As the name suggests, a toothache is the pain one feels around her tooth and jaw. It can range from mild anywhere between mild to almost unbearable. While suffering from a toothache, the contents and the temperature of foods or liquids in your mouth can exacerbate the pain. Although tooth-decay is the most common cause for a tooth ache, there can be several other causes for it as well.
Causes of Tooth ache
Our tooth consists of multiple layers. The innermost layer is known as the dental pulp. The pulp also contains a large concentration of nerves, which has the ability to feel pain and tactile sensations. Hence, if the dental pulp becomes infected or inflamed, you will start suffering from toothache with various degrees of severity. The most common causes of this affliction are the following:
- Tooth decay: Our mouth is filled with bacteria that feast on the food particles that get stuck in our mouth. While these particles get broken down by the bacteria, it produces an acid that slowly erodes our enamel (creating cavities), thus exposing the underlying layers. This process is known as tooth decay.
- Periodontal disease: People who are not in the habit of properly brushing and flossing their teeth will have significant amount of food particles stuck in-between their teeth and on their gums. This will lead to a build-up of bacteria in these areas, which would lead to inflammation. It is really easy for the pain to spread from the gums to teeth, causing toothache. If there is pus at the site of the infection, it is known as periodontal abscess.
- Dental trauma: If there is any injury to your teeth, or if you are in the habit of grinding your teeth, you may then suffer from toothache as well.
- Receding gums: For certain people, gums recede or shrink as they age. This exposes the more sensitive areas around the root of the teeth, causing toothache.
- Periapical abscess: In advanced cases of bacterial infections, pus may form around the root of the teeth. This puts pressure on the surrounding area, causing toothache.
- Teething: This is the most common cause of toothache among infants and young children as the process of the teeth erupting from the gums is usually painful. Adults face it too, when it is time for their wisdom tooth to come out!
- Sinus inflammation: The ocular, nasal and oral cavities are inter-connected; hence an inflammation in one area can easily be transferred to the surroundings. There have been numerous instances where a sinus infection has resulted in a toothache.
- Cracked tooth: Sometimes there may be slim hairline cracks on our teeth that may not be visible to the naked eye. However, these cracks are still wide enough for the bacteria to reach the sensitive inner layers, causing inflammation that ultimately results in a toothache.
- Loose or broken dental fillings: Not much to explain here really. Dentists fill your cavities to protect the more sensitive layers of your teeth. If the filling comes out, or if there are cracks on it, these sensitive areas will become exposed, which will ultimately result in a toothache.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Toothache
Just because regular dental check-ups are strongly recommended, it does not mean that you will run to the dentist every time you feel like you are suffering from a bad toothache. Instead of bearing the brunt of some invasive and expensive dental procedures, it is strongly recommended that you try any of the following home remedies first.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
A 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide available in most drugstores can provide some relief from a toothache caused by a bacterial infection. The powerful anti-bacterial properties of hydrogen peroxide can kill the bacteria and bring some relief from the pain. This is also very useful in providing relief from toothache caused by a periodontal disease such as gingivitis. However, this treatment is not completely safe and the following safeguards needs to be kept in mind while applying it:
- Always swish your mouth with a particular focus on the affected area and then spit it out completely. If you keep the hydrogen peroxide in your mouth for too long then it can be caustic for your inner cheeks.
- Make sure that you do not ingest any hydrogen peroxide. If you do, it can damage the inner linings of your esophagus, stomach or even the intestines. To be completely safe, it is recommended that one swishes their mouth with plain water several times after every application of hydrogen peroxide.
Hard liquor such as vodka or rum, which has a high alcohol content can be used to treat toothache. The antimicrobial properties of alcohol has already been well documented, however it is especially useful in case of a toothache because alcohol tends to have numbing properties as well.
To apply this treatment, one simple needs to soak a cotton ball in vodka and hold it against the affected area.
One may also use vanilla extract instead of vodka or rum. Not only does vanilla extract have a reasonable amount of alcohol in it, anecdotal evidence suggests that the aroma of the vanilla extract tends to have a soothing effect on the sufferer and thus helps ease the pain.
- Guava leaves
If you live in a tropical area then this treatment may be perfect for you! Guava is a popular fruit in several parts of the world, however very few people know that the leaves of the guava plant can actually cure toothache. This is because guava leaves have anti microbial and analgesic (pain-killing) properties that can relieve your toothache. You can simply pluck some leaves from the guava plant, wash them thoroughly and chew them for a few minutes. You can also create a natural mouthwash with the help of guava leaves:
- Pluck a handful of guava leaves (8 – 10) and wash them thoroughly.
