Can you use essential oils for toothaches? For many people, essential oils are effective first-line remedies for tooth pain because of their pain-killing, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and calming properties. In this article, you’ll discover some of the best essential oils to treat toothaches, as well as tips on how to use them to treat your tooth pain.
- 1 Symptoms of a Toothache
- 2 Possible Causes of a Toothache
- 3 Medical and Home Treatments
- 4 Best Essential Oils for Toothaches and Gum Disease
Symptoms of a Toothache
A toothache, tooth pain, dental pain… or whatever you call it. All of us have experienced it at some point in our lives. Simply put, a toothache is a type of sharp or dull pain that we feel in or around our tooth or teeth. If left unmanaged, it could lead to serious infection and other complications.
Common toothache symptoms 1:
- Sharp or dull, excruciating, or persistent pain
- Tooth and gum swelling
- Pain when pressure is placed to the tooth
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
Possible Causes of a Toothache
Tooth decay (primary cause)
Tooth decay, also called dental caries, affects people of all ages. However, it’s most common in children and young adults.
Why do people experience tooth decay?
Your teeth have a hard, outer covering called enamel. This highly mineralized substance can protect itself with the help of fluoride from toothpaste and certain minerals in saliva (like calcium and phosphate).
However, when you don’t floss or brush your teeth regularly, the acids that the bacteria in your mouth produce will destroy your teeth’s enamel over time, causing cavities to form.
Two of the most common types of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis refers to the inflammation of the gums.
Periodontitis is a serious inflammatory disease that affects the gums, alveolar bone (which has the tooth sockets), and tissues that support the teeth.
If you suspect you have a gum disease, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics and a non-prescription toothpaste that contains fluoride and triclosan to neutralize bacteria that may cause or complicate gum infection.
There are different types of tooth infection that could cause pain. There’s an abscessed tooth, which is a bacterial infection that causes a pocket of pus to form around the root of a tooth or in the gums of an infected tooth.
Pulpitis occurs when bacteria reach the dental pulp, the inner portion of a tooth that’s rich in blood vessels, living tissue, and nerves.
In irreversible pulpitis, the pain is often sudden, dull, and lingering. In reversible pulpitis, the pain disappears after a few seconds the stimulus (hot, cold, sweet, touch, or water) is removed.
Tooth or teeth injury
It’s not common, but it does happen. There are a variety of ways people may injure their teeth. Some may suffer from a chipped or cracked tooth after eating something hard, like ice, candies, and hard biscuits.
In some instances, athletes or children who are playing rough may unexpectedly break or knock-out a tooth. Fortunately, most teeth injuries are not serious and can be repaired by a family dentist.
Malocclusion is one example of a hereditary bite abnormality that happens when the teeth are misaligned. Other possible causes of this condition are thumb sucking, pacifier usage beyond the age of 3, an extra tooth, poor-fitting dental filling, a mouth or jaw tumor, and misalignment of a fractured jaw.
A bite abnormality might not always produce any obvious discomfort. In some instances, it could cause discomfort or pain, which you might not immediately associate with problems with your teeth.
Teething or tooth eruption
This is a common problem in babies and toddlers. Babies usually start teething at around 6 months. This process could last up to a year or more.
By the time he or she reaches the age of 2 ½ years old, his or her milk teeth (also called baby teeth, primary teeth, and deciduous teeth) would have already been complete. 2
One in eight adults in the United States may be suffering from sensitive teeth, according to WebMD. Teeth sensitivity normally happens when the gums recede or the enamel of your tooth or teeth is worn away.
This causes your tooth’s dentin—the yellow, spongy, and mineralized tissue that covers the nerve—to be exposed and become painful due to changes in the temperature or certain foods (sweet or acidic foods and drinks)
Bruxism is a term for involuntary or repeated grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw, usually happening during sleep. Sleep disorders, stress, and anxiety may trigger bruxism, but the most common causes are an abnormal bite and a missing or crooked tooth.
Medications (like ibuprofen for easing the swelling or pain around the jaw), mouth guards, stress management, and fixing oral health problems are some of the ways to control or treat bruxism.
