The only way to truly get rid of an infection is with antibiotics. However, home remedies for tooth infection can help manage the symptoms and alleviate some of the pain. If you have a tooth infection you need to see a dentist to assess whether or not you need a root canal and to get prescription antibiotics to make sure that the infection goes away and doesn’t cause any more pain or damage to your teeth.
There are some natural remedies that you can use to both help control the pain and help stop the infection from getting worse or spreading while you wait for the infection to die off. Not all of these remedies will work for every person but if you’re in pain from an infected tooth they can bring you some relief.
1. Saltwater rinse
One of the easiest things that you can do to help lessen the pain of a tooth infection and try to stop the spread of an infection is to rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater solution. A saltwater rinse will kill off some of the bacteria in your mouth and irrigate your mouth. It can rinse some of the debris out of your mouth and if you have an abscess it can help break up the pus surrounding the tooth. You can use regular table salt and warm tap water to make a basic saltwater rinse. Just add about ½ a teaspoon of salt to a small cup of warm water and stir it will. Rinse your mouth with for a couple of minutes swishing the solution thoroughly around your mouth and then spit it out.
2. Baking soda
A tooth abscess home treatment that you probably have in your kitchen right is baking soda. The same baking soda that you keep in the refrigerator to mitigate odor has antibacterial properties. Rinsing your mouth with a solution of baking soda and warm water will help reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth and help relieve pain. If you have an abscess on the side of your tooth or in your gums, you can make a paste of baking soda and water and apply that directly to your tooth or gum instead of using the rinse. If the infection in your tooth is in another part of the tooth, use the rinse.
3. Essential oils
Essential oils have been used for their medicinal properties for centuries. Essential oils are made from plants that are distilled with water or steam or cold pressed to extract the oil within the plant leaves and stems. Steam distillation is the most common modern method of extracting oil from plants but in earlier centuries they often used cold pressing to make sure that they got the best quality oil.
To use essential oils to alleviate pain and promote healing you should always keep the essential oils in a cool place away from things like spices or food. Put a couple of drops of the essential oil on a cotton ball or cotton swab and then use that to apply the oil to your tooth.
There are many different gentle essential oils that have been proven to have some success treating any number of dental issues including infection like:
Tea Tree oil
When you’re using essential oils, make sure that you are using pure medicinal grade essential oils. You can find these at any health food store. Some food co-ops also sell them and you can buy them online. Buy from trusted brands that have a reputation for high quality. Double check to make sure that the bottle says that the oil is therapeutic grade essential oil before using it. These days many makers use “natural” oils to do everything from flavor baked goods to make perfume and soaps. Those oils are scent oils not pure essential oils. Those oils have no therapeutic value and can be dangerous if ingested.
4. Herbal teas
Herbal teas are another time-tested home remedy for many different ailments. You can make your own herbal teas by buying the leaves and stems of various herbs and simply steeping them in hot water to make a tea. However, it will probably be more effective to buy medicinal grade teas that are already made. High quality therapeutic grade teas will contain a higher quality of herb and a stronger concentration than anything you can buy so they will most likely be more effective. If your teeth are sensitive to heat because of the infection brew the tea, let it steep for up to 15 minutes depending on how string you want it to be, and let it cool to room temperature before you drink it.
Fenugreek a popular tea to help alleviate the symptoms of a tooth infection. Fenugreek has been documented to have medicinal properties although not enough research has been done to prove that those properties are beneficial for tooth infection home treatment. Fenugreek tea is easy to find at most health food stores and even in some grocery stores with an alternative medicine or alternative health food section.
The other recommended tea for a tooth infection is Goldenseal tea. Goldenseal is an herb related to Turmeric and it has many of the same anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties that Turmeric has. Goldenseal also has natural antibacterial and antibiotic properties for a tooth infection. Drink up to three cups a day to help knock out a tooth infection.
5. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is something almost everyone has in their medicine kit or first aid cabinet. It has many household and first aid uses, but it’s best known for preventing infections in cuts and for being an effective mouthwash. This simple first aid staple is one of the best remedies for an infected tooth. To make a Hydrogen Peroxide mouth rinse use a 1:1 ratio or mix equal parts peroxide and warm water then rinse your mouth with that.
A tooth abscess home remedy that is easy to find and inexpensive to buy is garlic. You may not like the idea of smelling like garlic just because you’re trying to treat a tooth but the healing effects of garlic might make the smell worth it. There is a compound in fresh raw garlic called Allicin that may have significant pain relief and antibacterial properties that can reduce or eliminate the infection in a tooth. If you suspect that you have a tooth infection and you can’t get to a dentist right away, peeling a clove of garlic and gently biting down on it with your infected tooth can help. You will need to leave the piece of garlic against your tooth for a few minutes for it to be effective.
