Toothache pain can be a minor annoyance to a major disruption of life. While your dentist is the only one who can identify severe tooth pain, there are many tooth pain remedies you can try at home for temporary relief. Depending on the cause of your toothache, certain remedies are likely to work better.
For instance, if you have an exposed tooth nerve, a numbing gel or clove essential oil may work. For a tooth abscess from untreated tooth decay, an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen is going to be more effective.
If you are in severe pain, have had pain for more than 2 days, or experiencing other symptoms with your toothache, call your dentist right away.
The best toothache remedies to try at home are:
Salt Water Rinse
The best way to relieve most tooth pain at home is a salt water rinse.
To rinse with a supersaturated salt rinse, start with a glass of warm water. Do not use boiling water. Mix in one tablespoon at a time of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt. Continue adding salt until it no longer dissolves. Swish the solution for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times per day.
This rinse is especially effective with gum pain and foreign body response to something like a poppy seed stuck in between the gums.
Over-the-counter toothache painkillers that can effectively relieve dental pain include ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Ibuprofen for toothache seems to be more effective than acetaminophen. Some clinical trials have found that a combination of both Advil and Tylenol may be effective, but this should only be done under the direction of your dentist. In general, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are best for oral pain relief.
Pain medications should be only a short-term option for toothache relief. Your dentist may prescribe you something stronger before you can come in for an appointment or if you need to use antibiotics before your dental work (like for an abscessed tooth).
Clove is an essential oil that may provide pain relief as strong as benzocaine. To use clove oil to treat a toothache, apply a very small amount to a cotton ball or swab and apply gently to the affected area.
Many patients find that this treatment works best for an exposed or irritated tooth nerve (like when a filling falls out or a deep cavity has exposed the inside of the tooth). Specific placement of the clove oil is crucial for success — it will only work if you place the oil near the pulpal tissue (the inner substance of the tooth).
Clove oil also has antibacterial properties, which means it can kill beneficial bacteria in the mouth and cause an imbalance in the oral microbiome. For this reason, we don’t recommend using this remedy for more than a couple of days.
Elevating your head above your heart can reduce excess blood flow to the inflamed tooth that can make swelling increase and pain worse. It sounds overly simplistic, but this small change can make a huge difference in tooth pain. Elevation with a wedge pillow is a common home remedy for a tooth abscess.
To sleep with a toothache, keep your head elevated with a wedge-shaped pillow or by stacking several standard pillows.
Use a cold compress to reduce inflammation that leads to a toothache. It can cause your blood vessels to constrict (tighten) and is extremely useful for helping you sleep.
Frozen peas or a plastic Ziploc bag with half water and half ice work great to keep the toothache area cold and reduce swelling. You can also try a wrap that lets you apply ice consistently to the area without having to hold it up to your face, like this one. It also works as a heat compress!
Some studies have shown that peppermint tea has antioxidant and antibacterial properties and can help in numbing painful areas. To give it a shot, brew a cup of peppermint tea, let it cool, and then swish around in the mouth. Add a bit of ice to cool it down faster.
Alternately, press a cooled peppermint tea bag against your painful tooth.
Some remedies for toothache can actually cause more problems than they solve. Others are popular folk remedies, but science does not support their effectiveness against tooth pain.
Hydrogen peroxide: Peroxide is a popular home remedy for toothache, usually due to its antibacterial properties. Unfortunately, this antiseptic may also be associated with increased rates of oral cancer. Plus, there’s no evidence it reduces toothache symptoms. It also disrupts the oral microbiome, which is the last thing you want if you’re trying to improve oral health.
Alcohol: Neither rubbing alcohol nor whiskey have been shown to offer the folkloric pain relief benefits they are often suggested to have. No, alcohol will probably not fix your toothache.
Aspirin on teeth: Rubbing an aspirin on the teeth is another old remedy suggested for toothaches. It not only doesn’t work; it will cause ulceration of the teeth, tongue, and all oral tissues it touches.