Medical and Home Treatments
Generally, toothaches can be relieved by taking over-the-counter medications for inflammation, such ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn and Aleve).
Topical numbing medications, such as over-the-counter benzocaine gel or spray, offers short-term relief. But before using any medications, especially on a child, ask your dentist first to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for your condition.
The prognosis for a toothache is generally positive—if you take the appropriate medicines and follow good oral hygiene. There are many things you could do to prevent tooth pain or infection from happening:
- Always brush with a fluoride toothpaste, floss your teeth, and gargle with an antiseptic, alcohol-free mouthwash.
- Visit your dentist regularly for routine check-ups and teeth cleanings (at least twice per year).
- Avoid foods and drinks that may cause dental problems.
Now, let’s talk about the different essential oils that could help you relieve tooth pain and infection.
Best Essential Oils for Toothaches and Gum Disease
Clove Essential Oil
Clove essential oil is extracted from the stem, bud, and leaf of the clove plant (Eugenia aromaticum), which is native to Indonesia and India.
Although it has numerous health benefits, clove essential oil is best known for its oral health benefits. Dental hygiene products, such as toothpastes and mouthwashes, contain clove essential oil. In fact, dentists apply it on the gums of patients before a root canal, dental filling, or tooth extraction procedure.
Eugenol is one of the primary active components of clove essential oil that’s responsible for its ability to fight mouth or throat infection, pain, and inflammation.
Not all types of clove essential oil contain the same amount of eugenol. Clove leaf essential oil has the lowest amount of eugenol, while clove stem essential oil has the highest eugenol content.
However, because of its high levels of eugenol, clove stem essential oil is inappropriate to use for external applications.
A few studies seem to confirm clove essential oil’s role in treating pain, inflammation, and infection. In a study published in the journal British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, researchers divided 270 patients who underwent a tooth extraction procedure into three groups: the “0.2% chlorhexidine (an antiseptic and disinfectant)” group, the “eugenol paste” group, and the control group. 3
The result suggested that the “eugenol paste” group experienced the lowest incidence of pain and inflammation, and their wounds also healed better.
Clove essential oil eases the pain by numbing the affected area, a study shows. 4 In the study, researchers gave each group of test subjects one out of four treatments for pain.
They applied it on their gums, just above the maxillary canine teeth, and then received two needle sticks in those affected areas.
As they expected, the placebo treatment didn’t numb the tissue. Interestingly, they found out that the clove-based gel and benzocaine (a local anesthetic) worked equally well in numbing the painful areas.
Clove essential oil—sometimes, marketed under the name “oil of cloves”—is available in most health food stores, supermarkets, and drugstores. To relieve a toothache, Colgate suggests dipping a clean tissue, cotton ball, or cotton swab into the clove essential oil. Next, gently dab the tissue, cotton ball, or cotton swab on the gum(s) where you feel the pain.
Reminder: Don’t forget to dilute it with an edible carrier oil, like coconut oil or olive oil, to prevent irritating the sensitive areas of your mouth and throat. Never swallow it and use it for prolonged periods.
Be extremely cautious in using clove essential oil because it’s sensitizing and irritating when applied on your skin and body openings (such as inside the nose and mouth, eyes, lips, anus, and ears).
Ingesting it without diluting it first in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, could cause vomiting, nausea, injury to the throat, epileptic seizure, and blood issues. 5
This is not for people with diabetes because it can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar. People who have a medical condition that involves the kidneys or liver should also avoid using it; because it may cause further damage to the kidneys or liver.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil, also called as melaleuca oil, has been used extensively in Australia for hundreds of years. Today, it’s mostly used for its powerful antiseptic properties that may help treat tooth decay and gum disease, such as chronic periodontitis and gingivitis. 6 7
University of Adelaide researchers Steven Soukoulis and Dr. Robert Hirsch discovered that a toothpaste gel containing tea tree oil doesn’t reduce plaque on teeth. It does the total opposite—by increasing the levels of plaque, which may lead to the formation of cavities. 8
In the small study, the researchers used 49 relatively healthy, non-smoker (up to the age of 60) individuals with severe, long-term gingivitis as test subjects.
