consume something hot, cold, or sweet. Abscesses occur when pus collects around the tooth’s root. Sometimes indicating a bacterial infection, abscesses are often accompanied by fever, swelling, and discharge along with tooth pain. Cavities, abscesses, impacted wisdom teeth –– all are potentially serious, and can even become life-threatening dental issues. Using home remedies for teeth pain relief –– or chewing on one side of your jaw isn’t the answer. You need to contact a dentist. 


Some toothaches are benign. New or adjusted braces, a minor injury, certain foods, cold drinks, even the weather can cause mild aches. Sinus pressure from allergies or colds can also cause discomfort. The best tooth pain relief home remedies are simple and inexpensive.It is also important to remember that the best treatment is prevention in the form of regular brushing, daily flossing, wearing mouth guards for contact sports, and regular dental checkups.


Over the Counter Drugs


For short-term tooth pain relief, there are a number of over-the-counter treatments. Allergy sufferers with tooth pain can treat both conditions with antihistamines. Ibuprofen can often reduce tooth pain’s severity although it should not be taken for more than a few days. Besides ibuprofen, other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can help reduce not only the pain but the swelling that sometimes accompanies tooth aches include aspirin and naproxen sodium (known by the brand name Aleve®). Unless your doctor approves it, don’t treat pain with over-the-counter medication for longer than 10 days. Still, some of the best tooth pain relief is more likely to be found in your kitchen pantry than your medicine cabinet. 

Salt Water and Hydrogen Peroxide Rinses


If you aren’t gargling regularly with salt water, you’re missing out. Gargling with salt water can treat minor sore throats, canker sores, and those tiny cuts we all get inside our mouths from time to time. A natural germ killer, the use of saline rinses for treatment of gum disease goes back at least as far as China in 2700 B.C.E. One study demonstrated its effectiveness at healing mouth wounds. Just add one-half teaspoon (two grams) of salt to an eight-ounce glass of warm water (about one-quarter of a liter.) For a rinse, swirl it gently around your mouth. You may feel some discomfort in the affected area, but that could mean it’s working. Always spit, never swallow!


Hydrogen peroxide offers a similarly effective treatment for minor toothaches. Regular use has a demonstrated effect on reducing plaque and healing bleeding gums. Make sure to dilute it! Add three percent hydrogen peroxide solution to an equal amount of water. As with the salt water, you should use it as mouthwash. Don’t swallow!


Garlic and Cloves


Garlic is more than just a vampire deterrent. It has been used as a medical treatment for millennia. An examination of multiple studies affirmed its effectiveness at killing plaque-causing bacteria. It has also been used to treat and even prevent numerous diseases. To use it for tooth pain relief, start with a fresh garlic clove. Grind it into a paste. You can also add a pinch of salt, then apply directly to the affected tooth. You can even chew a clove of garlic –- although no one you love will mistake it for spearmint gum.


Clove oil offers a less fragrant but equally effective pain reliever. Cloves provide a natural antiseptic called eugenol. They can also numb pain. Like saline solutions and garlic, cloves have been an effective home remedy for thousands of years. A recent medical study supports its efficacy. For tooth pain, you can dab a bit on a cotton ball and place on the troubled tooth. You can also dilute it with olive oil or add a few drops to water and use it as mouthwash.

Tea Leaves


Tea can be calming, and tea leaves might predict the future, but for tooth pain relief used peppermint tea bags are the solution. Make sure the tea bag is warm, not hot. Apply it directly to the tooth. Or place the bags in the refrigerator or freezer. When they are sufficiently cold, apply them to your teeth. Either way, peppermint tea is loaded with health-improving properties. It might not completely cure a toothache, but it will definitely freshen your breath.


Cold in general is one of the best tooth pain relief methods. That’s because blood vessels constrict as they cool––reducing pain sensations along with swelling. Just drop a few cubes into a hand towel and hold it to your cheek beside the aching tooth. 


For home remedies, always buy from a trusted supplier like a familiar health food store or your neighborhood grocer. If cloves, garlic, or other remedies are grown locally it’s always better. Be cautious when purchasing online, especially from larger companies that use third-party sellers. Buying fake or adulterated products can do more harm than good. 


Finally if your tooth pain is related to grinding, consider purchasing a mouth guard. Custom-made models are the best option, but if you are buying them at a store, choose the ones that are softest. Just remember that home remedies might provide temporary tooth pain relief, but they aren’t a substitute for regular dental care.   


Written by John Bankston

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