Can't visit your dentist during COVID-19? Here are six home remedies for tooth pain

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Over-the-counter and/or home remedies for tooth pain include saltwater rinse, flossing and more.

Tooth pain can be difficult to deal with. It can affect how you bite, chew, and even sleep.¹ The best course of action for dealing with tooth pain is visiting your dentist¹–but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that may not be possible in many areas. Find out the best home remedies for tooth pain to help you get rid of tooth pain fast.

Types of tooth pain

Tooth pain is often a sign of dental damage or disease. Different types of tooth pain can signal different types of dental problems. Tooth pain can usually be divided into two categories: sharp tooth pain and dull, throbbing tooth pain.³

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Sharp tooth pain

Maybe you feel a shooting pain when you eat or drink something hot or cold. Or perhaps you feel a sharp pain in your tooth when you bite down or brush your teeth. While momentary hot or cold sensitivity usually doesn’t signal a serious problem, sharp, short-lived tooth pain is usually a sign of exposed tooth pulp.⁴

Sharp tooth pain causes

Some conditions that can expose tooth pulp and cause sharp tooth pain include:⁵

Dull, throbbing tooth pain

Sometimes, dental pain involves a steady ache in the tooth or jaw. This is a constant underlying pain that goes on for days and isn’t made worse by any specific activity.⁶

Dull tooth pain causes

Conditions that can cause dull, throbbing tooth pain include:

How to relieve tooth pain at home

Tooth pain relief is possible, even if you can’t see your dentist right away. While only a dentist will be able to definitively diagnose and treat the cause of your toothache, various tooth pain remedies are available over the counter for home use.

  • Floss. Flossing between your teeth can remove food wedged between the teeth or along the gumline¹⁰ , which can cause temporary tooth pain. If using string floss is too painful, try using an ADA-recommended water flosser.

  • Saltwater. A simple saltwater rinse can cleanse your mouth of bacteria, prevent swelling, and remove food wedged between the teeth. Swish the rinse around in your mouth for ten to fifteen seconds, then spit it out.¹¹

  • Pain-relieving gel. You can buy over-the-counter oral topical gels from most supermarkets. 

  • Over-the-counter pain medication. Various over-the-counter pain medications (like acetaminophin or aspirin) can help alleviate tooth pain. In fact, the ADA recommends using them over prescription antibiotics.¹²

  • Cold compress. Applying ice or a cold compress to the outside of your cheek can help numb tooth pain and reduce swelling.

  • Clove oil. Available at most supermarkets and drugstores, clove oil contains a natural anesthetic and antibacterial called eugenol which has been observed to help reduce toothache pain.¹³ Dip a clean tissue or cotton swab in the clove oil, then gently wipe the oil over the gums wherever your tooth hurts.

Although these remedies may provide temporary tooth pain relief, they likely won’t resolve the root cause of your toothache. Severe tooth pain is often a sign of a larger problem that requires professional dental treatment.

When to see a dentist about tooth pain

The American Dental Association advises seeing a dentist about tooth pain.¹⁴ Many dental offices throughout the country are closed or offering limited emergency services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you are experiencing severe dental pain, that could be considered urgent dental care, The American Dental Association lists examples of urgent dental care treatments that dentists should still treat at this time on their website.

If your tooth pain is not an emergency, your dentist may be able to see you remotely via a teledentistry consultation, which includes the use of technology (computers, digital cameras, etc.) to deliver a variety of services without the patient and dentist being in the same location.

If you're experiencing severe tooth pain, contact your dentist to see if your case could qualify as an emergency. Emergency dental care is often covered as part of most dental insurance plans.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

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. 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.


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