Home remedies for toothache will tide you over as you wait for a dentist appointment. Different home remedies deal with different types of toothache, with some being more effective than others.
This is a one-stop guide to toothaches and pain management. It covers the different causes of toothache and how to deal with each one. So before diving into individual remedies for toothache, take a moment to understand how and why toothaches happen.
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Home Remedies for Toothache: The anatomy of tooth pain
Nothing can take over your consciousness like the constant, nagging pain of a toothache. The pain can rob you of sleep, concentration, and peace of mind. It would not be weird to imagine a little goblin inside your tooth, chiseling away at your sanity. To ease your mind a little here is an explainer of what happens when tooth pain rears its ugly, annoying head.
The commonality of all toothaches is swelling or inflammation that often results in pressure at the site of the dental problem. In response to this pressure, nerve endings known as pain receptors transmit electrical impulses. These signals travel through the fifth cranial nerve, ultimately reaching the brain where they are interpreted as pain.
There are several root causes of the phenomenon that is known as a toothache. Each responds differently to different home remedies.
Common causes of toothache
Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that something needs fixing. By making life unpleasant, the sensation of tooth pain will ultimately drive even the most reluctant of us to seek dental help. There is nothing like a series of sleepless nights to eliminate the phobia that comes with the sights, sounds, and smells of the dentist’s office.
Not all toothaches are the same, meaning that different types of toothache manifest in different ways. For example:
1. Pain from tooth sensitivity
You are looking forward to your first sip of coffee until the hot liquid hits that tooth. The immediate pain takes over your consciousness for a minute or two.
Common causes of tooth sensitivity are:
- Thinning enamel
- Reaction to teeth whitening gels
- A loose dental restoration
- A minor fracture that exposes the dentine
- Receding gums that expose the tooth roots
When the sharp pang of pain lingers for minutes on end, there is every likelihood that a serious dental issue is at the root of the sensitivity.
2. Toothache from infection
This is the most common cause of toothache. An infection of the tooth or gums will cause inflammation, which is an immune response. Among other things, inflammation causes the dilation of the blood vessels that serve the site of the infection. This translates into swelling and pressure, which triggers the pain receptors in and around the tooth.
In the case of severe tooth decay or pulpitis, the resulting pain will alternate between sharp jabs of pain and duller, throbbing pain. The pain is usually worse at night, although a severe infection will make pain your constant companion. Pain that takes over your waking and sleeping moments points to a dental emergency.
3. Toothache from injury or trauma
A fall, an accident, or a blow to the mouth could inflict trauma to the teeth. The person that is fond of chewing on hard foods or objects could also injure and damage their teeth. Usually, trauma or injury to the teeth will cause a crack, fracture, or break to the tooth.
More often than not the fracture will expose and/or damage the dental pulp, which is the innermost part of the tooth. The pulp is where the nerves and blood vessels sit, making it vulnerable to tissue damage and death.
Tooth pain that results from injury or trauma varies. For a small crack that exposes the inner tooth, the pain may present as tooth sensitivity as you eat. If the injury damages the inner tooth, the pain will be constant, alternating between sharp pain and a dull throb.
4. Toothache from a loose restoration
The pain from a loose restoration feels a lot like the pain that comes with severe tooth decay or injury. It is an acute toothache, alternating between sharp jabs of pain and a dull, pulsating ache.
5. Toothache from an erupting wisdom tooth
Pain that presents as dull, persistent pressure could point to a troublesome wisdom tooth. Sometimes the pain pulsates, adding an extra layer of misery. The pain that happens when a wisdom tooth erupts is primarily due to pressure, with swelling resulting from said pressure.
If the growth trajectory of the culprit wisdom tooth is vertical, then a dentist may suggest that the patient power through their teething pains. In such cases, home remedies for toothache help to keep the person comfortable as their tooth grows.
Many more people suffer from impacted wisdom teeth, where obstructions like jawbone, gum tissue, or teeth block the erupting tooth. The permanent solution for an impacted wisdom tooth is extraction. Pain management only makes for a stop-gap measure.
6. Dental pain from teeth grinding
The types of toothaches that previous sections describe are easy to locate. This means that the person dealing with the pain will be able to identify the exact source of the pain. With situations like bruxism (teeth grinding) it is difficult to pinpoint the problem tooth that is the source of the pain. This is because there is no single point of pain.
Teeth grinding applies constant pressure to multiple teeth, causing stress to the teeth and the structures that support them. As a result, the pain is widespread and affects entire sections of the mouth. The pain could even spread to facial muscles and the ears.
Toothache from bruxism is usually dull, becoming more pronounced during meals. Some patients may experience throbbing along with the dull ache.
