© SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Your toothache could be caused be a number of things including a cavity and gum disease. SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty
- One proven home remedy for toothaches is a warm saltwater rinse, which will help clear out bacteria and reduce inflammation.
- You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever, use clove oil as a numbing agent, or apply a dab of toothpaste meant for sensitive teeth on the affected area.
- If your tooth is swelling, bleeding, or producing pus, call a dentist.
Painful throbbing in your teeth and gums may be a sign that you’re experiencing a toothache. Ideally, seeing your dentist for a thorough exam should be your priority. That said, there are times when getting an appointment is not possible, and using a home remedy for short-term relief is the next best thing.
Whether it’s the middle of the night or you can’t get into your dentist for a few days, experts say there are some safe home remedies to relieve toothache pain fast.
Rinse with warm saltwater
A saltwater rinse can draw out any infected fluid and clean the affected area. As a result, rinsing with warm salt water helps clear out bacteria, reduces inflammation, and promotes healing, says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, a dentist in private practice in New York.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to rinse with saltwater for toothache relief:
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water (6 to 8 ounces).
- Mix the salt until it dissolves.
- Swish the solution around your mouth for 20 to 30 seconds, but don’t swallow it.
- Spit it out and repeat one to two times.
Apply sensitive toothpaste after brushing
Sensitive toothpaste is designed to help relieve general tooth pain and can be used as a spot treatment for toothaches. After you are finished brushing your teeth, Kristen Geist, DDS, recommends rubbing a small smear of toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth around the painful or sensitive tooth. Do this two times a day to help reduce pain in the tooth and surrounding gums.
Try a dab of clove oil
For a natural a numbing agent that soothes nerve pain, Jablow recommends using a dab of clove oil to help reduce toothache pain:
- Gently dip a cotton swab (Q-Tip) or cotton ball into clove oil. Make sure it is a small amount — no need to drench the tip.
- Hold the cotton swab against the tooth that is causing pain.
- Keep this in place for 5-10 minutes or until you feel relief.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) actually work well for the management of tooth pain, says Geist, and they are both available to you over the counter. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and Tylenol is a pain reliever. Call your dentist for dosing instructions. If you cannot reach the dentist, refer to the guidelines on the label.
Possible causes of a toothache
If you’re experiencing a toothache, it’s important to address and treat the underlying cause. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a toothache can be a red flag for the following conditions:
- Cavity: A cavity happens as a result of plaque from the build-up of food and bacteria in your teeth.
- Gum disease: An infection in the gum tissues around your teeth.
- Abscess: An infection in a tooth caused by a crack, gum disease, or tooth decay.
- Impacted tooth: A tooth that is lodged inside the gum and cannot breakthrough.
Additionally, a toothache can simply come from nerve irritation. When this happens, the tooth pulp, which is the soft part in the center of the tooth that houses the tooth’s nerve, becomes irritated, resulting in tooth pain.
A toothache can also be a sign of irritation in the tissues around the tooth which may require a root canal.
When should you see a dentist
Geist says to call your dentist if you are experiencing the following symptoms, in addition to general pain and throbbing:
- Other signs of infection such as bleeding, extreme sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, or foul taste in the mouth.
“If you are unable to be seen due to the coronavirus [pandemic], your dentist should be able to call in a prescription for antibiotics to get you through until you are healthy enough to be seen safely,” says Geist.