- Boil them in 4 cups of water.
- Cover the vessel and let it cool down till it is lukewarm to the touch.
- Strain the liquid and pour them in a container.
- Add a teaspoon of salt and shake the container thoroughly so that all of the salt is dissolved.
Your guava leaf mouthwash is ready to use. Feel free to swish your mouth with it, every time you feel that there is about to be an onset of a toothache.
Salt has natural astringent properties, which makes it a potent anti-bacterial agent. It can kill pain causing bacteria by dehydrating them. It can also help draw out the pus from periodontal or periapical abscesses. There are a few ways in which you can use salt to get relief from a toothache.
- Oral rinse: Following is how you would prepare the oral rinse:
- Take a glass of lukewarm water and add a tablespoon of salt to it.
- Use a spoon to ensure that the salt is thoroughly dissolved.
Your salt water oral rinse is ready. Take small sips and thoroughly rinse your mouth with the water. Keep repeating until you use all of the water that is in the glass. The salinity of the water is really high, hence you must be careful and not ingest any of it. This treatment may leave your mouth feeling uncomfortably salty, hence feel free to swish your mouth with some tap water after you have applied the salt water oral rinse.
- Salt and hot-pepper paste: Hot pepper taste “hot” because of capsaicin. However, if you can take the heat, then this can provide effective relief from even the most severe toothache. This is because capsaicin numbs the nerves it comes in contact with, thus acting like a topical analgesic. Following is how you can prepare and apply this treatment:
- Take a teaspoon of salt, half a crushed hot pepper (or a teaspoon of powdered cayenne pepper) and a few drops of water to create a coarse paste.
- Apply it gently on the affected area.
- Let it sit for a few minutes. Remember to keep your tongue away from the area for obvious reasons.
- Rinse your mouth with water.
Salt is inexpensive and is present in all kitchens anywhere in the world, making it one of the best home remedies for toothache.
Cloves are a natural anesthetic, which can stop toothache fast. This is because cloves contain a chemical called eugenol, which works as a topical anesthetic. You can put a few drops of clove essential oil on a ball of cotton and place it against the affected area. You may also chew on a piece of clove and absorb the chemicals that way.
Before applying this treatment, please take the following things into account:
- Cloves have a very strong smell and taste, hence it is not for everyone.
- This will provide temporary relief from toothache by numbing the pain. To get permanent relief, you need to apply this treatment in conjunction with the other treatments mentioned in this article.
Ginger is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. In case of a toothache caused by a bacterial infection (which is a major cause for toothache in most circumstances) chewing on a piece of ginger can bring some relief in the long term. One can combine the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger and the analgesic properties of hot pepper or cayenne pepper to make a highly effective treatment for toothache. You can create the paste the same way you can create a salt and hot pepper paste mentioned earlier in this article, except you would replace the salt with powdered ginger.
Normally people do not associate onion with oral hygiene because it makes our breath smell pretty rank. However, onion has natural antibacterial properties, which can help you fight off a toothache caused by a bacterial infection.
Simply chew on a slice of raw onion as soon as your tooth starts aching. If you find the taste of raw onion a bit too strong, then take a slice of onion and place it right next to the affected tooth or gum.
- Coconut oil
Extra virgin coconut oil, which remains solid at room temperature, can be used to treat toothaches caused by a bacterial infection. This is because coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is renowned for its antimicrobial properties. Simply scoop a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil and chew on it for about five minutes and then spit it out. You may repeat this as often as you would like!
Using coconut oil as cooking oil may also help stave off toothaches and oral infections in the long term!
- Lemon juice
Lemon juice primarily contains citric acid, which has antibacterial properties. Hence in case of a toothache you can simply chew on a slice of lemon. You can also create a paste using salt and lemon juice and apply that on the affected area as well!
Please note that citric acid is a bit abrasive in nature. Hence if you feel as if your enamel has been eroded, then lemon juice can actually make your toothache worse. If your teeth appears to have a yellowish tinge without the presence of any visible plaque, chances are that your enamel has eroded.
- Peppermint tea
Peppermint has analgesic properties, hence it can be used to get temporary relief from a bad toothache. Simply make some peppermint tea and swish your mouth with the liquid. You may either choose to swallow the tea after swishing or you may spit it out. Alternatively, you may also place the tea bag on the aching tooth for as long as you would like.
