If there’s one list to keep handy–this is the one. It never fails that a major toothache hits when it’s late at night and your dentist’s office is closed. Although only a doctor can definitively determine and cure the source of the problem, this list of treatments & pain relief remedies should get you through the night until you can visit a professional.
I have a lot of helpful items listed, most are everyday, common ingredients so there’s sure to be at least one or two in your home, pantry and spice cabinet that you can utilize immediately.
Important: Whether you have a dull pain or a severe ache, there is a reason for it and it’s best to have it taken care of by a dentist as soon as possible. If it’s infected (gum area is swollen and/or face feels hot), don’t delay in getting professional medical care. These tips are only intended to help you get through a day or so until you can see a dentist.
Directions For Use: Apply selected treatment directly to both the problem tooth and surrounding sore gums unless otherwise directed.
For items that you are instructed to chew or for liquids that are to be swooshed around inside mouth, do so with the sore tooth and focus on surrounding area.
Take Care: Do not swallow liquids, spit out when done.
Master List of Home Remedies
- Salt Water: Mix a heaping spoonful of salt in a small glass of water, swoosh around inside your mouth for as long as you can, spit out. Repeat a couple times.
- Cloves: This is an old timer’s remedy, rest a clove against the sore tooth until pain goes away. You can also use a drop or two of clove oil (careful, too much can be toxic) or make a thick paste of ground cloves and water or ground cloves and olive oil.
- Alcohol: Swoosh a bit of whiskey, scotch, brandy or vodka. A strong mouthwash that contains alcohol can do the trick too.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Swoosh a bit of hydrogen peroxide. If the taste is too horrid for you, try diluting with a bit of water.
- Vanilla Extract: Saturate a cotton ball with vanilla and hold in place. Can also use a cotton swab dipped in extract.
- Almond Extract: Same method of treatment as with Vanilla (above).
- Peppermint Extract: Same as with Vanilla (above).
- Lemon Extract: Same as with Vanilla (above).
- Tea Tree Oil: Just a drop or two is all that’s needed. You can also add some to a cotton swab and hold in place or add a few drops of tea tree oil to a small glass of water and swoosh this around.
- Oil Of Oregano: Mix a few drops with a bit of olive oil, then saturate a cotton ball with mixture. Can replace the olive oil with water if preferred.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Soak a cotton ball with apple cider vinegar (ACV) and hold it in place. Can also try regular household vinegar.
- Ginger Root: Take a fresh piece of ginger and carefully chew it a bit (remember to chew with the problem tooth).
- Garlic: Take a clove of garlic, smash it and apply (settle it inside cheek). You can also mash some garlic with salt.
- Peppermint Leaves: Chew on fresh peppermint leaves. You can also try dried leaves, just hold them in place.
- Potato: Cut a fresh piece of potato (raw, skin off) and hold in place. Can also pound a piece of raw potato, mix in a bit of salt and use the mash.
- Lime: Cut a slice or wedge of lime and apply, bite into it if you can to release some of the juice. If you’re sensitive to cold, first bring the lime to room temperature if it was refrigerated.
- Onion: Slice a piece of fresh onion and hold it inside your mouth. The onion needs to be freshly cut (so it provides a bit of onion juice).
- Cucumber: Slice a fresh piece of cucumber and hold it over the sore area. If refrigerated, you might want to bring the cucumber to room temperature before using (if sensitive to cold) otherwise a cool piece can be soothing. You can also mash a piece with a bit of salt.
- Plantain: Chew up a fresh plantain leaf. If you’re too sore to chew, use the other side of your mouth. Once the leaf is macerated a bit apply it to the problem area and hold in place.
- Cayenne Pepper: Make a paste with cayenne pepper and water and pack the tooth and gum with the mixture.
- Black Pepper: You can use this full strength or make a mix of pepper and salt.
- Baking Soda: Take a cotton swab and moisten it with a bit of water, dip it in baking soda (coat the swab really well with baking soda) then apply. You can also make a mouth rinse by mixing a heaping spoonful of baking soda in a small glass of water, dissolve the soda then swish the mixture in your mouth.
- Tea: Make a fresh cup of tea then take the used tea bag and stick it in your mouth. Careful not to tear the bag. The tannins that are naturally in tea leaves can help numb things.
- Ice Pack: Cover an ice pack  with a face cloth or towel then hold over your cheek where the problem is. This will help numb things. If that doesn’t work, try the opposite–a hot compress  (not too hot that it burns your skin).
- If the pain is unbearable and there’s no dentist available, call your local hospital’s emergency room–chances are they have a dentist on call that can treat you (for a fee).
- Try gently brushing your teeth and flossing–this might bring some relief.
- If the side of your face is in severe pain and it feels like you’re going to lose your mind (I’ve been there, done that)–it could be a sinus infection or an allergy that affects your sinuses rather than a problem tooth (even though it definitely feels like it). Try a Herbal Decongestant Steam  to break up sinuses, this might help relieve things until you get to a doctor. Chances are a prescription for penicillin is what you’ll need to clear up the infection.
Something I found that worked in the above, very painful, severe situation the last time it happened to me (I’ve gone through this three times so far):
- Swoosh cool or room temperature water in your mouth where the pain is. Hold the water there as long as you can.
- Once the pain starts throbbing again, spit out and replenish with a fresh mouthful of water.
- Spit out and repeat as often as necessary.
I had to do this for about 4 hours straight one night until the dentist’s office opened in the morning. The pain was an unbearable, unspeakable, nerve pain. This was the only thing that kept me sane and gave me immediate and fast relief, unfortunately it’s only for moments at a time. I ended up having that tooth pulled but only after a round of antibiotics and a few days taking prescription pain killers. I’m not actually clear on what the problem was in that particular case, I think it was an abscessed tooth…I was in serious distress at the time and couldn’t see my usual dentist but I’m confident in the care I received.
What’s In My Medicine Cabinet: I now keep a box each of Extra Strength Anbesol (topical Anesthetic) and Maximum Strenth Orajel in the medicine cabinet at all times. The brands aren’t what matters, both have 20% Benzocaine Gel and I found that this ingredient helps dull this type of extreme nerve pain in the beginning stages before it blows up and you have to keep water in your mouth the entire time. It would also help relieve pain from an abscessed tooth in the advanced stages. If it’s 3 AM and nothing on the home remedies list above will help you, running to a 24 HR Pharmacy is *well worth the effort* to go out driving to pick this up. They will only provide temporary relief, but there’s something about tooth & nerve pain that is so intense and causes such severe distress and discomfort that anything even minimally removes or eases the pain just a little bit is welcome.
I hope this information is useful to you and you find a quick cure that brings the pain to a halt, but please don’t ignore the problem and get yourself to a dentist as soon as you can. Home remedies can help you get through the night, but problem teeth and gums only get worse if ignored. Good luck!
Note: These are simply notes I have collected, they are not professional medical advice.
**Updated: Removed aspirin tips in case the warnings weren’t clear enough for some, better to be safe than sorry!