7. TMJ pain
The TMJs (temporomandibular joints) are a pair of hinge joints that connect the jaw to the skull. Sometimes these hinge-like joints develop a disorder that limits mobility and causes pain. The pain manifests as soreness of the teeth, gums, and jaw. In other words, TMJ pain is a dull (and at times acute) kind of toothache that affects multiple teeth.
There is a two-way correlation between teeth grinding and TMJ disorders. On one hand, teeth-grinding can be a symptom of TMJ disorder (TMJD). This happens when TMJD causes a bad bite, which in turn causes bruxism. On the other hand, chronic teeth grinding could also cause TMJD in the long term.
8. Referred pain
The source of referred pain has nothing to do with dental issues. As the name suggests, an unrelated health problem can refer pain to teeth. The most common cause of referred pain is a sinus infection.
Pressure from an inflammation of the sinuses could affect the tooth roots of the upper molars. This happens because these roots sit right under the sinus cavity. So when pressure builds up in the cavity, the tooth roots of the upper molars are also subject to this pressure.
In rare cases, systemic health issues like heart problems can lead to toothaches.
9. Discomfort from a dental procedure
A dentist will always give comprehensive after-care instructions after a dental procedure. These instructions include pain management measures that cover the duration of the patient’s recovery period. The pain management hacks work fine, and most patients will heal from dental procedures with minimal discomfort.
Post-procedure discomfort makes this list because dentists incorporate many of the remedies in the next section into after-care.
Home remedies for toothache: Natural and plant-based remedies for infection and inflammation
Some toothaches can only resolve after the intervention of a dentist. In cases of cavities or loose restorations, the toothache goes away after treatment.
In contrast, conditions like TMJ pain and sinus toothaches lend themselves to management rather than one-off treatments. One aspect of management is dealing with the toothache that comes with these conditions.
A deep dive into the different home remedies for toothache will reveal hacks for short-term and long-term pain relief. You will be happy to find that some remedies even have curative properties. Here are some of the ways to relieve pain and discomfort from oral health issues.
1. Saltwater rinse: An antibacterial that is also good for after-care following a dental procedure
Saltwater offers pain relief by doing several things. For one, the anti-microbial properties of salt manage and fight off bacterial attacks in the mouth. This in turn reduces inflammation and swelling at the problem tooth. Salt will also draw out excess fluid from the site of an infection or dental procedure, which further reduces swelling.
The happy result is a reduction of the pressure that causes pain in the tooth. A saltwater rinse helps with toothaches that result from a loose restoration, tooth decay, and to some extent, a troublesome wisdom tooth. In all three cases, a saltwater rinse is a stop-gap measure as you wait to see a dentist.
Saltwater is only a complete solution for aftercare following a dental procedure, where it has the added benefit of accelerating healing at the site of said procedure.
2. Cloves and clove oil
The clove is one of many holistic offerings from the peerless pharmacy that is Mother Nature. You may know cloves from the spice aisle but they have another trick up their figurative sleeves: They make a pretty effective painkiller.
Cloves are rich in Eugenol, an oily, organic compound that blocks pain receptors from transmitting signals to the brain. Eugenol also has antibacterial properties. The oil will reverse inflammation and the swelling/pressure that comes with it.
The most effective form of Eugenol is clove oil, an essential oil that is at least 80 percent Eugenol. Like most essential oils clove oil can be corrosive. This means that you’ll need to dissolve it in a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil.
How to use cloves to manage a toothache
Mix a few drops of clove oil with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Soak a cotton ball in the resulting mix. Run the cotton ball over the problem area and let it sit there. You should feel better in five to ten minutes. Swap out the cotton ball for a new one after three hours.
Alternatively, you can make clove paste by crushing cloves and mixing them with vegetable oil. It bears mentioning that clove paste is less potent than clove oil.
You could also do oil pulling, where you rinse the problem tooth by swirling a coconut-and-clove-oil mixture. Make sure to avoid swallowing because clove oil can cause a stomachache for the memory books. Occasional oil pulling is a great way to maintain oral health, not only deal with tooth pain.
The active ingredient of peppermint is menthol, a soothing compound that creates a cool sensation. Menthol also has numbing and anti-bacterial properties. You can use peppermint in its various forms:
You can make a cup of peppermint tea and leave it to cool. Rinse the problem area with the tepid tea and you should feel better in a few minutes. Drinking the tea is also an option because peppermint tea does not upset the stomach like clove oil does. If you want, you can instead place a slightly warm, wet peppermint tea bag over the painful area.
