Your head pounds, your gums throb, and your mouth is sore and tender. You’ve got a toothache. See your dentist ASAP. In the meantime, use these home remedies to get short-term relief.

Saltwater rinse

Until you can get to the dentist, one of the best things you can do is swish warm, salty water around in your mouth. A good mix is half a teaspoon of table salt to 8 ounces of water. Spit it out, don’t swallow it. You can also gently floss around the sore tooth to remove any bits of food that may be stuck.

Hydrogen peroxide rinse

As an alternative to saltwater, rinse with a solution of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. Rinse thoroughly and spit it out. Don’t swallow hydrogen peroxide.

OTC pain relievers

Dentists suggest acetaminophen for children. For adults, take your pick of over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen. If you choose aspirin, swallow it — don’t put it right on the tooth or your gums. That folk remedy doesn’t work and might harm the inside of your mouth.

Cold compress

If your face is swollen, put an ice pack on your cheek. It may help ease the pain, especially if you’ve chipped your tooth or knocked it loose. Swelling could also mean you have an abscess, a sac of pus and gunk deep in the roots of your tooth. This can cause serious infection in your jaw and other teeth. Signs include fever and red gums.

OTC anesthetics

Apply these pain-relieving gels and liquids directly to the sore tooth and nearby gums. They contain benzocaine, which will numb your mouth for a little while. But they’re meant for short-term use only.

Ice

Put some ice in your hand, on the same side of the body as your sore tooth. Rub the ice in the space between your thumb and forefinger for 7 minutes, or until the area turns numb. Why does it work? Researchers believe ice stops pain signals to your brain.

Clove oil

This natural remedy numbs the pain. Rub it directly on the sore area, or soak a cotton ball and dab it against the tooth and gums. It may be as effective as benzocaine, the numbing ingredient in over-the-counter toothache gels.

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Toothache Alternative Remedies

In addition to those standard options, there are some alternative remedies you could try. Most of them aren’t proven to work. And any home remedy might make it feel better for a while, but they won’t make your toothache go away.

Garlic

When you crush one of these cloves, you release allicin, an oily liquid and natural disease fighter. Will it ease the ache? That’s not clear. But you can try chewing a piece of garlic or placing chopped bits on your tooth. It’s safe to try.

Toothache plant

With a name like that, this might seem a sure bet to ease your symptoms. Different types of this plant grow all over the world, and the oil is an ingredient in many products. But it’s not clear if this plant really eases dental pain.

Vanilla extract

Vanilla extract has alcohol in it. The alcohol will numb the pain for a while, and antioxidants in the vanilla may help it heal. Use your finger or a cotton ball to put a small amount on your aching tooth and gum.

Peppermint tea

A cooled peppermint tea bag may soothe your aching tooth and gums.

Traditional healing

In some parts of the world, traditional healers and herbalists use different parts of many other plants to help a toothache. It’s not clear how well they work. These include:

  • Painted nettles
  • Blue verbena
  • Coconut shell
  • Guava leaves
  • Cola nuts
  • Eucalyptus leaves
  • Mango bark
  • Pawpaw leaves
  • Sweet potato
  • Sunflower leaves
  • Tobacco leaves
Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 31, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Dental Association: “Dental Emergency.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Handling Dental Emergencies,” “Toothache: Management and Treatment.”

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: “Frequently Asked Questions.”

Academy of General Dentistry: “What Causes Toothache?”

American Dental Association: “Abscess.”

Singh, A. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, April-June 2011.

Mohammad, S. Journal of International Oral Health, November-December 2014.

Bayan, L. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, January-February 2014.

Walsh, L. Australian Dental Journal, 2000.

Paulraj, J. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, published online Dec. 26, 2013.

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Ethnomedicinal Plants Used by Traditional Healers to Treat Oral Health Problems in Cameroon.”