They were supposed to brush twice daily using a tea tree oil-based toothpaste gel, chlorhexidine (for gum disease), or a placebo gel. Results showed that all three treatments increased the levels of plaque.
However, the toothpaste gel with tea tree oil was an effective treatment for gingivitis (inflamed gums) because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
There are different ways to use tea tree oil to relieve a toothache and gum disease:
- Based on the study by Steven Soukoulis and Dr. Robert Hirsch, you can brush your teeth twice a day with a tea tree oil-based toothpaste.
- If you can’t find one you like, you can pour a drop of tea tree oil on top of your regular toothpaste.
- Or, add 5 drops of the oil in 8 ounces of water then gargle with it for 60 seconds.
- You could also dilute 3 drops of tea tree oil in 2 teaspoons of edible vegetable oil, such as coconut oil. Dab a small amount of diluted tea tree oil on the gums surrounding your painful tooth.
Like clove essential oil, swallowing tea tree oil is a big no-no. People who swallow it may suffer from minor to serious side effects, including burning sensation, lethargy, drowsiness, confusion, abdominal pain, inflammation of the corners of the mouth, diarrhea, compromised immune system, or even coma.
Don’t use tea tree oil on children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with sensitive skin, and people who are taking certain antibiotics.
Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh is a natural gum or sap-like substance that comes from Commiphora myrrha, a type of shrub that’s native to Africa, Oman, Saudi Arabia, eastern Ethiopia, and Yemen.
Myrrh essential oil is extracted from this resin through steam distillation. The result is a viscous yellow-orange or brown oil that has an earthy, woody, and balsamic scent.
Traditionally, myrrh essential oil has been used as a natural remedy for wounds, perfume based, and incense. It can prevent or treat infections because it’s an effective antiseptic.
That’s why it’s often used to treat gum disease and other common mouth infections. According to a 2011 study published in the journal International Dental Journal, herbal medicines, including myrrh, are possible alternative cures for oral health problems. 9
Like clove essential oil, myrrh essential oil is also a good source of eugenol. 10 Eugenol oil helps get rid of tooth decay and bad breath (halitosis). It’s also an important substance for treating toothache and other diseases affecting the gum.
Because of its numbing effect, it has been used for hundreds of years as a good short-term remedy for certain pains, such as a toothache. Dentists often prescribe a preparation with eugenol plus zinc oxide to soothe a painful tooth. 11
Here are some ideas on how to use it to keep your mouth clean and infection-free:
- Add 1 to 2 drops of myrrh essential oil to your toothpaste.
- To soothe a painful gum or tooth, combine 3 to 5 drops of myrrh essential oil with at least 2 teaspoons of an edible vegetable oil. Apply the resulting mixture on your swollen gums. Make sure you already did a skin patch allergy test before using it full strength.
- Create your own mouthwash. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of calcium magnesium powder (for teeth remineralization), 4 ounces of distilled water, and 5 drops of myrrh and peppermint essential oils. Gargle with this solution for 1 minute after brushing your teeth. (Remember not to swallow the solution.)
Be careful when using myrrh essential oil internally in the form of a mouthwash, toothpaste, or topical remedy. Although it’s an FDA-approved food additive, it could still cause negative side effects if you use it in high amounts.
According to WebMD, using 2 to 4 grams of the essential oil can irritate your kidneys and cause abnormalities in your heart rate.
Myrrh essential oil is not for people with heart or blood disorders, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and surgery patients.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense (Boswellia serrata) tree is known for its numerous health benefits. Studies show that frankincense is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, thanks to its two active compounds: boswellic acids and terpenes.
Boswellic acid is believed to imitate the therapeutic action of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin. 12 Because of this, frankincense is a promising remedy for inflammatory tooth and gum diseases.
A double-blind, randomized study published in the Daru Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences suggests that frankincense is a possible alternative or adjunct remedy to conventional gingivitis treatments. 13
The study involved 75 high school female students (15 to 18 years old) with moderate plaque-induced gingivitis. Researchers gave them either frankincense extract (0.1 gram), frankincense powder (0.2 gram), or placebo.
