Toothache Relief and Home Remedies

Medically Reviewed by Alfred D. Wyatt Jr., DMD on March 24, 2024
8 min read

Your head pounds, your gums throb, and your mouth is sore and tender. You’ve got a toothache. See your dentist ASAP. In the meantime, use these home remedies to get short-term relief.

Saltwater rinse

Until you can get to the dentist, one of the best things you can do is swish warm, salty water around in your mouth. A good mix is half a teaspoon of table salt added to 8 ounces of water. Spit it out, don’t swallow it. You can also gently floss around the sore tooth to remove any bits of food that may be stuck.

Hydrogen peroxide rinse

As an alternative to salt water, rinse with a solution of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. Always mix the hydrogen peroxide with water. Don't use it undiluted. Rinse thoroughly and spit it out. Don’t swallow hydrogen peroxide.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers

Dentists suggest acetaminophen for children. For adults, take your pick of OTC medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen. If you choose aspirin, swallow it -- don’t put it right on the tooth or your gums. That folk remedy doesn’t work and might harm the inside of your mouth.

Cold compress

If your face is swollen, put an ice pack on your cheek intermittently for the first 24-36 hours. It may help ease the pain, especially if you’ve chipped your tooth or knocked it loose. Swelling could also mean you have an abscess, a sac of pus and gunk deep in the roots of your tooth. This can cause a serious infection in your jaw and other teeth. Signs include fever and red gums.

OTC anesthetics

Apply these pain-relieving gels and liquids directly to the sore tooth and nearby gums. They contain benzocaine, which will numb your mouth for a little while. But they’re meant for short-term use only.


Take some ice in your hand, on the same side of the body as your sore tooth. Rub the ice in the space between your thumb and forefinger for 7 minutes, or until the area turns numb. Why does it work? Researchers believe ice stops pain signals to your brain.

Clove oil for tooth pain

This natural remedy numbs the pain. Rub it directly on the sore area, or soak a cotton ball and dab it against the tooth and gums. It may be as effective as benzocaine, the numbing ingredient in OTC toothache gels.

In addition to those standard options, there are some alternative remedies you could try. Most of them aren’t proven to work. And any home remedy might make you feel better for a while, but it won’t make your toothache go away.

Garlic for toothache

When you crush one of these cloves, you release allicin, an oily liquid and natural disease fighter. Will it ease the ache? That’s not clear. But you can try chewing a piece of garlic or placing chopped bits on your tooth. It’s safe to try.

Toothache plant

With a name like that, this might seem a sure bet to ease your symptoms. Different types of this plant grow all over the world, and the oil is an ingredient in many products. But it’s not clear if this plant really eases dental pain.

Vanilla extract

Vanilla extract has alcohol in it. The alcohol will numb the pain for a while, and antioxidants in the vanilla may help it heal. Use your finger or a cotton ball to put a small amount on your aching tooth and gum.

Peppermint tea

A cooled peppermint tea bag may soothe your aching tooth and gums.

Traditional healing

In some parts of the world, traditional healers and herbalists use different parts of many other plants to ease toothaches. It’s not clear how well they work. These include:

  • Painted nettles
  • Blue verbena
  • Coconut shell
  • Guava leaves
  • Cola nuts
  • Eucalyptus leaves
  • Mango bark
  • Pawpaw leaves
  • Sweet potato
  • Sunflower leaves
  • Tobacco leaves

Coconut oil

"Oil pulling" is a common part of a traditional medicine practice called Ayurveda, which has its origins in India. It involves swishing oil around the same way you would a mouthwash. Will it help a toothache? A few studies suggest that the practice can improve the health of your mouth by reducing plaque buildup on your teeth and inflammation of your gums. But there's no evidence to back up the claims that it relieves toothache. Coconut oil won't harm you, though, if you want to try it.

Cayenne pepper

You might have this sitting on a shelf in your kitchen. Cayenne contains capsaicin, which has pain-relieving properties. But don't put undiluted cayenne in your mouth. Instead, dissolve it in water and rinse with it.

Tea tree oil

This natural substance is sometimes promoted as a toothache remedy. Evidence to back that up is sparse. It can reduce buildup on your teeth and gum inflammation. You can find mouthwashes that contain tea tree oil. It's safe if you use it as directed.