If you want rapid relief, go for the essential oil that comes from peppermint. Mix a few drops of peppermint oil with a tablespoon of the carrier oil of your choice. Olive, coconut, or sunflower oil works fine. Soak a cotton ball with the mixture and place it over the tooth. Pain relief should happen in minutes.
We proceed to another herb from nature’s pharmacy. Thyme is a cooking ingredient that has medicinal properties. It contains Thymol, a compound that a person with the right skills can extract. Thymol extract is an essential oil with antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Mix a few drops of thyme essential oil with a tablespoon of your choice of carrier oil. Next, soak a cotton ball with the mixture and place it over the problem area. The solution will begin to fight the infection and the inflammation that results from said infection. The happy result is pain relief as the pressure inside the problem tooth subsides.
Like the other essential oil remedies, you’ll need to make a new cotton ball after some hours.
Nature presents yet another cooking ingredient with medicinal properties. Garlic contains an oily compound that goes by the name of allicin. The allicin in garlic relieves toothache by killing the bacteria that cause infection. The inflammation that accompanies the infection goes away as well. Dealing with the root cause of the pain (infection and the resultant inflammation) eliminates the pain.
Garlic may not be as fast-acting as clove oil, but it gets the job done. You can apply it directly to the problem area as a paste. To make the paste, crush a clove of garlic and mix it with a little salt. Or you can chew a clove of garlic directly if you have the stomach for it.
Home remedies for toothache: Quick hacks for pain relief
The natural remedies from the previous section all tackle infection, inflammation, and the swelling that comes with inflammation. Some of the remedies actively numb the painful area.
This section moves on to the use of regular household items in the management of tooth pain.
1. Hydrogen peroxide rinse
Hydrogen peroxide kills a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria that cause infection in teeth and gums. It is an effective pain management solution for people that suffer from gum disease. Hydrogen peroxide will kill harmful bacteria in the gums while eliminating plaque, even in deep gum pockets.
By killing the infection, hydrogen peroxide will also reverse inflammation and the swelling that comes with it. This translates into pain relief in the short and medium-term. As such, the humble household peroxide rinse can be a companion to the person who suffers from gum disease.
To make a peroxide mouth rinse, mix equal parts water and three percent peroxide solution. Rinse the mouth with it as frequently as the dentist advises.
2. Cold compress or ice pack
Applying ice to an aching tooth does two things. One, the cold numbs the painful tooth and prevents nerve endings from transmitting pain signals.
The second trick that an ice pack performs has to do with swelling and inflammation. Infection causes the dilation of the blood vessels that serve the teeth. This increases blood flow to the tooth in the war effort to combat infection. Extra blood to the tooth means fluid buildup and swelling; also known as inflammation. The resultant pressure activates pain receptors, which transmit pain signals to the brain.
An ice pack will keep the blood vessels from dilating. This will in turn prevent a buildup of pressure and the pain that comes with it.
How to apply an ice pack to a painful tooth
Place an ice pack on the cheek or mouth, on the other side of the problem tooth. Hold it there for ten to twenty minutes. You will feel relief within a few minutes of placing the ice pack on your face. Take a 20-minute break and reapply the ice pack or compress.
Again, this is about minimizing pressure on the problem area. Keeping the head elevated during rest or sleep reduces blood flow to the head. This way, you avoid extra blood from reaching the already painful tooth.
Raise your head with a pillow, such that the head remains above the rest of the body. This, in combination with a second home remedy, will allow you to sleep in relative comfort.
Home remedies for a toothache: Medication for home use
For the person who prefers a more direct approach, over the counter medication will tide you over as you wait to see the dentist. That being said, it is always a good idea to consult a dentist, even if you talk on the phone. They will guide you on all matters regarding dosage.
1. Oral pain medication
Ibuprofen (commonly goes by brand names like Advil) will take care of mild to moderate pain. So will other kinds of over the counter medication. These rarely need a prescription from a dentist and it is possible to use the dosage on the package.
For more severe toothaches, a dentist may prescribe stronger pain medication. It is worth noting that a toothache that requires prescription painkillers is close to becoming a dental emergency. The dentist will likely set up an appointment to go with the prescription.
2. Topical ointments
Oral pain medication comes in pill form, while topical pain medications take the form of creams or gels. Many ointments will have benzocaine as the active ingredient. This makes them unsuitable for young children, leaving you to seek a suitable recommendation from a dentist.
Luckily, many dental practices are now offering teledentistry, making it easier for caregivers to get good information for their young charges.
There is a second, more ‘holistic’ category of topical pain relief that you can get from the chemist.
