21 Home Remedies for a Toothache

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This article has been updated and expanded to include addtional information to help you survive a dental emergency.  Here is a link:

How to Survive a Dental Emergency | Backdoor Survival

How to Survive a Dental Emergency

Most of us have made some provision for first aid care in the event of a disaster or other emergency.  But how many of us have prepared for a dental emergency? Having an unexpected  toothache, abscess or gum problem is something that indeed happens from time to time.

The only time I have had a major toothache was when I was away from home and nowhere near a dentist.  Luckily, I had some clove oil in my first aid kit and that got me through until I returned home and had a root canal.  Still, it was hardly what I would call a fun experience and something I wish I could have avoided in the first place.

When a dental emergency occurs and it is in the middle of the night, you are away from home, or are in the middle of a SHTF situation, it is time to turn to some tried and and true home remedies to get you through.   These are old fashioned remedies that, when coupled with a practical application of essential oils, will mean the difference between suffering in pain or simply dealing with a mild annoyance.

So what are some of those home remedies?

This week I am sharing some 21 home remedies for a toothache that have been compiled by my colleague Joe Marshall.  In addition, I am sharing a suggestion or two for dealing with a tooth that shatters, chips or breaks or at an inopportune time, namely when there is no dentist around to fix it.


You can’t schedule a toothache and it never fails that a major toothache hits when it’s late at night and your dentist’s office is closed, or you’re somewhere remote and getting to a dentist any time soon is just not an option.

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of a toothache knows that it is not just your mouth that hurts.  A toothache can be felt in just about every part of your body.  I have had a few so bad that they made me sick to my stomach from the pain alone.

Although in most cases only a doctor can cure the source of the problem, this list of treatments & pain relief remedies should get you through until you can visit the dentist.

It is important to note: If you have a toothache, there is a reason for it and it’s best to have it taken care of by a professional as soon as possible, rather than having it treated at home in hopes that the underlying issue will go away on its own. If it’s infected (if your gum area is swollen), don’t delay in getting professional medical care.

Directions: Apply the below remedies directly to both the problem tooth and surrounding gums unless otherwise directed.

For items that direct you to chew, or for liquids that are to be swished around inside mouth, direct the liquid on and around the sore tooth as much as possible.

Do not swallow liquids. Rinse your mouth and spit them out when done.

1.  Salt Water: Mix a heaping tablespoon full of salt in a small glass of warm water; swirl around inside your mouth for as long as you can, spit out. Repeat as needed.

2.  Hydrogen Peroxide: Swoosh a bit of hydrogen peroxide. If the taste is too horrid for you, try diluting with a bit of water.

3.  Alcohol: Swoosh a bit of whiskey, scotch, brandy or vodka. A strong mouthwash that contains alcohol will do the trick too.

4.  Vanilla Extract: Saturate a cotton ball with vanilla and hold in place. Can also use a cotton swab dipped in extract.  Other extracts that have the same effect are:

Almond Extract
Peppermint Extract
Lemon Extract

5.  Tea Tree Oil: Just a drop or two will do the trick. 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 lukewarm to warm water and rinse your mouth with it.

6.  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 lukewarm water if preferred.

7.  Apple Cider Vinegar: Soak a cotton ball with apple cider vinegar (ACV) and hold it in place. Can also try regular household vinegar.

8.  Ginger Root: Take a fresh piece of ginger and chew it a bit.

9.  Garlic: Take a clove of garlic, smash it and apply (settle it inside cheek). You can also mash some garlic with salt.

10.  Peppermint Leaves: Chew on fresh peppermint leaves. You can also dried leaves, just hold them in place.

11.  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.

12.  Lime: Cut a slice or wedge of lime and apply, bite into it if you can to release some of the juice.

13.  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).

14.  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.

15.  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 and pack it around the sore tooth.

16.  Cayenne Pepper: Make a paste with cayenne pepper and water.

17.  Black Pepper: You can use this full strength or make a mix of pepper and salt.

18.  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 lukewarm to warm water, dissolve the soda then swish the mixture in your mouth.

19.  Cloves: This is remedy from the old timers (my great grandparents), rest a clove against the sore area until pain goes away. You can also use a drop or two of clove oil (BE CAREFUL: too much can be toxic) or make a thick paste of ground cloves and water or ground cloves and olive oil.