If your teeth are sensitive, that can be a sign of a problem with the inner layer of your teeth called the dentin. You might feel a jolt when you eat or drink something cold, hot, or sweet. Sensitivity can be caused by several things:

  • Wear and tear
  • Your gum pulling away, exposing the root of your tooth
  • Gum disease
  • A cavity
  • A cracked tooth
  • Products to whiten your teeth
  • Recent dental work
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Mouthwash that's high in acid

Sensitivity caused by recent dental work will probably go away on its own. But any other type of sensitivity merits a check-in with your dentist. Until your appointment, here are some ways to manage your discomfort.

Desensitizing toothpaste

Several brands of desensitizing toothpaste are available. You may need to try a few to find what works best for you. After you've used one for a while, your teeth should be less sensitive. You also can rub desensitizing toothpaste along the gum around a sensitive tooth before you go to bed at night.

Apple cider vinegar

People tout the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, including as a mouthwash. It does have bacteria-killing properties. But swishing with apple cider vinegar may be unwise if you have sensitive teeth. It's acidic and can eat away your enamel, which protects the dentin of your teeth.

Honey and warm water

Rinsing your mouth with a solution of honey and warm water is sometimes mentioned as a remedy for sensitive teeth. A warm-water rinse can soothe sensitive teeth that have been set off by something cold. Honey is known to have wound-healing properties. But there's no specific evidence that this combination is effective for sensitive teeth. If your teeth are sensitive to sweet things, honey might make the problem worse.


This spice plays a key role in Indian cuisine and has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries. It contains a substance called curcumin, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Massaging a paste of turmeric powder mixed with water on a sensitive tooth may relieve pain, though studies on turmeric's health benefits haven't been conclusive. It's generally safe to use in amounts you'd find in a recipe.

Green tea

A substance in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) has been studied for its protective effects against many health conditions. Some research has focused on whether EGCG can help improve eroded tooth enamel, one of the causes of tooth sensitivity. Early results were promising, but more work is needed. Drinking green tea is safe in moderation — no more than eight cups a day.

Home remedies for toothache are fine as temporary measures, but they're no substitutes for the kind of care your dentist can offer. You might be able to ease your pain in the short term, but the underlying problem will remain.

Some remedies may not be very effective against your toothache. And some remedies may have side effects.

OTC pain relievers are safe when you take the correct dose and use them occasionally. But taking more than the recommended dose or for a longer period can lead to complications, including:

  • Liver or kidney damage
  • Diarrhea, nausea, and stomach upset
  • Ringing in the ears, or deafness
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Trouble forming blood clots

The active ingredient in toothache gels you apply to your gums is benzocaine. It's been linked to a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia, which affects your blood's ability to carry oxygen. Use products with benzocaine according to directions and don't go over the recommended amount. It's not considered safe for children younger than 2. Check with your dentist if you have questions.

See a dentist if:

  • You have any pain. Even short-lived pain can mean a dental problem that needs attention.
  • You have jaw pain along with a popping or clicking noise; this could signal temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

If you seek dental care:

  • The dentist will look at your teeth and may take an X-ray to diagnose the source of pain and suggest treatment options.
  • If there are signs of infection, the dentist may prescribe an antibiotic.
  • Treatment for TMJ disorder may include a mouth guard to prevent tooth grinding, stress-reduction techniques, or surgery.

Home remedies may give you temporary relief from a toothache or pain from sensitive teeth. But they may not be especially effective, and some carry risks if you use them long-term. Many of the causes of toothache are problems only your dentist can fix. You can try self-care at home, but if the pain continues, call your dentist for an appointment.

What is the fastest way to stop a toothache at home?

Try rinsing your mouth with warm salt water and gently flossing around the affected tooth. That will clear out any debris. OTC pain relievers might also ease your discomfort. Is your cheek swollen? A cold compress on your face can help, especially if you've chipped a tooth or knocked it loose.

How do you stop nerve pain in your teeth?

OTC pain relievers may help, and rinsing with warm water may provide some relief. Try to avoid chewing on your sore tooth, and stick to soft foods. Avoid foods and drinks that are very hot, cold, or sweet.

What helps a toothache at night?

Your toothache might feel more intense at night simply because you have fewer things to distract you from the pain. If you've already taken other steps, such as rinsing your mouth and taking an OTC pain reliever, you might try elevating your head. We know that elevating an injured leg or arm can reduce inflammation and pain. An extra pillow might help you sleep a little better when you have a toothache.