The Best Home Remedies for Dental Pain
Toothaches may be small in size — but they can cause a colossal amount of pain.
“Pain is your body’s way of telling you to go to a doctor,” says John Dodes, DDS, a dentist in Forest Hills, N.Y., and author of Healthy Teeth. If you have a severe or persistent toothache or other mouth malady, you should visit your dentist in case it’s a serious dental health issue that needs treatment.
However, some minor toothaches and pains can be treated right at home (or at least mitigated while you wait to see your dentist). Next time your mouth is troubling you, give these home remedies a shot.
Toothache Cures From Your Kitchen Cabinet
Grab some clove oil. Oil of clove is an age-old home remedy. It works thanks to the chemical eugenol contained in the oil, which has anesthetic and antibacterial properties. To use it for tooth pain, soak a cotton ball with a mixture made of two to three drops of clove oil and ¼ teaspoon of olive oil. Put the cotton ball in your mouth near the tooth that hurts and bite down to keep it in place. One caution: Don’t go to sleep with the cotton ball still in your mouth. The FDA no longer considers this treatment effective enough to recommend it, although some dentists still believe it has benefits.Clove oil is available at pharmacies and health food stores.
Pop in a cough drop. Cough drops or lozenges usually contain a small amount of anesthetic (menthol and sometimes benzocaine) — which means they may relieve minor tooth pain, too. Pop one or two in your mouth and suck on them (don’t chew!). Another solution? Apply a dab of Vick’s VapoRub on the outside of your cheek where your tooth hurts, then place a paper towel on your pillow and lie down on that side.
Flush it out. Sometimes, the root of your toothache is food that’s trapped between your teeth. In this case, try flossing, rinsing with mouthwash, or using interdental brushes (small brushes shaped like Christmas trees that work between the teeth). In fact, this home remedy can save you a trip to the dentist’s office — but if food is constantly getting stuck in your teeth, talk to your dentist, because there could be an issue with your gums that needs medical attention.
Try these other kitchen staples. Some other home remedies that have proven to help toothaches include applying a hot tea bag directly to the tooth. Tea contains tannic acid, which reduces swelling. Other solutions: A cucumber slice placed on the tooth or a cotton ball soaked in brandy – alcohol has numbing properties, too. Some people also report that garlic, onions, spinach, wheat grass, or a simple salt water rinse relieves tooth pain.
Home Remedies for Your Other Mouth Maladies
Canker sore? Use these OTC concoctions. Canker sores usually go away on their own — but the pain can be excruciating in the meantime. While you’re waiting for one to heal, you may find relief by applying a mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water to the sore with a cotton swab, then follow with a dot of Milk of Magnesia; you can repeat this up to four times a day. Another home remedy to try is a mixture of equal parts Milk of Magnesia and liquid Benadryl; gently swish the mixture around your mouth for 60 seconds and then spit it out.
Sensitive teeth? Try this toothpaste. If your tooth feels sensitive to pressure, or when it’s exposed to hot or cold temperatures, whitening toothpaste is a no-no (it can just make your teeth more sensitive). Instead, try this simple solution: Switch to a no-frills toothpaste or consider buying toothpaste made especially for sensitive teeth, Dr. Dodes says. “They have chemicals in them that desensitize the tooth,” he explains. If sensitivity persists, talk to your dentist, who can investigate the cause.
Got jaw pain? Eat this. Until you can get an appointment with your dentist to check out your jaw pain — or while you wait to see if the pain resolves on its own — switch to a diet of softer foods. “Don’t eat big, overstuffed sandwiches or hard bagels,” Dodes says. “Give yourself five or six days of eating a soft-food diet and see if it gets better. If you twisted your ankle, you wouldn’t run hurdles, would you? If it hurts, give it a break.” Just be sure to call your dentist if the jaw or tooth pain doesn’t go away.