20.  Tea: Make a fresh cup of tea then take the used tea bag (still warm) and stick it in your mouth. Careful not to tear the bag. The tannins that are naturally in tea leaves can help numb things.

21.  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. Make sure that you have some type of cloth between your skin and the ice, otherwise you can severely damage your skin.If that doesn’t work, try the opposite–a hot compress (making sure that it is not so hot as to scald 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 of course).

Try gently brushing your teeth and flossing–this might bring some relief.

One old time remedy that you should not follow is to place an aspirin against the sore tooth.  You will have just as much if not more of an effect by swallowing the aspirin.  Aspirin is actually an acid (acetylsalicylic acid to be exact) and placing it directly against your gums or teeth will cause corrosion of your teeth and acid burns on your gums.

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 taking a decongestant or if that is not available, a shower set on the hottest setting may help clear your sinus cavities. This might help relieve things until you get to a doctor. Chances are a prescription antibiotic is what you’ll need to clear up the sinus infection.

If it is a sinus infection please don’t wait to get it taken care of!  I have permanent damage to my left eardrum from a sinus infection that became so congested it literally burst my eardrum as a pressure relief valve.

Please be aware: These are notes I have collected in my personal life over the years, in my own research as well as tips gathered from my grandparents and great grandparents.

They are not by any means professional medical advice and a trained dentist should always be contacted as soon as possible.


Stuff happens.  Sometimes a tooth will actually shatter or chip.  Sometimes a major piece of it will actually break off.  What then?

If you are not experiencing any pain, you can take an emery board (nail file) and gently smooth away the rough edges of the tooth. On the other hand, if you are experiencing pain or hot and cold sensitivity, try applying some of the home remedies above plus an application of Sensodyne toothpaste to the affected area.  That plus some Tylenol of Ibuprofen will get you by until you have an opportunity to see a dental professional.


In addition to these suggestions, I encourage you to pick a copy of “Where There Is No Dentist”.  This highly regarded book will teach you how to be your own dentist.  An electronic copy is available for $4 at the Hesperian website or you can pick up a print or Kindle copy on Amazon.

It also would not hurt to have a week’s supply of antibiotics on hand.  Check with your doctor or dentist about an emergency prescription or pick up some fish antibiotics which are the same thing and can be used for extreme emergency purposes.  For more information on the use of antibiotics, read How to Stockpile Antibiotics for Long Term Survival.

Finally, remember that if you are in extreme pain and there is a doctor available, do not be shy.  Every doctor I know is willing to treat the pain and if applicable, an infection, until a dental professional is available.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin:  Today I am featuring an assortment of essential oils that are reasonably priced and available online with free shipping at Amazon. I also have links to other items related to this article.

NOW Foods Tea Tree Oil:  With strong antiseptic and germicidal properties, the leaf of the tea tree had a long history of use by the indigenous peoples of Australia before tea tree was “discovered” by the crew of the famous English explorer James Cook. The aroma of the oil is warm, spicy, medicinal and volatile

NOW Foods Oregano Oil:  Oregano has a strong, herbaceous, green-camphoraceous, medicinal top note. The middle note is spicy, medicinal. The dry out is sweet-phenolic woody, bitter-sweet. Oregano essential oil is invigorating, purifying and uplifting.

NOW Foods Clove Oil:  Clove oil has a powerful, spicy-fruity, warm, sweet aroma. It is extremely effective for mitigating tooth and gum pain.

NOW Foods Orange Oil: More sweet orange oil is produced than any other citrus oil.  It has a lively, fruity, sweet aroma and is refreshing and uplifting.

NOW Foods Lavender Oil:  Lavender oil is my personal favorite.  It can be used in salves and skin lotions  or directly on the skin, right out of the bottle. It has a sweet, balsamic, floral aroma which combines well with many oils including citrus, clove, patchouli, rosemary, clary sage and pine. Its benefits include balancing, soothing, normalizing, calming, relaxing, and healing.

NOW Foods Peppermint Oil:  Peppermint has a powerful, sweet, menthol aroma that works beautifully in DIY cleaners.

Where There Is No Dentist:  Community health workers, educators and individuals from around the world use this book to help people care for their teeth and gums.  The author uses straightforward language and careful instructions to explain how to: examine patients; diagnose common dental problems; make and use dental equipment; use local anesthetics; place fillings; and remove teeth.

Dent’s Toothache Gum:  This is not a chewing gum but more of a filler for a cracked tooth or missing filling.  Cheap, too.

