Eugenol, a chemical found in cloves, has been used in dentistry since the 19th century. Cloves and clove oil have long been used as a home remedy for a toothache.
In this article, we will look at the evidence for clove oil as a treatment for a toothache, as well as whether it has any possible side effects.
We will also investigate commons causes of a toothache and suggest tips to prevent tooth pain in the future.
Clove oil has been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine for centuries to relieve tooth pain.
Clove oil contains a chemical called eugenol. In 1837, eugenol and magnesium oxide were combined to create a filling material.
Later, zinc oxide replaced the magnesium oxide to create ZOE (zinc oxide eugenol), which is still widely used as a temporary filling cement.
Since the 19th century, eugenol has been one of many essential oil components to be used in root canal therapy, periodontal therapy, and to treat abscesses.
Clove oil contains a chemical called eugenol, which acts as an anesthetic and antibacterial agent. Clove oil is anti-inflammatory and antifungal.
It is available from many supermarkets, drug stores, and health food shops, or can be bought online. It has a strong, warm, and spicy taste.
To use it for a toothache, dip a clean tissue, cotton swab, or cotton ball into the oil and wipe it over the gums at the point of the pain.
People can also use whole cloves. Simply place them on the affected area for several minutes at a time.
Clove oil has long been applied directly to the gums to ease toothache. There is evidence that the eugenol in clove oil is effective at fighting several known oral bacteria. Medicines containing eugenol are widely used in dentistry.
Some research suggests that clove gel may reduce the pain of needle insertion in dentistry. More work needs to be done before this is conclusive.
The United States Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) rate the effectiveness of certain treatments based on the available evidence. It has recently downgraded the classification of clove oil.
The FDA now believe there is not enough evidence to suggest it is effective for toothache, and that more research is needed.
While clove oil is usually safe when applied to the skin, repeated use inside the mouth and on the gums can have side effects.
Side effects may include damage to the:
- tooth pulp — the central part of the tooth which is made of connective tissue and cells
- the skin on the inside of the mouth
- mucous membranes inside of the mouth
Using dried cloves inside of the mouth can cause sensitivity and irritation, as well as damage the dental tissues.
Consuming clove oil can be dangerous for children and may lead to seizures, liver damage, and fluid imbalances.
Pregnant women are advised against using this remedy, as it is not known whether clove oil is safe for the growing baby.
Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, may reduce the pain and discomfort while a person is waiting for a dentist appointment.
An over-the-counter dental gel containing local anesthetic can also be used to numb the pain. This method is not suitable for children under the age of 12.
If a toothache lasts for more than 1 or 2 days, a person should make an appointment to see their dentist. If it is left untreated, it may get worse.
Most cases of toothache are caused by:
- tooth decay that leads to holes or cavities in the hard surface of the tooth
- a cracked tooth
- loose or broken fillings
- receding gums
- periapical abscess or a collection of pus at the end of the tooth caused by a bacterial infection
If the toothache is not treated, the tooth may become infected and lead to worse pain.
To determine the cause of a toothache, the dentist will carry out a physical examination and may suggest an X-ray. The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause but may include:
- removing a decayed area and replacing it with a filling
- removing and replacing loose or broken fillings
- carrying out root canal treatment on an infected tooth
The best way to prevent a toothache is to keep the teeth and gums healthy. Some best practices include:
- limiting intake of sugary food and drinks
- brushing the teeth twice a day using a fluoride-containing toothpaste,
- gently brushing the gums and tongue
- using dental floss to clean in between teeth
- quitting smoking
- having regular dental checkups