3. Dry socket paste
Dentists will recommend this option for patients recovering from a tooth extraction. The active ingredient in dry socket paste is Eugenol, the same compound that makes clove oil so effective.
You can buy the paste from a pharmacy or chemist.
Home remedies for TMJ toothache
TMJ toothaches affect the teeth, the jawbone, and muscles of the jaw and lower face. In the long term, TMJ treatment may include stress management techniques or orthodontic treatment to correct a bad bite. A diet rich in minerals like magnesium will help to manage jaw clenching.
For pain management, the usual home remedies for toothache will work just fine. A cold compress will numb the pain and a warm compress will relax the tense muscles around the jaw area. Over the counter medication will also help with the pain.
Jaw exercises and massages will relieve pain, relax the jaw and restore a wider range of motion. The welcome effects of exercises and massage become evident in minutes. Just as important is the use of a nightguard to prevent jaw clenching and teeth grinding during sleep.
Home remedies for sinus-related toothache
Getting rid of a sinus toothache involves managing the symptoms of a sinus flare-up. Easing the uncomfortable symptoms of sinus inflammation is as easy as:
- Steaming the airway by placing the face over a bowl of boiling-hot water
- Flushing the sinuses with a saline solution
A person who suffers from sinus infections will also likely have a prescription for sinus medication. This helps to deal with both the infection and the discomfort. A diet full of foods with anti-inflammatory properties can also help to manage sinus issues in the long term.
If the tooth pain persists after the sinuses clear up, see a doctor or dentist to find out why.
When to worry about that toothache
Toothache is a pretty good indicator that you need to see a dentist. Its steady, painful presence will be a reminder that you need to make that appointment. More often than not, the pain will grow to match the stubborn reluctance of even the most phobic person.
Here are signs that you need to see a dentist as a matter of urgency:
1. Fever points to a dental emergency
A toothache that does not respond to pain management is a cause for concern; more so when it comes with a fever. Severe pain and fever point to a serious infection that could affect systemic health. Anyone who experiences the two symptoms should find an emergency dentist (or doctor) in their area.
It is a good idea to identify emergency dental care providers that you can reach with one call. Have their contact information, their hours, and their locations at hand. This information could come in handy in a bind.
2. Excessive, prolonged bleeding after a dental procedure
Slight bleeding is normal after a dental procedure. The flow should slow to a few drops in a matter of hours. However, steady, heavy bleeding could be the result of a post-procedure complication.
Heavy bleeding is usually accompanied by pain that is hard to manage. If this happens, get to a dentist or hospital immediately.
This symptom usually comes with the pain and fever of infection. It may also point to postoperative complications after a dental procedure. A combination of pain, swelling, and/or fever is a dental emergency that needs immediate medical attention.
4. A toothache that lasts for days on end
That stubborn toothache that refuses to go away should concern you, even if you work out a way to manage it. See a dentist to treat the cause of the toothache before it morphs into a bigger, more painful problem.
5. Excessive, prolonged bleeding after injury
Again, this type of bleeding will come with severe pain. This is not the kind of situation that lends itself to home remedies. The contact information of an emergency dentist is invaluable in scenarios that involve injury. You could also seek medical help at a hospital or urgent care facility.
6. Visible signs of tooth decay or injury
A tell-tale sign of tooth decay is discoloration. Even if home remedies do a good job of pain management, see a dentist as soon as possible. Tooth decay is an infection that will progress if left to its own devices.
Timely treatment may save you from more intensive treatment later on. It may even save your tooth from extraction in the long term.
7. Limited movement of the jaw
If jaw and facial pain make it near impossible to open and close your mouth, you need to see a dentist. TMJ and/or teeth grinding can take away from your oral health and your overall quality of life.
Let a dentist get to the root cause of the pain. The solution may be as simple as a nightguard.
Home remedies for toothache as preventative measures
The occasional hydrogen peroxide rinse will remove slight stains and plaque. Oil pulling with clove oil is also a good way to cleanse the mouth of bacteria now and then.
A nice cup of hot peppermint tea is good for the immune system and good for your mouth. As a matter of fact, all the plant-based home remedies in this article double as spices or food. This means that you can enjoy them without having to endure a toothache.
Most importantly, normalize routine visits to the dentist; even when you are free of dental pain. Routine dental checks allow the dentist to spot small problems like cavities before they grow to cause toothache. The good news is that treatment for minor dental issues can be as painless as the application of dental sealant.
All roads lead to the dentist
Home remedies for toothache can give you a little peace of mind in the short term. The better option is to have us take care of the tooth pain once and for all.
Our dentist has vast experience in treating oral health issues that cause toothache. Get in touch with us to find out how they can get you back to your old, pain-free self.