7. Over-the-counter pain killers
You can take over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen, naproxen, or aspirin to control the pain and any radiating pain caused by your tooth infection. Just make sure that you don’t take more than the recommended dose and that you make sure that they won’t have a bad interaction with any medications that you are taking.
8. Coconut oil pulling
Oil pulling is a rather controversial practice. Some people say that it helps maintain good dental hygiene and recommend doing it daily. However, there is no evidence that oil pulling has any medicinal benefits for oral health. Coconut oil has some powerful antibacterial properties so it’s possible that oil pulling using liquid coconut oil could help lessen the duration of the infection or make the symptoms more manageable.
9. Cold compress
A cold compress can help if you have a swollen face from tooth infection. Home remedies can help tooth pain but cold is the best thing to bring down swelling. Most commercially available cold packs don’t bend so it can be difficult to get them to sit right on the curves of your face or neck. Instead of a commercial cold pack, you can make your own by wrapping up some ice in a washcloth or towel. Or, you can always dip into the freezer and grab a bag of frozen corn or peas that will stay cold for a long time and fit well into the contours of your face and neck.
10. Aloe vera gel
Aloe Vera gel is often used to treat burns and cuts or skin irritations because it has natural antibacterial properties but it is also an effective way to stop the pain of an infected tooth. It can also help heal abscesses in the gums. When you buy Aloe Vera gel to use in your mouth make sure that you are buying food-grade Aloe Vera so that it’s safe to ingest. You can also use Aloe Vera liquid but the gel is easier to apply to your teeth and gums. Keep the bottle in the refrigerator for extra pain relief. Applying cold Aloe Vera gel to a painful infected tooth or infected gums can give you instant pain relief and the added benefit of fighting infection.
When to call a dentist
A tooth infection happens when bacteria get into the tooth through a cavity, a chip, or a crack. Infections in the teeth can spread to other teeth, your jaw, or your gums. If a tooth infection is left untreated, it can have serious health consequences, so it’s important that you see a dentist to treat it promptly if you have the symptoms of a tooth infection.
Natural remedies can help you manage the symptoms of a tooth infection but you still need to see a dentist about the infection. The dentist can take X-rays to determine if you need a root canal and see how bad the damage from the infection is. You may also need a course of antibiotics. You should call a dentist as soon as you suspect that you have an infected tooth.
How a dentist will treat a tooth infection
Once a dentist has determined that you have an infection, the dentist can work to treat the infection, clear out any abscesses that have formed, and assess the damage. You will usually be given a prescription for antibiotics too. If there are abscesses in the tooth or in the gums near the tooth the dentist will go in and clean those pockets out to get rid of the bacteria. Often that can provide immediate relief from the pain of an infected tooth. The dentist will also check your teeth to see if you will need a root canal in order to save the tooth.
What causes a tooth infection?
The primary cause of a tooth infection is dental caries, or tooth decay. Your mouth is full of bacteria all the time, but usually that bacteria doesn’t get inside your teeth where it can cause an infection. When decay causes cavities and cracks or holes in your teeth, bacteria can seep into your teeth and cause a tooth infection. An infection can also happen if you have an injury to your tooth that causes a crack or a chip in the tooth. Keeping your teeth strong and healthy through regular brushing and flossing can help prevent decay and infections.
Infection can happen in different parts of the tooth. Sometimes the infection occurs on the side of the tooth if there is an opening there and that can cause the infection to spread to the gums. Pockets of pus called abscesses can form around the infection that will need to be drained by the dentist for the infection to go away.
Looking for plans?
Let’s find the right dental plan for you.
Symptoms of a tooth infection
The most obvious symptom of a tooth infection is pain. Intense, sharp, or shooting pain in a tooth is a good indication that there is an infection that needs to be dealt with. Some of the other common symptoms of a tooth infection are:
Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
Fever not associated with flu or another illness
Swelling in your face, cheek, or jaw.
Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
Sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief, if the abscess ruptures
Difficulty breathing or swallowing
How dental insurance can help
Dental emergencies happen. Even if you are practicing good dental hygiene and you take care of your teeth, you can still end up with an infected tooth that needs to be dealt with right away. Dental insurance can help cover the costs of things like X-rays, exams, and other treatments, as well as more expensive care like root canals.
This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.
Explore the latest insights, articles, and guides in our weekly newsletter.
Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.(exp.06/22)