If you’ve ever had a toothache, you probably still remember its particular pain. (Or, if you have one now, you know exactly what we mean!)
Your teeth are unlike any other part of your body. Unless damaged or injured, your teeth are generally without feeling. The visible, outermost layer of your teeth (called enamel) is non-living and has no nerves or blood supply. Made of calcified minerals, your enamel is actually the hardest and most mineralized substance in your body!
While they’re tough on the outside, the core of each tooth contains delicate nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and cellular material (called dental pulp and dentin). Dental pulp and dentin are living tissues that are ideally protected by healthy enamel and cementum. But, if tooth enamel or cementum have been compromised, these sensitive inner tissues can easily become painful and irritated.
How toothache pain spreads
The real pain behind a toothache doesn’t end there. While trauma to other parts of your body causes an increased blood supply to promote healing, your dental pulp has limited space and low vascularity (blood supply). And, unlike muscle tightness or a soft tissue injury, you can’t massage, rest, compress, or elevate a tooth that’s throbbing. And, if that weren’t enough, your teeth and mouth are also directly innervated from your brain (via the trigeminal nerve), lending to strong communication with your brain’s pain receptors. Put another way, the large cranial nerve that supplies your mouth and teeth with feeling originates from your brain (as opposed to your spinal cord) and sends strong signals to your brain’s pain centers. In short, your teeth just don’t do well with pain!
Toothaches are often caused by decay, trauma, or gum disease which, if left untreated, can lead to more serious conditions or to tooth loss. Though a toothache should be evaluated by your dentist as soon as possible, you can find relief at home while you’re waiting for your next appointment. Here are 10 home remedies that can help bring relief from a bothersome toothache.
One: Update your toothpaste.
Your toothpaste can do more for you than just freshen your breath. Toothpaste for “sensitive” teeth contains extra ingredients, like potassium nitrate and strontium chloride, that can reduce sensitivity and pain. Both of these ingredients support dentin—the part of your tooth that is directly beneath your tooth enamel and cementum (the hard layer that surrounds your teeth’s roots). Dentin contains microscopic tubes (called tubules) that open into your nerve-rich dental pulp. By dampening pain signals and by covering exposed dentin tubules, consistent use of sensitive toothpaste can bring relief from painful tooth sensitivity.
Two: Use a softer toothbrush.
Brushing your teeth twice a day with a hard-bristled toothbrush may cause more damage and discomfort than good. In addition to potentially irritating your gums, brushing with a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush can also damage your tooth enamel and roots. A soft-bristled brush, especially one with rounded tips, offers most people the safest and most comfortable brushing experience.
Three: Apply clove oil.
Cloves are a culinary spice that contain a special compound called eugenol, which is also found in cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaves. In addition to creating a warm and aromatic flavor, eugenol contains natural anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties. For toothache relief, mix a few drops of clove oil and a tablespoon of olive oil in a small dish. Soak a cotton ball in the oil solution and apply directly to the affected area for 5-10 minutes. Repeat with a fresh cotton ball every 2-4 hours, as needed.
Four: Wear a nightguard.
Grinding or clenching your teeth at night can lead to tooth pain and damage. If you know or suspect that you grind your teeth while you sleep, a nightguard can help protect your teeth from further damage. You can try a generic option or talk with your dentist about a custom-made nightguard for optimum comfort and fit.
Five: Swish with salt water.
A salt water rinse sanitizes your mouth and removes food debris, while offering temporary toothache relief. For a safe and easily accessible toothache treatment, mix together one teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Gently swish and gargle for up to 30 seconds, then spit. Repeat as needed throughout the day.
Six: Apply an ice pack.
Applying ice on the cheek above your affected tooth can ease discomfort and pain. In addition to causing temporary numbness, ice constricts the surrounding blood vessels and decreases blood flow, which can decrease swelling and inflammation. To apply an ice pack, place a few ice cubes in a small plastic bag or take a bag of frozen veggies (like peas). Wrap the bag in a small towel and apply to your cheek for 20 minutes. Repeat once an hour or as needed.
Seven: Take OTC painkillers.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can offer temporary relief from pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen can effectively reduce pain and fever, while ibuprofen acts against pain and swelling. For short-term relief from a toothache, read and follow the medication’s instructions.
Eight: Apply a peppermint tea bag.
The menthol found in peppermint can help reduce tooth discomfort and pain. In addition to its refreshing flavor, menthol is cooling, soothing, antibacterial, and gently numbing. To use, soak a peppermint tea bag in warm water and apply to the affected tooth for several minutes. Repeat throughout the day, as needed.
Nine: Make a turmeric paste.
Turmeric is a flavorful and vibrant root that is renowned for its numerous health benefits. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which is antibacterial, antiseptic, and analgesic (pain relieving). A turmeric paste is easy to make and can temporarily ease your toothache. To make a turmeric paste, add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a small dish. Add just enough water to make a thick paste, and apply it directly to the affected tooth. Allow to sit on your tooth for 5-10 minutes, then rinse.
Side note: Turmeric can temporarily stain your skin or permanently stain your towels or clothing. To avoid staining, carefully apply with a cotton swab or cotton ball.
Ten: Chew ginger or drink ginger tea.
Like turmeric, ginger is a culinary root that is celebrated for its health-promoting qualities. Ginger contains raffinose and gingerol, two compounds that have been shown to help temporarily reduce inflammation and pain. The compounds in ginger can also help reduce the oral bacteria that lead to cavities and to gum disease, making it a generally effective ally to your oral health regimen. To use ginger to ease a toothache, chew on a small slice of fresh, peeled ginger until you feel relief. Alternately, prepare fresh ginger tea by boiling peeled and thinly-sliced ginger for 10-20 minutes, and drink when comfortably cool.
A toothache can spoil your day, cause stress, and be a sign of more serious dental issues. You deserve to be healthy and pain-free. If tooth pain lasts more than 1-2 days, or if it increases in severity, call us [name of dental office] ASAP to schedule an appointment to receive the treatment you need for lasting relief.