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Natural Tooth Pain Remedies

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I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!

Tooth pain ranges from mildly irritating to horrendously debilitating

Tooth pain ranges from mildly irritating to horrendously debilitating

Tooth pain can be caused by a large list of factors, but anyone who's ever had a sore tooth knows how overwhelming it can be. It ranges from mildly irritating to horrendously debilitating depending on what's causing it and how long the tooth has been affected.

Of course, the best thing you can do is to avoid tooth problems in the first place as much as possible. Keeping a clean mouth is the best way to prevent dental disease. That said, not all tooth pain is related to disease. The teeth are unfortunately prone to getting knocked around, especially during sports or automobile accidents.

The severity of your tooth pain will determine what steps you should take to alleviate it. Receding gums will usually cause mild pain and noticeable sensitivity, and the pain will generally be alleviated fairly easily. Cases caused by cavities, fractures, injuries, and dental abscesses will require more extreme measures and usually result in persistent and excruciating tooth pain.

This article will help you determine whether you have mild or severe tooth pain, and what you can do at home to help alleviate it.

Types of Tooth Pain

When the protective layers of the teeth are damaged, the nerve endings are exposed

When the protective layers of the teeth are damaged, the nerve endings are exposed

  1. The less severe type of tooth pain is generally referred to as tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity occurs when the gums have receded, or when the dentin layer of the tooth has been exposed. Without the protective covering of enamel on the crowns of the teeth, or cementum on the roots of the teeth, the nerve endings are exposed. This can result in mild sensitivity when brushing your teeth or eating hot or cold foods and beverages. This pain usually occurs near the gum line, where the enamel coating is thinnest. Brushing too firmly can wear away the enamel, or expose the dentin when the gums recede.
  2. More severe pain usually results when the dental pulp (which contains the blood supply and nerves of the tooth) has been irritated, damaged, or become inflamed. The pulp of the tooth is usually protected by layers of dentin, cementum, and enamel. When these layers are damaged, the pulp eventually becomes inflamed or infected. Severe and chronic tooth pain will result, as the dental pulp contains all of the nerve endings of the tooth.
  3. Another type of tooth pain, called referred pain, may also be present. The teeth share nerves with the head and neck (including the jaw, ears, sinuses), and other parts of the body. Sometimes when there's an issue with any one of these, the pain is felt in the teeth. This can go in the opposite direction as well, where the jaw (TMJ), ear area, or sinuses will feel painful but the cause is in fact from a tooth.

Common Tooth Pain Causes

Dental decay, and many other factors, can cause tooth pain to develop

Dental decay, and many other factors, can cause tooth pain to develop

  • New fillings, crowns, dental braces, or root canals can be painful for weeks
  • A common result of dental braces, especially after they are tightened
  • Food impacted between the teeth and gums can be extremely painful
  • Bruxism, also know as chronic teeth grinding
  • Enamel erosion on the crowns, or cementum erosion on the roots, usually due to heavy-handed brushing habits
  • Recession of the gum tissues due to brushing back-and-forth or too strenuously
  • Teeth, fillings, crowns, or root canals that are fractured or leaking
  • Cavities, especially advanced decay, can be extremely painful when they reach the dental pulp (where the nerve endings reside)
  • Inflammation or infection of the dental pulp caused by chronic gum disease. Often occurs with pus and exudates from the surrounding area (an abscess)
  • The nerves of the teeth can be stimulated by oral cancer or tumors pressing on them
  • TMJ (jaw joint), sinuses, ear, or heart pain that is referred to the teeth from other areas

Signs and Symptoms

Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, or tooth brushing usually means you have a mild dental condition. This is generally easily remedied with over-the-counter products.

If your tooth pain lasts for 15+ seconds after they've been exposed to hot, cold, or pressure, it's likely that you have a moderate to severe tooth condition. This can generally only be temporarily relieved until you can get to a dentist to fix the problem.

Tooth Sensitivity (Mild Pain & Discomfort):

  • Teeth are sensitive to temperature, sweets, tooth brushing (especially near the gum line), and to acidic foods and beverages. All of this usually, but not always, occurs near the gum line.

