Article Written By: Amy Freeman, Colgate
You’re experiencing some serious pain in your mouth, and you think a dental abscess, a bacterial infection in the teeth or gums, might be to blame. Are there any home remedies for abscessed teeth that will help ease the discomfort while you’re waiting for your dentist appointment?
You have a few options for easing the pain, but home remedies won’t get to the root of the issue and aren’t likely to cure the abscess. Instead, think of home remedies as stop-gap measures. They’ll help you in the short term, but they won’t replace a visit to the dentist.
How to Cope with Dental Abscesses at Home
You’re likely to come across a few recommended home remedies for abscessed teeth. While each option has its advantages, some also have a few risks or potential drawbacks. If your dental abscess is causing severe pain and you have to wait before your dentist can see you, understanding how each remedy can help and what its risks are may help you choose the best one for you.
- Clove oil. The active ingredient in clove oil, eugenol, has helpful anesthetic and antibacterial properties. Applying a small amount of a clove essential oil to the site of a dental abscess can temporarily numb the area, easing your pain. But there are a few drawbacks to clove oil. It can be strong-smelling and spread to other parts of your mouth accidentally. Additionally, if you accidentally ingest a lot of clove oil, it may require a trip to the emergency room, notes the National Institutes of Health. Ingesting too much can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as shallow breathing, a burning throat, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.
- Saltwater rinse. A saltwater rinse can help to wash away bacteria and pus from an abscess. Saltwater can also soothe discomfort, the National Institutes of Health points out. While rinsing can provide some relief when you have an abscess, keep in mind that saltwater alone won’t be enough to clear up the infection.
- Peppermint tea bags. Some claim that placing wet, cool peppermint tea bags on a dental abscess will help ease the pain. While placing a cooled tea bag on an abscess won’t hurt you, it’s also not very likely to help you either. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that there isn’t enough evidence to say whether peppermint tea is helpful for any condition. The cold temperature of the tea bag may be somewhat soothing. If you happen to have some tea bags handy, you can try this home remedy. But you don’t want to rely on it to heal your abscess.
- Don’t use alcohol. One popular, but an ineffective home remedy has people soaking a cotton swab with alcohol (often whiskey or vodka) and applying the cotton to the abscessed area. While the alcohol may temporarily numb the pain, it won’t clear up the infection. Any relief will be temporary, and this method is obviously not recommended for children with tooth pain. Plus, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that while alcohol can reduce pain, the use of alcohol as a pain reliever can be incredibly dangerous, as you often need a lot of alcohol to get any numbing effects. It’s best to give this home remedy a pass.
Along with trying out natural home remedies to treat a dental abscess, people also often turn to over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. While pain medication may help improve your comfort, it’s also a temporary measure. You’ll still want to see your dentist remove the source of the infection and heal the tooth or gums.
How Your Dentist Can Treat an Abscess
Your dentist might use a variety of treatments to heal a dental abscess, explains the American Dental Association. In some cases, your dentist will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria. They might also clean the area around the tooth to remove debris, pus, and bacteria, or perform a root canal if there has been considerable damage to the pulp of the tooth.
Although a home remedy can provide some relief, don’t put off your visit to a dentist. The sooner you schedule treatment, the sooner your mouth will feel better and begin to heal.