Please note that this provides temporary relief from the toothache and is not a long term solution.
- Baking soda
Baking soda has potent antimicrobial properties as well and it can be used to treat toothache caused by a bacterial infection. There are a couple of ways you can use baking soda to treat your toothache:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda into a glass of lukewarm water and use it to swish your mouth like how you would with a regular mouthwash.
- You can mix a few drops of water to a teaspoon of baking soda to make a coarse paste and apply that directly on the affected tooth with a cotton ball.
Garlic has strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can be used to cure a toothache. One can simple take a garlic clove and chew on it. You can also use garlic cloves to create a topical ointment for your toothache via the following steps:
- Take about 4 garlic cloves, add a pinch of salt and then a few drops of water to it.
- Crush them into a paste and apply it on the affected tooth.
You can repeat it as often as you would like to get rid of your toothache.
- Cold compresses
Using a cold compress may provide you with temporary relief from a toothache. This happens because of a couple of reasons:
- It numbs your nerves, hence impedes the pain signal to your brain.
- The sensation of the extreme cold may trump the pain, thus reducing it in the process.
You can place a small ice cube, or you may apply a traditional ice pack on the cheek, which is adjacent to the inflamed tooth. If you do not have an ice pack, you may use a bag of frozen vegetables, or you may wrap a couple of ice-cubes around a washcloth. Make sure that the ice does not come in direct contact with your skin, as it may damage it.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that pressing the joint between the thumb and the index finder (on the back of your hand) releases “feel-good” hormones known as endorphins, which may help take your mind off the pain. Again, this is only a temporary remedy while you wait for the other more potent home remedies to take effect.
The home remedies we have mentioned so far are effective and quite a few of them will be able to provide you with some long term relief. That being said, getting a toothache can at times be one of the most painful experiences imaginable, which can be avoided altogether if you implement the following safeguards.
- Improve your Oral Hygiene
Just remembering and implementing the common knowledge concerning oral hygiene can go a long way in preventing toothaches. It consists of the following easy to follow steps:
- Brush your teeth after every meal: This will ensure that you get rid of most of the food particles that get stuck in your teeth and cavities. Use a toothbrush with soft-bristles to protect your enamel. Choose toothpaste with fluoride, clove oil or tea tree oil for additional antibacterial properties.
- Floss your teeth at least twice a day: To get rid of the food particles that your toothbrush may have missed.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash: You can use the natural guava leaf or baking soda mouthwash, or you may purchase an antibacterial mouthwash from your local pharmacy. Irrespective of which mouthwash you choose, it should never be seen as an alternative for brushing your teeth.
- Quit Smoking
Besides giving you lung cancer, the carcinogens in cigarette smoke may cause periodontal diseases as well, which can easily translate into toothache!
- Cut Down on Sugars
This includes sweet treats and sodas! As mentioned earlier in this article, oral bacteria love sugar and over-indulging in it (some of which will inevitable get stuck in your mouth) will allow them to thrive.
- Visit your Dentist Regularly
Children should visit their dentist at least once every six months. Adults should consult their dentist as to how often they should pay a visit. Also you should find a competent dentist and stick with her as she would become more familiar with your oral contour compared to someone who is looking inside your mouth for the first time.
When to See Your Dentist
The home remedies we have mentioned are extremely effective in most circumstances; however there may be times when you might need some professional help. You should visit a dentist as soon as possible if you have the following symptoms:
- If you are suffering from fever in addition to the dental pain.
- If there is significant swelling around the source of the pain.
- If you have any pus coming out of your tooth or your gums.
- If your gums are abnormally red.
- If you have visible cavities on your teeth.
- If your toothache has lasted for more than two days, even after applying the home remedies.
If your pain is being caused on a tooth that has cavities, either because you did not notice it before or because the filling fell out, you may do the following to minimize the pain, while you wait for your dentist:
- Take a softened piece of chewing gum, and use it to fill the cavity.
- Avoid eating anything and don’t drink anything besides still water till your dentist is ready to see you.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that you can also fry some asafetida in clarified butter (ghee) and use that to fill your cavities to relieve the pain. However, the relief will only be temporary and you would still need to visit your dentist.
While you are waiting for your appointment with the dentist, feel free to take some over the counter pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. However, this is not recommended for infants or young children.