We don’t have to tell you—toothaches are not fun. There’s the pain of a throbbing toothache as if a drummer—or, more likely, the entire marching band—found their way into your right incisor and decided that it was a good spot for a halftime show. Then there’s the sharp, shooting pain like lightning that intermittently flashes through your left molar. Or the constant soreness in your teeth or sensitivity and ache when you’re eating and chewing.
Whatever type of pain you’re suffering from, the pain caused by toothaches can be all-consuming. You’re eating on only one side of your mouth to avoid that touchy tooth. You’re losing out on sleep because the marching band has just decided that your bedtime is the best time for an encore. You’re avoiding your favourite crunchy foods altogether—bye, bye peanut brittle—and beginning to wonder if blended spaghetti isn’t the next food trend. At this point, all you’re capable of thinking about is how much your tooth hurts and whether or not you can just pull it out yourself.
Before you reach for the pliers and re-enact a scene from a gory horror flick, we have dentist-approved home remedies for toothache pain that can offer you some relief.
Salt Water Rinse
Pain relief for toothaches, thy name is saltwater rinse. It might almost seem too obvious or simple, but for many instances of toothaches and related pain, a simple saltwater rinse is the cure. Some toothaches are the result of food particles getting caught either in your gums or in between your teeth—popcorn skins, we’re looking at you. In these instances, rinsing with warm salt water, or even just warm water, can loosen food debris and relieve pain. This is a great solution for times when you don’t have floss on hand or for when your teeth are feeling too sensitive. Salt is also a natural disinfectant, so it will keep your mouth clean in case that popcorn skin did any real damage. Also, if your toothache is the result of an infection, a simple rinse with warm salt water can kill off bad bacteria and provide temporary relief from your pain.
Combine anywhere from 1/2tsp to 1tsp of salt with a glass of warm water and swish it around in your mouth for 30seconds. You can repeat this throughout your day as needed but if you’re rinsing more than five times a day, you may need to see a dentist. See a dentist anyway—we’re happy to have you.
Is your toothache the result of trauma? Sometimes, we just can’t help but bite down on that everlasting gobstopper. Toothaches resulting from trauma are almost always transitory—they’ll pass once the swelling goes down. In the meantime, however, that throbbing pain can be more than just a minor inconvenience. Fortunately, an improvised cold compress is sufficient to reduce pain and swelling. Cold compresses cause blood vessels to constrict, thus numbing the area and providing relief from excessive pain.
Wrap ice or an ice pack—yes, even frozen peas will do—in a blanket or dish towel and apply it to the area that hurts in 20-minute intervals throughout the day. Keep in mind that exposing bare skin to ice for prolonged periods of time can result in injury. And note that it’s still important to check in with your dentist. Trauma to teeth can cause chips and cracks that are not visible to the untrained eye. It’s always better to be safe, rather than… toothless.
Peppermint Tea Bags
This home remedy for pain relief comes with the added benefit of a warm cup of tea. A 2015 study found that peppermint oil has anti-microbial properties that can benefit oral and dental health. Though not officially a treatment or remedy, your dentist won’t object to the application of peppermint tea bags to problematic teeth.
Apply a warm peppermint tea bag directly to the site of your toothache and let the oils do their thing. Or, to combine the benefits of peppermint oil with the sweet relief of a cold compress, place the teabag in the freezer until it has chilled, and then apply it to your toothache.
Over-the-Counter Pain Killers
Any good medicine cabinet has a bottle or two of over-the-counter pain medication such as Advil or Tylenol. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen are all effective pain killers—though one study suggests that ibuprofen is more effective against toothaches. To find fast relief from toothache pain, take one of these over-the-counter remedies as prescribed on the bottle. However, for prolonged use (i.e., more than one or two days) it is best to consult your dentist.
For that particularly persistent toothache, it’s time to bring out the big benzocaine. A clinical trial involving 576participants found that, in the correct dosages, benzocaine reduced acute toothache pain. Benzocaine is readily available and sold over-the-counter in various preparations. Common topical preparation brands include Topex, Orajel, Orabase, and Lanacane.
Benzocaine is safe for the majority of adults and children but the US FDA cautions against the use of benzocaine in any form for children under the age of 2. If you plan on using benzocaine for more than one or two days, you should consult with your dentist.
Toothaches can be an indicator of underlying dental or oral health issues such as gum disease or tooth decay that may require the attention of a dentist. If these home remedies didn’t relieve your pain or if you have reason to think that your toothache is the symptom of a more serious condition, you should make an appointment with your dentist. Contact us today if you have persistent tooth pain.