Got swelling? Take these steps. Mouth pain is sometimes caused by swelling of soft tissues in the mouth. Swelling should be checked by a dentist because it could be a serious dental health issue, Dodes says. In the meantime, try taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). “Still, if you’re in enough pain that you need a pill,” Dodes says, “you better get to a doctor because dental pain tends to get worse and worse.”
Broken tooth? Do this ASAP. If you break a tooth, get to your dentist as soon as possible — this pearly-white problem needs immediate assistance. If you find the piece of tooth that broke off, you can preserve it at home by putting it in water or milk — don’t leave it on a counter, for instance, and never scrub it with cleanser, Dodes says. Sometimes dentists can bond the tooth back on. “By putting it in milk, you’re helping to keep the cells alive so that they will re-grow when it’s reattached.”
800 Dental Gauze Rolls, Cottons Pads for Dentists, Rolled Cotton Ball, Nose Plugs for Kids and Adults, Nosebleed Kit Accessories, Mouth Gauze, Non Sterile, 1.5 Inch
- SUPER ABSORBENT: Gauze wraps are traditionally used by dentists to reduce the flow of saliva during dental procedures. These medical rolls by PlastCare USA are specially designed to soak up excess saliva. Use them while filling cavities or during bleaching to avoid salivation. If you’re doing at-home teeth whitening, use them while you wear your whitening tray to prevent drooling.
- DURABLE: These medium-sized medical grade cotton rolls are 1.5 inches long and nearly half an inch thick. The incredible absorbency of our dental gauze rolls makes them reliable and dependable. You won’t have to worry about replacing them during dental procedures or surgeries. You can perform your dentistry uninterrupted with our trustworthy rolled cotton pellets. Also great for first aid kits.
- COMFORTABLE: These cotton roll ups provide a snug yet comfortable fit in the mouths of patients. They are so comfortable that patients may not even realize their mouths are full of cotton. Their soft, pliable texture won’t irritate mouths, either. When the cotton pads are thoroughly wet, they are easy to remove and won’t leave mouths sticky or fuzzy with cotton residue.
- FLEXIBLE: Our cotton dental supplies are flexible for your convenience. Twist or bend the cotton roll before placing it in the mouth for added malleability. Easy curvature makes them more versatile for dental procedures. Their flexibility makes them ideal for anterior procedures or for placement in the cheeks. Place the cotton pads between the lips and gums for added gum protection.
- GREAT FOR STOPPING NOSEBLEEDS: Bloody noses are a hassle. Use cotton rolls as blood clotting bandages to seal nosebleeds. To use, first gently blow any clotted blood out of nose. Then, place rolled up cotton in nostril to plug nose. You can cover the cotton in petroleum jelly to moisturize nostril. You can also halt bleeding by wedging the cotton under upper lip and applying light pressure.
Nov 21, 2013 — The tapeworm diet, the feeding tube diet, the air diet — Brandi Koskie, managing editor of the website Diets in Review, said she thought she’d seen every crazy food fad out there. But then came the cotton ball diet.
The diet, as described in chat rooms, on YouTube videos and elsewhere on the Web, involves gobbling up to five cotton balls dipped in orange juice, lemonade or a smoothie in one sitting. The idea is to feel full without gaining weight. Some dieters chow down on the fluffy fillers before a meal to limit their food intake, while others subsist on cotton balls exclusively.
“Nothing good can come of this. Absolutely nothing,” said Koskie, who has been tracking diet trends for more than nine years.
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One thing that strikes Koskie is that, unless you’re dining on an expensive organic brand, most cotton balls aren’t made of cotton. They’re bleached, polyester fibers that contain a lot of chemicals.
“Your clothing is also made of polyester, so swallowing a synthetic cotton ball is like dipping your T-shirt in orange juice and eating it,” she said.
Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, the chief medical officer at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, said he agreed that downing synthetic cotton balls is similar to eating cloth, or even buttons or coins. Beyond the risk of choking and malnutrition, the practice might lead to an obstruction of the intestinal tract, a trapped mass called a bezoar, said Bermudez.
