Most people will experience some sort of dental pain due to a cavity, tooth injury, or gum disease at some point in their life. This pain tends to be intense, and all the motivation needed to seek out dental care. However, dental care isn’t always immediately available, Home remedies for toothache can help manage the pain, swelling, and inflammation until you can get in touch with a dentist.

In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures by Joan and Lydia Wilen the authors share both personal home remedies for toothaches and ones gathered in their years writing about health.


Be true to your teeth or they will become false to you! Irish dramatist and Nobel prize–winner George Bernard Shaw (1856– 1950) once said, “The man with toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound.”

Natural remedies can help ease the pain of a toothache and, in some cases, alleviate problems caused by nervous tension and low grade infections.

Since it is difficult to know what is causing a toothache, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. More important, have the dentist see your teeth.

Tooth Problems

• If your teeth are loose, strengthen them with parsley. Pour one quart of boiling water over one cup of parsley. Let it stand for 15 minutes, then strain and refrigerate the parsley water.

Dose: Drink three cups a day.


Until you get to the dentist for the drilling, filling and billing, try one of these remedies to ease the toothache pain.

• Prepare a cup of chamomile tea and saturate a white washcloth in it. Wring it out, then apply it to your cheek or jaw—the outside area of your toothache. As soon as the cloth gets cold, redip it and reapply it. This chamomile compress should draw out the pain before it’s time to reheat the tea.

• Soak your feet in hot water. Dry them thoroughly, then rub them vigorously with bran.

No, this didn’t get mixed into the wrong category. We were told this is a Cherokee Indian remedy for a toothache.

Papa Wilen’s Pig Fat Story

• Whenever the subject of toothaches came up in our home, we would prompt our dad to tell the “pig fat” story.

He would begin by telling us that one time, when he was a teenager, he had dental work done on a Thursday. Late that night, there was swelling and pain from the work the dentist did. In those days, dentists were not in their offices on Friday, and the thought of waiting until Monday was out of the question because the pain was so severe.

Friday morning, our grandmother went to the nonkosher butcher in the neighborhood and bought a piece of pig fat. She brought it into the house (something she had never done before, since she kept a strictly kosher home), heated it up and put the melted fat on a white handkerchief, which she then placed on top of Daddy’s cheek. Within a few minutes, the swelling went down and his pain vanished.

At this point in the telling of the story, our father would get up and demonstrate how he danced around the room, celebrating his freedom from pain.

Recently, we’ve come across another version of that same remedy (we promise, no more stories). Take a tiny slice of pork fat and place it between the gum and cheek, directly on the sore area.

Keep it there for 15 minutes, or however long it takes for the pain to subside. (The dance afterward is optional.)

• Make a cup of stronger-than-usual sage tea. If your teeth are not sensitive to “hot,” hold the hot tea in your mouth for half a minute, then swallow and take another mouthful. Keep doing this until you finish the cup of tea and, hopefully, have no more pain.

• Grate horseradish root and place a poultice of it behind the ear closest to the aching tooth. To ensure relief, also apply some of the grated horseradish to the gum area closest to the aching tooth.

• Pack powdered milk in a painful cavity for temporary relief. But see a dentist pronto!

Let Your Fingers Do the Healing

Acupressure works like magic for some people—hopefully, you’re one of them. If your toothache is on the right side, squeeze the index finger on your right hand (the one next to your thumb), on each side of your fingernail. As you’re squeezing your finger, rotate it clockwise a few times, giving that index finger a rapid little massage.

• Apply just a few grains of cayenne pepper to the affected tooth and gum. At first it will add to the pain, but as soon as the smarting stops (within seconds), so should the toothache.

• Soak a cheek-sized piece of brown paper (grocery bag) in vinegar, then sprinkle one side with black pepper. Place the peppered side on the outside of the face next to the toothache. Secure it in place with a bandage and keep it there at least an hour.

• Split open one fresh, ripe fig. Squeeze out the juice of the fruit onto your aching tooth. Put more fig juice on the tooth in 15-minute intervals, until the pain stops or until you run out of fig juice.

This is an ancient Hindu remedy. And it must really work well…because when was the last time you saw an ancient Hindu with a toothache?

Roast half an onion. When it is comfortably hot, place it on the pulse of your wrist, on the side opposite your troublesome tooth. By the time the onion cools down completely, the pain should be gone.

