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 bite of an 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.
Meet the Expert
- Kevin Sands, DDS, is a celebrity dentist whose patients include Kim Kardashian West, Justin Bieber, and Kylie Jenner. His Beverly Hills practice offers basic dental care as well as porcelain veneers and cosmetic dentistry.
- Brian Kantor, DDS, is a celebrity cosmetic dentist at Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in New York City.
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. "At home remedies are not the long-term solution. If you are having pain for a few days or if the pain becomes persistent, you should see your dentist," says Brian Kantor, DDS. "Even if your dentist is closed, they will still answer all calls and can refer you to an office that is open if they aren’t seeing emergencies."
Keep scrolling to see eight home remedies for alleviating the oh-so-common toothache.
Rinse Your Mouth with Warm Saltwater
While a dentist will troubleshoot the causes of a toothache, Sands suggests alleviating the pain by swishing with a saltwater rinse until you can get an appointment. This is an age-old toothache remedy since the saltwater 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.
Try a Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse
Another option is to rinse with a hydrogen peroxide solution. "In addition to killing bacteria, hydrogen peroxide can reduce plaque and heal bleeding gums," says Kantor. "You must dilute the solution of hydrogen peroxide to equal parts with water and rinse like a mouthwash." Even more so than with a saltwater rinse, it's essential that you spit out the mixture without swallowing.
Take 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.
Use a Soothing, Cold Compress
If your gums and cheek are swollen during a toothache, experts suggest 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.
Use a Peppermint Tea Bag as a Compress
If you're an herbal tea drinker, don't toss the bag after you steep! "Peppermint has been known to have many medical benefits" such as killing bacteria, says Kantor. He suggests letting a used peppermint tea bag cool until it's "slightly warm" and then holding it over the aching tooth or gums to alleviate pain. "You can also swap approaches and use this to cool rather than warm the area. Put the tea bag in the freezer for a couple of minutes to chill it and then apply to your tooth in pain."
Apply a Topical Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever
Like other forms of over-the-counter pain relievers, Kantor approves of topical creams to lessen pain and inflammation. However, instead of ingesting a pill, you apply these 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.
Try Clove Oil
For a more holistic approach to remedying a toothache, Kantor approves of trying 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.
Avoid Trigger Foods and Beverages
What you eat and drink can absolutely exacerbate an active toothache. "You want to avoid foods that contain high sugar and high acidic content," says Kantor. Both of these food types can irritate the area further as can spicy foods and foods on both extremes of the temperature spectrum (no ice cream cones or boiling hot soups). "You want to eat soft foods that aren't too hot nor too cold."
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 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."