Clove Oil for Toothaches

erica medical reviewer
Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Erica Anand
Ellie Swain
Written by
Ellie Swain
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Evidence Based
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6 sources cited
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Can Clove Oil Help a Toothache? 

Toothaches can be painful, and sometimes reaching a dentist for immediate attention may be difficult or inconvenient. While you can use over-the-counter pain medication to treat a toothache, natural treatments are available.

A popular natural remedy to treat a toothache is cloves. For centuries, cloves have been used to reduce pain. The use of cloves to treat pain relief was widespread in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.

Historically, cloves were inserted into an infected tooth or cavity. They were also used as a topical extract to lessen pain and inflammation.

Cloves contain an active ingredient (eugenol) that numbs the skin it touches. This may provide temporary relief from a toothache. Eugenol is commonly used in dental materials because of its anti-inflammatory effects. 

Today, we use clove oil instead of ground cloves. You can buy clove oil online and at many health food shops.

Clove oil is the extracted, concentrated solution from the plant. Cloves are dried flower buds extracted from a tree of the Myrtaceae family.

The oil is typically extracted through steam distillation. Other producers may use chemical solvents and boiling to obtain clove oil. 

Depending on the technique used, refined clove oil can contain between 80 to 90 percent eugenol. Eugenol is a natural analgesic that can provide temporary pain relief.

If you decide to use clove oil to treat a toothache, do not use it as a substitute for proper dental care. This goes for any other natural or pharmaceutical product. If a toothache is persistent or worsens, seek treatment to avoid potentially severe and expensive complications.

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How to Use Clove Oil for a Toothache

​​To use clove oil for a toothache, you will need:

  • A bottle of clove oil or powder
  • A cotton swab or cotton bud
  • Carrier oil (like almond oil, olive oil, or coconut oil)
  • A small dish

You may also use clove powder which is typically used for baking. However, clove oil is more effective.

Here are the steps for using clove oil for a toothache:

  1. First, squeeze a few drops of clove oil with one teaspoon of the carrier oil of your choice into your dish.
  2. Soak your swab or cotton ball with the clove oil mixture. Gently wipe the swab or cotton bud around the affected area. Or, place the cotton ball over the area.
  3. Allow the clove oil to sit for five to ten minutes. Reapply every two to three hours for relief.

Alternatively, you can swirl the clove oil mixture in your mouth. Try to swish the oil in the affected area to avoid numbing your whole mouth.

Another option is to create a clove gel or paste by grinding cloves and mixing them with oil. However, this is less effective than using concentrated clove oil.

How Effective is Clove Oil for Tooth Pain?

Clove oil contains the active ingredient eugenol. This is a natural anesthetic. Eugenol helps numb and lessen pain to relieve a toothache.

Eugenol also has anti-inflammatory properties. It may lessen swelling and irritation in the sore area.

A British study showed that eugenol is more effective at relieving pain, inflammation, and infection than other analgesics.1 

Participants who used the eugenol-based paste also experienced better wound healing than those who used an alternative treatment or no treatment at all.

However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rates the effectiveness of some treatments based on the available evidence. 

The FDA has recently downgraded the classification of clove oil. The organization states that there is not enough evidence to suggest clove oil is effective for toothache and more research is necessary.2

Side Effects & Risks of Clove Oil

Clove oil is naturally unpleasant to taste. If you use clove oil for a toothache, try to avoid swallowing it.

Ingesting clove oil can also lead to several other side effects, including:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Burning in your nose and throat
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea

While clove oil is viewed as an acceptable alternative medicine for toothache, mainstream medical doctors do not widely support it. If you want to use clove oil as toothache relief, be sure to discuss it with your dentist or doctor.

You should avoid giving undiluted clove oil to children. Children may swallow clove oil by mistake, which could make them unwell. If you want to use clove oil to treat your child, be sure to mix it with a natural carrier oil.

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Carrier oils such as coconut oil or olive oil dilute the strength of clove oil and make it easier for children to tolerate.

Alternative Toothache Treatments

​​While clove oil has been effective for many people, it is not for everyone. Fortunately, there are alternative toothache treatments to try.

Over-the-counter pain medications may help reduce the pain and discomfort of a toothache. These medications include acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Topical anesthetics like an over-the-counter dental gel can also help numb the pain associated with a toothache. However, this treatment is not suitable for children under the age of 12.

You can also try rinsing your mouth with warm salt water or ice water. Dabbing diluted peppermint oil on your gums may also help. Some people also press a peppermint tea bag against their gums to provide temporary pain relief. 

A cold compress against the cheek can also help with dental pain.

The best way to avoid a toothache is to look after the teeth and gums. Some best practices include reducing your intake of sugary foods and drinks and brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.

You should also floss daily to clean in between teeth and attend dental check ups regularly. It also helps if you avoid smoking. These healthy dental practices also protect you against bad breath and many other common dental problems.

When to See a Dentist for a Toothache

Clove oil can work well as a natural anesthetic for temporary pain. It may be strong enough to reduce swelling and pain from a sensitive tooth. 

However, if your dental pain results from more serious health conditions, it is essential to speak with your dentist. Your dental pain may be due to a cavity or broken tooth.

If your toothache persists for more than one or two days, you should make an appointment to see your dentist for professional medical advice. If your toothache is left untreated, it may worsen. 

Most toothaches are caused by:

  • Tooth decay that leads to cavities or holes in the hard surface of the tooth
  • A cracked tooth
  • Loose or broken fillings
  • Receding gums
  • Periapical abscess or pus at the end of the tooth caused by a bacterial infection

If the toothache is untreated, the tooth may become infected and lead to worse dental pain. To determine the cause of a toothache, your dentist will perform a physical examination. They may also suggest an X-ray.

The type of treatment required depends on the underlying cause. 

Treatment may include:

  • Extracting a decayed area and replacing it with a filling
  • Extracting and replacing loose or broken fillings
  • Performing root canal treatment on an infected tooth

Resources

Jesudasan, James Solomon et al. “Effectiveness of 0.2% chlorhexidine gel and a eugenol-based paste on postoperative alveolar osteitis in patients having third molars extracted: a randomised controlled clinical trial.” The British journal of oral & maxillofacial surgery vol. 53,9 (2015): 826-30

Clove, MedlinePlus, July 2020

Nuñez, L, and M D' Aquino. “Microbicide activity of clove essential oil (Eugenia caryophyllata).” Brazilian journal of microbiology : [publication of the Brazilian Society for Microbiology] vol. 43,4 (2012): 1255-60

Taher, Yousef A et al. “Experimental evaluation of anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive and antipyretic activities of clove oil in mice.” The Libyan journal of medicine vol. 10 28685. 1 Sep. 2015

Cortés-Rojas, Diego Francisco et al. “Clove (Syzygium aromaticum): a precious spice.” Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine vol. 4,2 (2014): 90-6

Fu Y, Chen L, Zu Y, et al. The Antibacterial Activity of Clove Essential Oil Against Propionibacterium acnes and Its Mechanism of Action. Arch Dermatol. 2009;145(1):86–88

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