“The most common causes of bezoars are swallowing indigestible matter like hair or too much vegetable fiber. Cotton balls could certainly create similar problems,” Bermudez said.
Over time, the cotton balls could build up and create several blockages or a full obstruction. Either of these conditions could be life-threatening, Bermudez said.
Models have been suspected of eating cotton balls for years, said Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association. Eddie Murphy’s model daughter, Bria Murphy, talked about this on “Good Morning America” earlier this year, telling the hosts that she’d heard about girls eating cotton balls soaked in orange juice because they were under pressure to stay slim.
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More recently, tween and teenage girls seem to be catching onto the cotton ball diet. Koskie said there were YouTube videos devoted to people trying the cotton ball diet, many of them made by girls in the 9- to 16-age range, she said.
Grefe said she didn’t consider the cotton ball diet a diet at all, but rather an unhealthy, disordered form of eating behavior.
“When we talk about something like this we certainly aren’t talking about health anymore,” she said. “We’re talking about weight and size and certainly something that is potentially very, very dangerous.”
Karmyn Eddy, co-director of the eating disorders clinical and research program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said eating cotton balls is a form of pica, which is the practice of eating nonfood items. Typically, pica is a craving for something inedible that’s driven by the lack of a particular nutrient. But Eddy said she’s seen it take the form of an eating disorder. She believes this is the case with the cotton ball diet.
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“I’ve had patients in my practice eat things like paper and clay for the same reason — they’re trying to distract themselves from hunger and prevent weight gain,” she said.
“It’s certainly a misguided practice, and I find it alarming for young girls to be doing this who don’t have the information to understand what they are doing to their bodies.”
Koskie said she hasn’t seen much talk about the diet on her site’s message boards or social media accounts yet. But now that there’s been a buzz about the practice elsewhere on the Internet, she expects that to change. As the holidays get closer, she said, dieters grow more desperate to shed unwanted pounds, and they’re more likely to try riskier behaviors to get there.
Why God Why: The Science of a Toothache
I have a toothache. It’s a familiar toothache, recurring every few months for the past year or so for no apparent reason (in the sense of direct triggers; it’s obviously a cavity). The first time it came around, during a period when I was highly broke, the pain arrived and crested one afternoon mostly out the blue. It was a literal pressure within my face, but also sensory pressure, like pain was a substance coursing through my body, pushing every other feeling and thought away like a muddy-red flash flood full of broken logs and boulders and screaming sensation. It was a primitive agony.
By the next morning, it was gone. That night was a long one, involving semi-regular flushes with Jack Daniels and tissues soaked through with dissolved Benadryl tablets. I cried and may have, at one point, even screamed. Because, fuck, there is nothing worse than tooth pain. And now it’s back, albeit currently at bay underneath a prescription-strength dose of Advil. Or maybe I’ve just beaten this wave, keeping the dentist at bay for another couple of months … like a complete idiot.
Why is tooth pain so completely miserable? I’ve weathered third-degree burns, a half-dozen broken bones, and a succession of self-surgeries including but not limited to horrible things with toenails. The short answer is nerves, of course: good old evolution wasn’t stingy with the wiring, particularly when it comes to the face, which happens to be close to the brain. And the brain is, of course, everything.
The mouth and jaw are hooked directly to the trigeminal nerve, which is one of several cranial nerves: nerves that link directly to the brain rather than link to the spinal cord. So: teeth are linked up to a nervous short-circuit of sorts. But that’s not quite it.
