There are a number of at-home remedies for temporary relief of toothache or pain, but talk to your dentist before taking them. “You should also speak with your dentist before using any of the following remedies if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any medical conditions that might be impacted by herbal ingredients,” says Huang.
Clove oil, an active ingredient in many dental products, is the best at-home remedy for tooth pain, according to Huang. “It is a natural antiseptic that reduces pain and inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties,” she says. “It also acts as a temporary pain reliever.”
The active ingredient in clove oil can be compared to benzocaine, the numbing ingredient in many dental gels. To use clove oil, she suggests soaking a cotton ball in it and applying directly to the area of the toothache, or rinsing your mouth with it.
There is some evidence that willow bark can aid in reducing inflammation, which will help with pain relief. “Willow bark contains salicin, which is similar to the main ingredient in aspirin,” says Huang. Willow bark tea can be gargled, or a paste of willow bark powder can be applied to the area causing pain.
A cold compress can help treat some types of oral pain. “If the origin of the toothache is from trauma, cold compress to the area will reduce swelling and inflammation and give you temporary pain relief,” says Huang. She suggests applying the cold compress or wrapped bag of ice to the affected area for intervals of 20 minutes, and repeating every few hours.
Rinsing your mouth with salt water can also help with a toothache. “Saltwater will naturally reduce inflammation and improve wound healing,” says Huang.
Indeed, a 2016 study in PlosOne found that short-term rinsing with a saltwater solution promotes cell migration, an important process during wound healing. Huang suggests mixing 1 tablespoon of salt with 1/2 cup of warm water. Swish the solution in your mouth for around 30 seconds as often as needed throughout the day.
Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse
A mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water may also help with tooth-related pain and inflammation. “This is an alternative option to the saltwater rinse,” says Huang. Mix a solution of equal parts over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide and water. Swish it around in your mouth for one minute, but don’t swallow it.
Peppermint Tea Bag or Oil
There is scientific evidence that peppermint can help relieve various types of pain. One in vitro study in the European Journal of Dentistry found that peppermint was one of three oils that worked as an effective intracanal antiseptic solution against oral pathogens—meaning it can effectively prevent the growth of bacteria.
If you have a toothache, Huang suggests applying a cold peppermint tea bag. “Chill it [by putting a steeped tea bag in the freezer for a few minutes] and apply it in the area causing pain,” she says. Alternatively, add a few drops of peppermint oil to a cotton ball and apply that directly against the affected tooth.
The herb thyme “is a powerful antibacterial and antioxidant,” says Huang. A 2016 study in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that in essential oil form, thyme has “powerful antibacterial and antifungal” properties. “Put some thyme oil on a cotton ball and apply it directly to the area to help with pain relief,” says Huang. A few drops of the thyme oil can also be added to a glass of water and used as a mouthwash.
There is some evidence that garlic can also help relieve pain. “Fresh garlic cloves contain allicin, which has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties,” says Huang. Crush or chew the garlic clove in order to receive the necessary benefits of the allicin. “Garlic powder will not have the same remedial properties,” she adds.
Topical Pain Relievers
Over-the-counter pain relief gels, creams, liquids and swabs can also temporarily relieve pain. “These treatments typically contain several active ingredients, typically including benzocaine, which will numb the area temporarily,” says Huang.
Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
“Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin or naproxen work well with dental pain because they reduce inflammation,” says Huang.
Recent data has shown the combination of Advil (ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen) is as effective as prescription opioids for tooth pain. Experts note that with the rise in opioid addiction, it’s nice to have an effective over-the-counter alternative. Be sure to talk to your dentist first about recommended dosage.
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