The result showed that the anti-inflammatory properties of frankincense helped treat gingivitis.
Frankincense essential oil also contains immune-boosting and antiseptic properties, which are beneficial for preventing or treating infections.
These properties are the reasons many people use the essential oil to treat gum diseases (like gingivitis), tooth decay, toothaches, bad breath, and other mouth infections. 14
How to use:
Make your own mouthwash at home to keep your mouth clean and free from disease. Simply combine 4 drops of frankincense essential oil, 2 drops of tea tree oil, 2 drops of peppermint essential oil, 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda, ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, and 4 ounces of distilled water. Stir well, and then store in a tinted mason jar. Shake the jar well before every use.
Frankincense essential oil is normally safe to use internally, if you don’t take large doses of it. Since you’re going to use it to ease toothaches, it’s best to dilute it in an edible carrier oil or other types of liquids (honey, distilled water, non-dairy and non-acidic drinks, etc.).
Like with most essential oils, don’t use them on children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding without the approval of a doctor.
Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile has been used for hundreds of years for treating various skin and oral diseases, including gingivitis and canker sores.
Herbal medicines with chamomile may be effective against bacterial infections of the gums and mouth and toothaches. 15 16
Chamomile essential oil helps relieve pain mainly due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties. Between Roman chamomile essential oil and German chamomile essential oil, the latter is a more effective anti-inflammatory agent because of its high azulene content.
The advantage of chamomile essential oil to some of the essential oils for toothaches is your skin or mucous membranes absorb it well. 17
In a study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, researchers evaluated the efficacy of a mouthwash containing German chamomile in treating gingivitis. 19 The 25 volunteers with gingivitis used either a placebo or a German chamomile mouthwash two times a day for one month.
At the end of the study, the result showed that the German chamomile mouthwash didn’t only reduce gum inflammation, but it also reduced dental plaque, which is one of the common causes of a toothache. Plus, the volunteers didn’t experience unwanted side effects from using the mouthwash.
How to use:
You can make a chamomile herbal mouthwash at home to reduce dental plaque and inflammation. Combine the following in an amber glass bottle: 2 ounces (¼ cup) of aloe vera juice, 4 ounces (½ cup) of purified water, 2 teaspoons of witch hazel extract, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 3 drops of German chamomile essential oil, and 2 drops of peppermint essential oil. Shake well before every use. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 14 days.
Chamomile essential oil is generally safe if you use it in the recommended doses. According to Drugs.com, the usual oral doses are between 9 and 15 grams daily.
Meanwhile, clinical trials have used gargle solutions containing 8 grams of chamomile flowers diluted in 1 liter of water.
Chamomile essential oil is not for pregnant women, children, and individuals who are allergic to sunflowers, daisies, marigolds, chamomile, and chrysanthemums.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil is well-regarded for its health benefits, especially for relieving joint pain and spasms of the digestive and respiratory systems.
Its major medicinal component, menthol (44%), is extensively used in liniment products, balms, mouthwashes, and toothpastes because of its antimicrobial, pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. 20
In a clinical trial published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, findings showed that peppermint essential oil and rosemary essential oil are more effective than chlorhexidine, a common mouthwash ingredient that reduces the number of germs (bacteria) in the mouth and treats gingivitis symptoms. 21
To be more specific, their antimicrobial properties were able to neutralize Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus pyogenes. The former is a major contributor of cavities, while the latter is mostly associated with infections affecting the throat, tonsils, and base of the tongue.
How to use:
One of the simplest ways to use peppermint essential oil is to add 1 to 2 drops of it to your regular toothpaste. Or, combine 3 drops of peppermint essential oil, 2 drops of tea tree oil, 2 drops of chamomile essential oil, and 4 teaspoons of edible carrier oil (like coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or olive oil). Shake well to blend. Dab a drop of the oil on your painful tooth and the gum around it.
Like many essential oils, peppermint essential oil can have dangerous side effects if you take it in large doses. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, use creams or ointments that contain between 1% and 16% menthol.