Teeth only feel pain. There are no other tooth feelings. If a nerve happens to be exposed in there, everything is pain. Cold is pain. Warm is pain. Wet is pain. Touch is pain. There’s just nothing else and that’s a pretty unique situation in the human body. Skin, for example, is perfectly capable of communicating “warm” without inflicting torture and the tongue knows “sweet” without the need for a bonus sensation of thermonuclear throb. And those nerves are a hop away from their trigeminal parent, a nerve associated with a variety of neurological chronic pain (neuralgia) that comes in bolts severe enough to occasionally drive its victims to suicide. (Whatever your worst tooth pain, there is something far worse that a dentist can’t do a thing about.)
But that’s still not quite it. Teeth are weird little organs, of sorts. Under that hard shell is a pulp of structural cells, blood vessels, connective tissue, immune cells, and, finally, nerves. It’s an odd situation, this mass of living, breathing gunk trapped in a little fortress of mostly crystal calcium and its associated forms. The upshot is that teeth don’t swell. If you sprain your ankle, the thing is going to swell up, sometimes a whole lot. But teeth don’t have this luxury. The organic guts of a tooth don’t have anywhere to go, save for a very tiny hole (a pore, really) all the way at the base of its root.
So, all sorts of bad things can happen as the result of trauma, like abscesses and accumulations of necrotic (dead) tissue. Teeth die, but the dead stuff doesn’t really get shuffled away like normal; it just kind of hangs out and gets really gross.
The moral of this story is to not be me, because none of the above is particularly transient. It just gets worse, sometimes much worse. Ugh, I need to make a call.
In the case of saccharin, some argue that the amount ingested is so small that it would be considered negligible in terms of any effect on the body. According to the dental association, about 0.4 of a milligram of saccharin is ingested in a day from toothpaste and mouth rinses. This is equivalent to only about one-half of 1 percent of the saccharin in an 8-ounce glass of a common diet soft drink. Similarly, small amounts of toothpaste flavoring and coloring agents are also ingested.
As to fluoride, some companies like to have it both ways. Tom’s of Maine – the maker of Tom’s Natural Fennel Toothpaste, among others – markets both fluoridated and nonfluoridated versions of some of its products, all of which the company says are selling well. ”We feel very strongly that we should offer a choice,” says Dale Appelbaum, the product manager of Tom’s, ”because not everybody wants fluoride and some people are not going to need fluoride as much as others.” In any case, consumers are advised to consult with a dentist before making a decision on a toothpaste.
Occasionally, toothpastes found in health-food stores contain ingredients not ordinarily found in other dentifrices. Nature’s Gate herbal cinnamon toothpaste, for example, has vitamin C and calcium among its ingredients. Because of the addition of calcium, identified as ”the natural strengthening component of your teeth,” the product is advertised as ”the natural answer to fluoride toothpaste.”
Some experts, however, question the usefulness of such nutrients in toothpaste. ”At the present time, there is no accepted evidence – and none that’s been approved by the F.D.A. Advisory Review Panel on Over-the-Counter Dentifrice and Dental Care Drug Products – that the incorporation of vitamins in a dentifrice contributes to its effectiveness,” says Dr. Sol D. Gershon, a former technical planning director of Lever Brothers and a leading dental scientist and consultant.
And while calcium, in the form of organic calcium salts, may be present in a toothpaste as an abrasive, it is inactive as an anticavity agent, according to Dr. Edgar W. Mitchell, the secretary of the dental association’s Council on Dental Therapeutics. ”Fluoride, on the other hand,” he says, ”has been proved to be an effective anticavity agent by making teeth more resistant to mouth acids.”
In the meantime, the dental association recommends use of only five accepted brands: Crest, Colgate with M.F.P., Aim, Aqua-fresh and Macleans with Fluoride. The association has not studied the products of many of the smaller manufacturers, however, which are unable to fund the high cost of the research the council will then review if requested.
”The American Dental Association feels very strongly that the five accepted dentifrices are the ones that should be used by children, young adults and adults because of the demonstrated benefits from fluoride,” says Dr. Mitchell. ”The association doesn’t believe other products should be used unless they have been shownto have a therapeutic effect.”