How to Soothe a Toothache

As an emergency dentist Brisbane I have seen that for some of my patients, toothache has come in unexpectedly. It can happen in the middle of the night or while you are travelling. When it happens, it would be best to search and find an available dental care provider as quickly as possible because the sooner you see a dentist the higher is the chance of preventing further damage to the nerves and blood vessels in your mouth.

For some people, a minor toothache can cause tremendous amount of pain and affect their ability to work. Many different factors can cause dental pain. Dental pain is caused due to irritation to the nerve of a tooth. When the nerve is irritated it is felt as a toothache. Some of the main causes of toothache include:

  • Food pieces stuck between the teeth
  • Exposed root (rough brushing)
  • Tooth decay (bacteria)
  • Cracks inside the tooth
  • Infection or abscess
  • Pulp irritation
  • Cavities
  • Anxiety


Toothache tends to intensify over time. It tends to hurt more when you lay down, eat or when your tooth is exposed to hot and cold food and drinks. Like other pain, toothache is a sign that something is awry in our body. Antibiotics do not solve dental problems and for a lasting relief from toothache you need to find a dental clinic. Dentists have the required knowledge and equipment to find the source of a toothache. With dental x-rays dentists can look inside the tooth and search for the signs of infection or decay inside the tooth. Although some dental problems like toothache caused by fine cracks cannot be detected by x-rays and dentists use other techniques to find or treat invisible tooth fractures.

Pain Killers for toothache management

Dentists may recommend ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain management. These are over-the-counter pain relief medication and should be available from your local pharmacy. You can also use these medications along with clove oil (read below).

Until You Find a Dentist, Salt Water May Ease your Toothache

While you are waiting for your emergency dental appointment you can try swashing lukewarm salt water to control your toothache. A lukewarm salt water mouth rinse can be useful for soothing a toothache. Use of salt water to fight infection is an old technique and its anti-inflammatory effect has been known to ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Bacteria turn food to acid and the acid attacks the tooth and the nerves and causes wear in the tooth and pain in the nerves. Use of salt water causes the PH of the mouth to rise which provides a short-term relief from the pain. In other words, salt water temporarily changes the mouth environment from acidic to alkaline which is an undesirable environment for bacteria activity and it can temporarily cause the toothache to ease.

Some dentists recommend a lukewarm salt water rinse 24 hour after a tooth extraction. Because salt water has some healing properties and it can promote healing process. So yes, you can use salt water as a gentle healing aid. In addition to soothing toothache you can use salt water to heal mouth sores quicker, or fight sore throats and common cold. You can also use salt water when you have forgotten your toothbrush while travelling, etc. just remember that salt water is great but it is just a supplement and not a replacement for brushing and dental flossing.

To make a Mouth Rinse Using Salt-Water:

  • Add half a tea spoon of salt to a lukewarm glass of water and
  • Rinse your mouth every 3 hours or as required.


Natural Herbs

Dentists (by today’s standards) were not around a few centuries ago. Perhaps at those times natural remedies and extraction were the only option to deal with dental pain. Some modern dentists believe that herbs can help with easing the toothache to some extent. For example, according to literature a plant called Spilanthes Oleracea (eyeball plant) has some level of numbing effect when you chew on its flower or leaves. This plant is also called toothache plant for its numbing and oral antiseptic properties and some people use it as an anti-infective to ease toothache and gum infection in the absence of dentistry (e.g. when you are in remote areas and have no access to dentists).

People in tropical areas have been using clove for hundreds of years to stop dental pain. Some claim that clove oil is often effective on a painful toothache. Clove oil provides temporary relief from toothache because it numbs the nerves. A bit like turning the alarm off for a while (it does not replace a dentist).


Clove oil contains Eugenol which is a natural anaesthetic. Clove oil has antibacterial properties and can often reduce inflammation in the mouth. Clove oil should not be used for young children because it has side effects if it is swallowed. Its taste is unpleasant and eating clove oil should be avoided when it is being used by adults. If you decide to store clove oil in your house make sure you store it away from children in a drawer or on a top shelf where they don’t have access.

How to use clove oil for toothache management:

Soak a cotton swab with a few drops of the oil

Gently wipe the swab over the gum next to the pain source

If you don’t have clove oil handy, you can put a whole clove on the point of pain and keep it there until the pain is reduced.

Make an Emergency Dental Appointment. The best thing you can do when having a toothache is visiting a professional dentist. A modern dental clinic is equipped with material and instruments to provide the optimum treatment for toothache. Clove oil and salt water can help with the management of the pain and are often effective in reducing the inflammation and swelling, however they are merely used to reduce the symptoms of the problem. For a lasting relief from toothache, always see a qualified dentist.

Dr Ellie Nadian

By Dr. Ellie Nadian from Pure Dentistry.

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