Home Remedies for Toothaches and What They Can Mean

Woman with sensitive teeth holding cup of cold drink, feeling dental pain. Female with painful face expression touching cheek, suffering from strong toothache

Toothaches can be both painful and concerning. If you have a toothache, it likely means that something is wrong. Your teeth shouldn’t hurt for no reason. Not all toothaches are urgent, but they’re always something you should bring up to your dentist, especially if they last long or happen regularly.

A toothache can have many potential causes, including:

  • Cracked or fractured teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Tooth decay
  • An abscessed tooth
  • Infection

If you have a severe toothache, you should reach out to your dentist as soon as possible. Even if the pain does fade eventually, a toothache is always something you need to have checked out. Until you can see your dentist, there are simple remedies that you can access at home:

Try a Cold Compress

The simplest solutions are often the best. Applying cold to the affected area is an effective pain relief option for nearly all types of inflammation. This is also true for most toothaches, where a cold compress can provide fast and effective relief.

A cold compress is particularly effective when trying to sleep if you have to wait until the next day to see your dentist. There are a variety of reusable ice packs made for this purpose, but you can also try a bag of frozen peas or even a plastic bag with ice cubes and a bit of water.

Rinse Your Mouth with Salt Water

A salt water rinse is another straightforward home remedy that provides excellent results. It’s as simple as mixing a tablespoon of salt into a glass of warm water. Rinse your mouth with the solution and swish it around, spitting it out afterward.

Make sure to use warm water, not cold water or hot water. Also, make sure not to swallow the salt water. You can continue to make more of the solution and rinse as much as you want to achieve relief.

This solution doesn’t work for all sources of tooth pain. If you’re dealing with a large cavity or a lost filling, contact with the saltwater could further irritate the sensitive area. If this is the case, don’t attempt further rinsing.

Take Over-the-Counter Painkillers

When dealing with a toothache, there are several over-the-counter painkillers that can provide effective relief. Specifically, ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen can all help reduce inflammation and pain. These are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, which are the most suitable for oral pain relief.

A combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen may also be highly effective, but it is important to speak with your dentist or another doctor before taking a combination of over-the-counter medications.

Use Topical Anesthetics

There is a variety of topical anesthetics marketed specifically as toothache remedies. These solutions can vary widely in their formulation and ingredients, with many featuring additional ingredients such as menthol and zinc chloride.

An important medication that provides pain relief in these topical anesthetics is benzocaine. Benzocaine is available under a wide range of brand names at any pharmacy. It can be helpful in providing fast relief.

The effect only lasts for up to two hours or so, depending on the specific product, and the product needs to be reapplied at that point. 

It’s important that patients remember that these remedies do not treat the underlying cause of the toothache. They only provide temporary relief, which means that you must still consult your dentist at some point.

Remedies to Avoid

These remedies can provide effective relief for some types of toothaches. However, there are some other supposed home remedies floating around that could do more harm than good.

Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes put forward as an alternative to saltwater rinses. While hydrogen peroxide can provide effective sanitization for external wounds, you shouldn’t put it in your mouth.

Similarly, rubbing alcohol on the affected area is often touted as a cure for toothaches and was even, at one point, a common method for dealing with teething pain in infants. However, we now know that this approach isn’t effective.

A variety of other home remedy ideas haven’t been shown to have any notable benefits, but they aren’t harmful either. Vanilla extract, garlic, and other common natural remedies aren’t going to help relieve your toothache.

See Your Dentist as Soon as Possible

If you’re suffering from a toothache, the best thing you can do is reach out to Dr. Brett Langston at Dental Implant and Aesthetic Specialists of Atlanta to schedule the earliest possible appointment. Contact us today to get the treatment you need.