In most clinical trials, researchers used enteric-coated capsules containing 0.2 to 0.4 ml of peppermint essential oil, taken thrice daily. 22
Women should avoid using peppermint essential oil during pregnancy because it can trigger menstruation, which can result to a miscarriage.
There’s a lack of data to confirm if it’s safe to use by women who are breastfeeding. Avoid using the essential oil internally or near infants and children because it could trigger serious respiratory problems.
However, most over-the-counter medications and standardized topical preparations containing peppermint are more likely safe.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is best known for its calming and sleep-inducing effects. It’s also a good remedy for toothaches and other medical conditions that involve inflammation and pain.
It contains antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, which may help with treating gum and tooth infections. 23
The primary chemical constituents of lavender essential oil are linalool, linalyl acetate, camphor, and terpinene-4-ol. 24 Linalool and linalyl acetate are responsible for the strong anti-inflammatory action of lavender essential oil and other essential oils that possess them.
Meanwhile, camphor is often used on the skin to reduce itching and pain. It also treats fungal infections and increases blood circulation to relieve swelling and pain by acting as a “counterirritant.” 25 Terpinen-4-ol is an antifungal and antibacterial.
How to use:
To relieve your toothache, simply dilute a drop of lavender essential oil with ½ teaspoon of edible carrier oil. You can also add one or two above mentioned essential oils to enhance or complement the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of lavender essential oil.
If you’re having a hard time sleeping at night because of your painful tooth, you can put 3 to 4 drops into your diffuser to help you sleep and relieve stress.
Ingestion of lavender essential oil could be safe if you follow the recommended dosage. In human clinical trials, researchers used 4 to 5 drops (80 milligrams) of lavender essential oil in a gel capsule. The essential oil seems safe to use internally in the amounts tested. However, it could irritate your skin and mucous membranes and cause nausea, vomiting, headache, or chills.
Don’t use lavender essential oil if you’re taking antidepressants and sedatives; because it could enhance the effects of these medications, causing you to experience extreme drowsiness.
To know if you’re allergic, make sure to always perform a skin patch test.
Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) essential oil contains high amounts of cinnamaldehyde, which makes up around 60% of the oil. 26
This compound doesn’t only give its flavor and odor, but it’s also responsible for its antifungal and antibacterial effects. A study has shown that cinnamaldehyde might reduce certain infections and get rid of bad breath and tooth decay. 27 28
How to use:
To get rid of infection-causing germs from your mouth, mix 3 to 5 drops of cinnamon bark oil, 1 teaspoon of vodka, and 3 to 4 ounces of distilled water in an amber glass bottle. Shake well to mix. Store in a cool, dark place, and use it within two weeks.
After gargling, apply a toothache oil using cinnamon bark essential oil. Dilute 2 drops of cinnamon bark essential oil and 1 drop of lavender essential oil in 2 to 3 teaspoons of edible carrier oil. Rub it directly on your aching tooth and the gum supporting the tooth.
Use cinnamon essential oil with caution because it can irritate your skin and mucous membranes, including the inside of your mouth, throat, and stomach.
Possible side effects of taking cinnamon essential oil by mouth are vomiting, headache, heart palpitations, extreme sleepiness, diarrhea, and dizziness.
There’s currently no specific recommendations for the daily doses of cinnamon essential oil. To be safe, start with small doses, and then gradually increase the doses if necessary. Always mix it with a mild edible carrier oil to lessen the possible negative consequences.
Don’t attempt to use the essential oil if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from a medical condition. Always speak with your dentist or primary doctor to determine if it’s safe for you to use topically, by mouth, or through inhalation.
When to Visit Your Dentist
These are just a few essential oils to treat a toothache you could use together with conventional remedies. Although essential oils can be effective, they still don’t replace expert medical treatments and advice.
Don’t try to delay treatment or dentist consultation because it could make your condition worse. According to Delta Dental, you should visit your dentist immediately if you experience the following:
- Your tooth is still painful after one or two days.
- Swallowing or breathing problems
- Bad-tasting discharge in the mouth
- Pain when biting
What do you usually do to relieve a painful tooth? Do you think essential oils will help?