Sweet Relief from Cloves

• An old standard painkiller is cloves. You can buy oil of cloves or whole cloves. The oil should be soaked in a wad of cotton and placed directly on the aching tooth. The whole clove should be dipped in warm honey.

Then chew the clove slowly, rolling it around the aching tooth. That will release the essential oil and ease the pain.

WARNING: Diabetics and people with honey allergies should not use honey

• Saturate a slice of toast with alcohol, then sprinkle on some pepper. The peppered side should be applied externally to the toothache side of the face.

• If you love garlic, this one’s for you. Place one just-peeled clove of garlic directly on the aching tooth. Keep it there for a minimum of one hour.

• If you are scheduled to go to the dentist, take 10 mg of vitamin B1 (thiamine) every day, starting a week before your dental appointment. You may find that the pain during and after dental procedures will be greatly reduced.

It is thought that the body’s lack of thiamine might be what lets the pain become severe in the first place.

Preparing for Dental Work

• As soon as you know you’re going to the dentist to have work done, start eating pineapple. Have fresh pineapple or a cup of canned pineapple in its own juice, and drink a cup of 100% pineapple juice every day.

Continue the pineapple regimen for a few days after the dental work is completed. The enzymes in pineapple should help reduce pain and discomfort. They can also help speed the healing process.

Tooth Extractions

To Stop Bleeding

• Dip a tea bag in boiling water, squeeze out the water, and allow it to cool. Then pack the tea bag down on the tooth socket and keep it there for 15 to 30 minutes.

To Stop Pain

• Mix one teaspoon of Epsom salts with one cup of hot water. Swish the mixture around in your mouth and spit it out. (Do not swallow it— unless you need a laxative.) One cup should do the trick. But if the pain recurs, get the Epsom salts and start swishing again.

• Wrap an ice cube in gauze or cheesecloth. (Hopefully you’ll figure out this remedy before the ice melts.)

When your thumb is up against the index finger, a meaty little tuft is formed where the fingers are joined. Acupuncturists call it the “hoku point.”

Spread your fingers and, with the ice cube, massage that tuft for seven minutes.

If your hand starts to feel numb, stop massaging with the ice and continue with just a finger massage. It should give you from 15 to 30 minutes of “no pain.”

This is also effective when you have pain after root canal work.

Gum Problems

• It’s helpful to brush your teeth and massage the gums with goldenseal tea (available at health food stores).

• Myrrh (yes, one of the gifts brought by the wise men) is a shrub, and the gum from that shrub is an antiseptic and astringent used on bleeding or swollen gums to heal the infection that’s causing the problem.

Myrrh oil can be massaged directly on gums, or use myrrh powder on a soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brush your teeth at the gum line. Do this several times throughout the day for relief.


Pyorrhea is a degeneration of the gums and tissues that surround the teeth. This disease is marked by severe inflammation, bleeding gums and a discharge of pus. As pyorrhea advances, the gums may recede altogether.

Pyorrhea is a serious condition that should be treated by a dentist. But the following remedies may provide some temporary relief for those aching gums.

• In parts of Mexico, pyorrhea is treated by rubbing gums with the rattle from a rattlesnake. (We’d hate to think of how they do root canals.)

• Make your own toothpaste by combining baking soda with a drop or two of hydrogen peroxide. Brush your teeth and massage your gums with it, using a soft, thin-bristled brush.

• Take Coenzyme Q-10—15 mg twice a day. Also, open a CoQ-10 capsule and use the powder to brush your teeth and massage your gums.

Each time you take a CoQ-10, also take 500 mg of vitamin C with bioflavonoids.

• Brian R. Clement, director of the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, reports that garlic is the first and foremost remedy for clearing up gum problems.

He also warns that raw garlic can burn sensitive gums. It is for that reason the Institute’s professional staff mixes pectin with garlic before impacting the gums with it. The garlic heals the infection while the pectin keeps it from burning the gums. Suggest this line of defense to a (new age or holistic) periodontist.

Bleeding Gums

• Bleeding gums may be your body’s way of saying you do not have a well-balanced diet. After checking with your dentist, consider seeking professional help from a vitamin therapist or nutritionist, who can help you supplement your food intake with the vitamins and minerals you’re lacking. Meanwhile, take 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day.

NOTE: Persistent bleeding gums should be checked by a health professional.

