Toothaches are one of the most uncomfortable types of pain that we can experience, and they sometimes occur at inconvenient times, says Dr. Kyle Bogan, a dentist based in Lewis Center, Ohio.
“What do you do when your tooth starts to hurt and it’s the middle of the night?” Bogan says.
Here are five home remedies commonly used by patients for toothaches:
— Warm salt-water rinse.
— Clove oil.
— Ice packs.
— Moist heat compresses.
— Tea bags.
1. Warm salt-water rinse. A rinse of warm water mixed with salt can be helpful when the toothache is caused by a dental abscess, says Dr. Cathy Hung, a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Monroe Township, New Jersey. Warm salt water helps rinse away pus and kills bacteria, providing temporary relief. “Remember, as long as the source of the infection in the tooth is untreated, the pain will not go away permanently,” Hung says. She advises dental treatment for long-term relief.
2. Clove oil. Some patients have told Hung they use clove oil to mitigate toothache pain. Clove oil can be found in some dental materials, as it’s proven to be therapeutic, but dental professionals don’t use clove oil to treat toothache by applying it directly, she says. Some patients use clove oil for a toothache by dipping a cotton swab, cotton ball or clean tissue into it and then wiping it over the gum at the location of the pain. Some people place whole cloves on the painful area for several minutes at a time.
3. Ice packs. Applying an ice pack to the face, where the tooth is aching, can temporarily relieve the pain and reduce swelling from an infection or an oral surgery procedure, Hung says.
4. Moist heat compresses. Heat therapy can be an effective home remedy for temporomandibular joint disorder, widely known as TMJ disorder, Bogan says. “Heat therapy is extremely beneficial as a TMJ home remedy because it increases elasticity of the muscles and promotes blood flow into the affected area,” he says. Heat contributes to increased elasticity and blood flow that speeds healing of inflammation. Moist heat compresses are the most beneficial because research suggests that moist heat penetrates the tissues more quickly and deeply than cool compresses, providing a more quick-acting and effective therapy.
5. Tea bags. If you’re running out of gauze in the middle of the night after a tooth extraction and experiencing pain and bleeding, biting down gently on tea bags can provide temporary relief until you can see a dentist in the morning, Hung says. Many tea bags contain tannin, which is an astringent that shrinks blood vessels. Black tea bags can be particularly effective.
It’s important to keep in mind that home remedies for toothaches are temporary solutions, Hung says.
“As dental professionals, we recommend that patients visit local dentists to mitigate their discomfort,” she says. “There are many different reasons why you may have a toothache. When you come to a dental office, your dentist may use a combination of clinical examination and X-rays to diagnose the problem.”
Hung notes that dental decay is mostly non-reversible, and treatments such as fillings, root canals or extractions may be needed.
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