The best adjectives to describe toothaches—even mild ones—are "annoying," "disruptive," "distracting," and "painful." A dull, throbbing ache can radiate through the tooth and jaw all day long. Even if you're somehow able to momentarily forget it's there, all it takes is a simple sip of coffee or a bite of a mid-afternoon snack to remind you of its pestering presence. The worst part is that there's seemingly not much you can do about it, aside from heading straight to the dentist's office—rarely an option in the midst of a busy day.
The good news is that despite what you might think, there are indeed a few home remedies out there that will keep the sufferer of a mild toothache out of the dentist's waiting room. According to Kevin Sands, DDS, a mild toothache could be the result of a number of dental concerns. "Main causes of toothaches usually have to do with cavities, general sensitivity due to thin enamel, or even grinding your teeth," he says. These expert-approved remedies are actually quite simple, not to mention effective, for ridding your tooth from ache, at least in the short term. (Remember, though: These are only for mild toothaches. Anything that's chronic or severe means you should head to your dentist as soon as possible.)
Meet the Expert
Kevin Sands, DDS is a celebrity dentist whose patients include Kim Kardashian West, Justin Bieber, and Kylie Jenner. His Beverly Hills practices offers basic dental care as well as porcelain veneers and cosmetic dentistry.
Keep scrolling to see five home remedies for alleviating the oh-so-common toothache.
Try a Warm Saltwater Rinse
While a dentist can help troubleshoot the causes behind a toothache, in the meantime, Sands suggests you try alleviating the pain by swishing with a saltwater rinse. This is an age-old toothache remedy, since the salt water acts as an antiseptic of sorts, reducing the amount of bacteria in the mouth. To make your own saltwater rinse, add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a cup of water. Take a sip of the mixture, swish it in your mouth, and then spit it out. Try doing this two to three times a day until you can see a dentist.
Or an Over-The-Counter Pain Reliever
Sands also recommends turning to an over-the-counter form of pain relief like Tylenol or Advil. Sure, it might seem a little obvious, but it's effective nonetheless. Not only will it lessen the pain associated with a toothache, but ibuprofen can also reduce swelling and inflammation—two things often associated with the achy condition.
Topical Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers Can Be Extremely Effective
Like other forms of over-the-counter pain relievers, this group can lessen pain and inflammation. However, instead of ingesting in the form of a pill, you apply these topical ointments to the affected area. It delivers a dose of pain-blocking prowess directly to the achy tooth and gum. Plus, it has antiseptic properties to prevent infection. Orajel is probably the best-known brand belonging to this category, but there are others out there.
Use a Soothing, Cold Compress
If your gums and cheek are swollen during a toothache, try applying a cold compress (or even ice) to the area. It will alleviate the swelling and divert pain away from the area. After all, research shows that ice is an effective way to relieve almost any type of pain.
Try Clove Oil
For a more holistic approach to remedying a toothache, try clove oil. It's been used for centuries, since it contains an anesthetic and antibacterial ingredient. Most people advocate for dipping a cotton swab into clove oil and applying it directly to the achy area. It probably won't taste amazing, but it might temporarily relieve pain. Just be aware that most clove oils are concentrated, so don't use too much at once and risk irritation. A little goes a long way.
At the end of the day, it's important to consult a dentist if you're feeling pain. While these remedies can work temporarily, you'll need the help of an expert for long-term relief and dental health. Take it from Dr. Sands: "The best relief for someone who gets regular toothaches is to see a dentist for a diagnosis as to why. For example, if it's from grinding the teeth the dentist can make a night guard. If it's from a cavity, the dentist can fix it and so on. Otherwise, plenty of sleep, water, and a healthy diet—as well as proper at-home oral hygiene—can prevent toothaches."