Cleaning Teeth and Gums

• Cut one fresh strawberry in half and rub your teeth and gums with it. It may help remove stains, discoloration and tartar without harming the teeth’s enamel. It may also strengthen and heal sore gums. Leave the crushed strawberry and juice on the teeth and gums as long as possible—at least 15 minutes. Then rinse with warm water. Use only fresh strawberries which are kept at room temperature.

• If you can’t brush after every meal, kiss someone. Really—kiss someone! It starts the saliva flowing and helps prevent tooth decay.

• Actually, the best way to clean your teeth is the way you do it right before leaving for your dental appointment.

Cavity Prevention

•To avoid being “bored” to tears by the dentist, eat a little cube of cheddar, Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese right after eating sugary, cavity-causing foods. It seems that cheese reduces bacterial acid production, which causes decay.

■ Recipe ■

Peanut Slaw

3 1 ⁄2 cups cabbage, shredded

3 ⁄4 cup celery, chopped

1 ⁄2 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 ⁄2 cup cocktail peanuts, chopped

3 Tbsp onion, diced

1 ⁄2 cup mayonnaise

1 ⁄2 cup sour cream

3 ⁄4 tsp prepared horseradish

1 ⁄4 tsp honey mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cabbage, celery, cucumber, peanuts and onion in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Add to cabbage mixture, then toss well. Cover and chill. Makes six servings.


Peanuts also help prevent tooth decay. They can be eaten at the end of the meal, instead of right after each cavity-causing food.

• Tea is rich in fluoride, which resists tooth decay. Some Japanese tea drinkers believe it helps fight plaque. Take some tea and see. You may want to try Kukicha tea. It’s tasty, relaxing, super low in caffeine and available online through natural-food and specialty-tea vendors. Incidentally, you can use the same Kukicha tea bag three or four times.

• Blackstrap molasses contains an ingredient that seems to inhibit tooth decay. Sunflower seeds are also supposed to inhibit tooth decay. Have a tablespoon of molasses in water and/or a handful of shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds every day. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with water after consuming the molasses.

Clean Your Toothbrush

• Dissolve a tablespoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water and soak your toothbrush overnight. Rinse it in the morning and notice how clean it looks and feels.

Throw Away Your Toothbrush

• Bacteria from your mouth settle in the bristles of your toothbrush and can reinfect you with whatever you have—a cold sore, a cold, the flu or a sore throat.

As soon as symptoms appear, throw away your toothbrush. Use a new one for a few days, then throw that one away and use another new one. If you want to be super-cautious, use a new toothbrush as soon as you’re all better.

Plaque Remover

• Dampen your dental floss and dip it in baking soda, then floss with it. It may help remove some of the plaque buildup.

Tartar Remover

• Mix equal parts of cream of tartar and salt. Brush your teeth and massage your gums with the mixture, then rinse very thoroughly.

Teeth Whitener

• Burn a piece of toast—really char it. (For some of us, that’s part of our everyday routine.) Then pulverize the charred bread, mix it with about 1 ⁄2 teaspoon of honey and brush your teeth with it. Rinse thoroughly. Put on a pair of sunglasses, look in the mirror and smile!

WARNING: Diabetics and people with honey allergies should not use honey

Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Most people have bad breath at some point every day (like when you wake up—yeeech!). This is basically caused by tiny bits of food that decay in the mouth. Proper toothbrushing can tackle most cases of the stinkies, but chronic bad breath may be caused by an underlying illness.

NOTE: It’s important to find the cause of bad breath. Get checked for chronic sinusitis or indigestion, and see a dentist.

While no one ever dies from bad breath, it sure can kill a relationship. Here are some refreshing remedies that are worth a try.

• Suck on a piece of cinnamon bark to sweeten your breath. Cinnamon sticks come in jars or can be bought loose at some food specialty shops. They can also satisfy the craving for a sweet treat or cigarettes.

• Bad breath is sometimes due to food particles decaying between one’s teeth. If that’s the case, use dental floss and brush after every meal.

• Take a piece of 100% pure wool—preferably white and not dyed—put 1 ⁄2 teaspoon of raw honey on it and massage your upper gums. Put another 1 ⁄2 teaspoon of raw honey on the wool and massage the lower gums.

WARNING: Diabetics and people with honey allergies should not use honey.