Tooth Pain (Moderate to Severe, or Debilitating Pain):

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  • Pain when chewing or under pressure, or a complete inability to eat or chew foods
  • Bleeding or pus around the tooth, or a bump on the gums near the tooth (dental abscess)
  • Swelling around the tooth (puffy, bulging, red, shiny) which may bleed or exude pus
  • Face and/or jaw swelling (usually on one side) that is noticeable to others
  • Nausea due to the pain, or pain that keeps you up at night
  • Drainage of pus and fluids out of your cheek or jaw (fistula)
  • Injury to the ligaments holding the teeth in place, or noticeable injury to the tooth or surrounding teeth (accident, trauma, braces, teeth grinding)
  • Pain and discomfort that doesn't go away day or night, and there is no relief

Tooth Pain Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Can gum recession cause tooth pain?
    • No! Gums have nothing to do with the teeth at all
    • Yes! Gum recession exposes the dentin, sometimes causing pain
  2. Does dental pulp contain nerve endings?
    • No! Dental pulp only contains blood vessels
    • Yes! Dental pulp contains blood vessels and nerves
  3. Can chronic teeth grinding cause tooth pain?
    • Yes! Teeth grinding can harm the teeth and supporting structures
    • No! Teeth grinding is just an annoying habit
  4. Can tooth pain be caused by impacted food?
    • No! Impacted food is just impacted food
    • Yes! Impacted food can cause tooth pain
  5. Should severe tooth pain be ignored?
    • Yes! Save on dental bills as long as possible
    • No! Severe tooth pain represents a serious condition

Answer Key

  1. Yes! Gum recession exposes the dentin, sometimes causing pain
  2. Yes! Dental pulp contains blood vessels and nerves
  3. Yes! Teeth grinding can harm the teeth and supporting structures
  4. Yes! Impacted food can cause tooth pain
  5. No! Severe tooth pain represents a serious condition

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: You have very low tooth pain knowledge. Read this article again!

If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: You have low tooth pain knowledge. Read this article again!

If you got 4 correct answers: You have moderate tooth pain knowledge!

If you got 5 correct answers: You are a tooth pain knowledge master! Congrats!

Temporary Tooth Pain Relief

Each type of tooth pain can be remedied, at least temporarily, by using these methods. But if the pain is referred from another part of the body, these methods won't make your tooth feel any better.

Tooth Sensitivity (Mild Pain & Discomfort):

  • For a longer lasting remedy, consider using Crest Sensi-Stop strips. They work similarly to sensitivity toothpastes, but the results tend to last longer
  • Use a sensitivity toothpaste. I have used Sensodyne myself, and it worked quickly and well. This toothpaste forms a barrier between the outer layer of the tooth and the tooth's nerve endings
  • A sensitivity mouthwash like Listerine Sensitive or Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief will also help but results are slower
  • Whitening toothpastes can be abrasive, so stop using them until your tooth sensitivity issues go away
  • Use a soft, or ideally ultra-soft, toothbrush. Nobody should be using any other type
  • Brush gently using warm water (never cold), moving in small circles that mimic the scalloped shape of the gum line. Never brush back and forth or aggressively; this results in gum recession and can erode the thin enamel coating near the gum line

Tooth Pain (Moderate to Severe, or Debilitating Pain):

  • Topical application of eugenol (clove) oil or gel is usually very effective for moderate to severe tooth pain. This can usually be found in a pharmacy or in the dental aisle
  • Orajel or other benzocaine-based topical anesthestics work well with moderate pain
  • A warm salt water rinse can help clean out the area and desensitize the tooth (1 teaspoon of salt mixed into one cup of warm water. Swish, spit out, and swish again until the water is all gone)
  • Apply a paste of salt and pepper topically to the tooth and surrounding tissues (1:1:1 salt, pepper, and water ratio)
  • Take an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen
  • Get to the dentist as soon as possible! These remedies are meant for temporary pain relief and will not resolve the underlying dental problems that are causing the pain

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Kate P


Shyron E Shenko from Texas on July 24, 2017:

Kate, a very interesting article. I have had more than my share of tooth problems, and my mom did not have insurance of the financial means of fixing those problems when I was a child.

Blessings and thank you for this valuable info.

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on September 25, 2015:

Thanks for reading and for the comment, Unvrso. I've had tooth sensitivity and also a very painful area from simple food impaction. Tooth pain is no joke! I hope you have no further problems with this!

Jose Juan Gutierrez from Mexico City on September 25, 2015:

I had some teeth problems last year. It feels awful! You´re providing great tips.

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on September 22, 2015:

Awww NellRose, I hope your son gets the best treatment possible! I'm glad he's being seen, due to the apparent pain he's in. I'm proud of him for going in.. some many people aren't that brave. It's better to face this than to ignore it. Wishing all the best..

Nell Rose from England on September 22, 2015:

I had to read this as my son is going through the pain in the teeth day! he is in agony! but hopefully he will be better after seeing the dentist tomorrow though, great advice, and now I am out of here, I can hear that dentist drill starting!

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on September 15, 2015:

Hi Peachpurple, thanks for your comment! Swollen gums are a sign of gum disease, and are not considered normal or healthy. To learn more about swollen gums and how to prevent them, read my article here:

peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 14, 2015:

usually I have swollen gum which I thought it was tooth pain

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