Sensodyne:  This stuff really works to relieve tooth sensitivity.


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21 Home Remedies for a Toothache — 22 Comments

  1. Gaye. I usually agree with all you say, but this time I have to disagree. When I use alcohol to swish around a sore tooth, I definitely swallow…

  2. Hydrogen peroxide, H2O2, is a great disinfectant and it most commonly comes in a brown bottle with a 3 % concentration ( 90 cents at Walmart ). There are 6% solutions and up to 35% pharmaceutical grades also. 6% and above will burn your mouth very quickly so dilute with plain water down to 3% or less before prolonged use in the mouth. Even 3% can burn slightly if long term exposure occurs.

    • Thanks for the reminder that H202 comes in different concentrations. Although the 3% version is most common, we all need to be careful and aware that the higher concentrations are out there and will burn if not properly diluted.

  3. You forgot the inner bark of the common Blackberry plant. It is an anesthetic. Scrape the other (dark) layer off and trim strips of the cambrium layer (white layer). Hold this against the sore gums. You can also make a tea from the pulverized bark (all parts or just the cambrium layer). Gargle this tea and spit (it can be drunk, but the pain is not in your stomach…) Fresh bark is best but it may be harvested at any time of the year, although spring is better, when the plant is actively pushing fluids through the cambrium layer to the leaves and berries.

  4. For abscess: CREAM of TARTAR. It exceeds clay for drawing power and when I used it, it pulled greenish gunk out of my gum. Also works on boils. Make a paste, put on damp cotton so it doesnt get too dry, put a piece of plastic wrap btwn lip and pad, with pad on the gum. Make plastic long enough to fold over the teeth so it isnt diluted by saliva and your mouth fills up with C of T. Morning will show discolored paste.
    During the day I dissolved some ABX in DMSO and applied the same way. NO DENTIST NEEDED. The abscess resolved.

  5. Be careful believing that ER’s have a dentist available. I worked ER and we certainly didn’t have a dentist on call. We gave some (often non-narcotic) pain medication and often antibiotics. The abscess generally has to be treated before the dental work so we only got that ball rolling. The rest was up to the patient – to call a dentist and get it taken care of or get an appointment with the charity clinic that can arrange a dentist (long wait list by the way). You couldn’t walk into an ER and get dental care. Just wanted to be sure people did not expect that to always be the case.

    • Thank you for the clarification. What I meant was exactly what you said: most doctors will prescribe pain medication and antibiotics. Other than that, you need a dentist.

      You said it a whole lot better than me!

  6. Herbal ORAL Care
    Another good Solution is: An alcohol base tincture of Echinacea. This will prevent abceses’ from forming and killing any potential bacteria infections ether existing or incubating. This is also a natural mild pain reliever. for pan Diluted Clove oil at a ratio of 1 drop of Pure essential clove oil to 1 ounce of carrier oil e.g. olive, grapeseed, almond oil. for more details and recipes visit http://herbalsurvival.blogspot.com/2013/04/herbal-oral-care-recipes.html
    Hope this helps.God Bless,
    “The Herbal Survivalist”

  7. I am extremely blessed to have a prickly ash tree near me. It is also known as an Indian toothache tree. Peel some bark and place it on affected gums. Numbs the pain until care can be found.

  8. Caution: Tea Tree Oil is very powerful stuff and should be diluted with a carrier oil ie. olive oil, etc. before applying directly to the gums. Golden Seal Root powder is also a good antibiotic, but it tastes awful. My husband swears by Apple Cider Vinegar, salt and warm water as a rinse. It soothes, draws and cleanses all in one step.

  9. I had a dry socket from having a wisdom tooth pulled, went back to the dentist because the pain was sooooo bad, and he packed it with cloth soaked with clove oil. Pain Gone

  10. Tooth broke on remote 3 week trek on a 6month trekking trip in New Zealand, leaving a hole and pain. Packet it with pine resin or gum, which is also a natural antiseptic. Kept coming out so added a little charcoal to the resin- heated on a rock by the fire and lasted till I made it to a dentist. I used 1 drop of tea tree oil in cup of water gargled to reduce pain but don’t swallow tea tree as it lowers the immune system. I agree with brine rinse and clove oil too ;0)

  11. I think I agree with all your points. Sensodyne also works well for me, I’ve been using that for some time now.
    Thanks for sharing

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