Did you say that sounds crazy? We can’t argue with you there, but it’s worth a try. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after using honey—it can contribute to tooth decay.

• If your tongue looks coated, it may need to be scraped, which will help combat bad breath. Use your toothbrush or a tongue scraper (available at health food stores-and pharmacies) to scrape your tongue after breakfast and at bedtime.

Herbal Rinse

• Stock up on mint, rosemary and fennel seeds (available at health food stores) and prepare an effective mouthwash for yourself. For a daily portion, use 1 ⁄3 teaspoon of each of the three dried herbs. Pour one cup of just-boiled water over the mint, rosemary and fennel seeds, cover the cup, and let the mixture steep for 10 minutes. Then strain it. At that point, it should be cool enough for you to rinse with. You might also want to swallow a little. It’s wonderful for digestion (which may be causing the bad breath).

• At bedtime, take a piece of myrrh the size of a pea and let it dissolve in your mouth. Since myrrh is an antiseptic and can destroy the germs that may cause the problem, hopefully you can say “bye-bye” to dragon breath.

• When leaving an Indian restaurant, you may have noticed a bowl filled with seeds near the door. They are most likely anise. Suck on a few of those licorice-tasting seeds to help sweeten your breath.

You may want to have a bowl of anise at your next dinner party.

Garlic or Onion Breath

• Mix 1 ⁄2 teaspoon of baking soda into a cup of water, then swish it—one gulp at a time— around your mouth. Spit out. Be careful not to swallow this mouthwash. By the time you’ve rinsed your mouth with the entire cup, your breath should be fresh.

• Chew sprigs of parsley—yes, especially after eating garlic. Take your choice—garlic breath or little pieces of green stuff between your teeth.

• If you’re a coffee drinker, drink a strong cup of coffee to remove all traces of onion from your breath.

Of course, then you have coffee breath, which, to some people, is just as objectionable as the onion breath. So eat an apple. That will get rid of the coffee breath. In fact, forget the coffee and just eat an apple.

• Chew a whole clove to sweeten your breath. People have been doing that for over 5,000 years to freshen their breath.

• Suck a lemon! It should make your onion or garlic breath disappear. Some people get better results when they add salt to the lemon, then suck it. (That’s also a good remedy for getting rid of hiccups.)

CAUTION: Do not suck lemons often. Do this only in an emergency social situation. With repeated use, the strongly acidic lemon juice can wear away tooth enamel.


• Prepare your own mouthwash by combining 1 ⁄4 cup of apple cider vinegar with two cups of just-boiled water. Let it cool and store it in a jar in your medicine cabinet.

Swish a mouthful of this antiseptic solution as you would commercial mouthwash, for about one minute, and spit it out. Then, be sure to rinse with water to remove the acid stains.

Canker Sores

Canker sores are painful, annoying little sores that develop on the gums, cheeks and tongue, which can last for weeks. They are believed to be brought on by stress.

•Get an ear of corn, discard the kernels and burn a little piece of cob at a time. Apply the cob ashes to the canker sore three to five times a day. (Too bad this isn’t a remedy for the toes—we’d have “cob on the corn.”)

• Several times throughout the day, keep a glob of blackstrap molasses in your mouth on the canker sore. Molasses has extraordinary healing properties. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with water after using molasses.

• According to psychic healer Edgar Cayce, castor oil is soothing and promotes healing of canker sores. Dab the sore with it each time the pain reminds you it’s there.

Bacterial Cure

• Yogurt with active cultures (make sure the container specifies “living” or “active” cultures) may ease the condition faster than you can say Lactobacillus acidophilus. In fact, lactobacillus tablets may be an effective treatment for canker sores.

Again, make sure the tablets have living organisms. Start by taking two tablets at each meal, then decrease the dosage as the condition clears up.

• Until you get the Lactobacillus acidophilus, dip one regular (nonherbal) tea bag in boiling water. Squeeze out most of the water. When it’s cool to the touch, apply it to the canker sore for three minutes. • Take a mouthful of sauerkraut juice (use fresh from the barrel or in a jar found at health food stores, rather than the cans found in supermarkets) and swish it over the canker sore for about a minute. Then either swallow the juice or spit it out. Do this throughout the day, four to six times every day, until the sore is gone. It should disappear in a day or two. If you’re like us, you’ll come to love the juice. You may even want to try making your own sauerkraut.

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