Stimulating pressure points may help alleviate tooth pain. Acupressure points that may help include Shenmen at the top of the ear, Jiache on the jaw muscle, and Quanliao, under the cheekbone.

However, pressure point stimulation may not treat the underlying cause of toothache. People with persistent or severe pain, or any accompanying symptoms such as fever, should seek prompt medical treatment.

Keep reading to find out what acupressure is, whether it helps with tooth pain, and how to use this technique to alleviate a toothache.

Acupressure is a complementary therapy that involves stimulating pressure points in specific places around the body. It comes from acupuncture, which is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

According to TCM, the body’s energy, or “qi,” flows through a network of channels or meridians that extend throughout the body. These meridians can become blocked, which inhibits the flow of qi, causing pain or illness.

Along the meridians, there are areas called “acupoints.” Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into these points to treat health conditions.

Acupressure is the noninvasive alternative to acupuncture. Instead of needles, it involves applying pressure with the hands or fingers.

Yes, there is some evidence that acupressure may help reduce tooth pain.

A 2023 controlled trial of adolescents aged between 12 to 16 years old found that acupressure treatment reduced pain following a dental procedure to the same degree as ibuprofen.

Orthodontists fitted separators, which make room between the teeth for orthodontic appliances, in 75 people. The groups who received ibuprofen or acupressure reported similarly reduced levels of pain in comparison to no treatment at all.

A 2022 study of 180 people also found acupressure around the ears helps to reduce postoperative pain after tooth extractions in comparison to a placebo. The authors especially focused on the Shenmen point, which is an oval-shaped dip in the upper ear.

A 2017 review of previous research notes that, in 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed acupuncture and acupressure as effective treatments for dental pain.

However, it is currently unclear how either of these approaches work to alleviate pain. One theory is that it stimulates nerves that are sending the pain signals, interrupting or altering pain perception.

A 2023 analysis of three pilot studies also found that ear acupressure for pain altered chemicals in the body that affect inflammation. The therapy reduced levels of inflammatory substances and stimulating the release of anti-inflammatory substances.

Although the study did not include people experiencing dental pain, this could be how acupressure eases dental pain too. More research is necessary to understand the mechanism behind it.

It is important to note that acupressure does not address the cause of toothache. People with dental conditions or infections still require treatment from a dentist.

Someone who wants to try acupressure can visit a registered acupressure therapist. Alternatively, they can practice on themselves. To try it:

  1. Find a comfortable position, and try to relax by closing the eyes and breathing deeply.
  2. Use firm pressure to massage the acupoints on both sides of the body. Massage each acupoint using a circular or up-and-down motion.
  3. Repeat the massage as long as it feels comfortable or until the pain subsides.
  4. Ask for help if the massage is difficult to do alone.

A person can apply pressure to several acupoints to ease a toothache. Some examples include:

TF4: Shenmen

The 2022 study specifically highlights the Shenmen or “Heavenly Gate” point on the ear as a beneficial acupressure point for tooth pain. This point is in the middle of a depression at the top of the ear.

SI18: Quanliao, small intestine meridian

Quanliao translates as “cheekbone crevice”. This acupoint sits under the cheekbone.

To find the Quanliao, a person should draw a line directly from the outer corner of the eye down to the hollow of the cheekbone.

ST6: Jiache, stomach meridian

Jiache translates as “jawbone”. This acupoint is halfway between the corner of the mouth and the bottom of the earlobe.

To find the jiache, a person should clench their jaw and feel for the muscles that flex in the cheeks. Applying pressure here may relieve toothache and decrease pain in the jaw.

LI4: He gu, large intestine meridian

He gu translates as “joining valley”. This acupoint sits in the web of skin between the thumb and index finger. Applying pressure here may help ease toothache, headaches, and facial pain.

Traditionally, some acupuncturists have considered He gu to be a “forbidden point” that people should not stimulate during pregnancy, due to an association with miscarriages.

There is no evidence to show acupressure or acupuncture induces miscarriage via forbidden points in early pregnancy, but there is evidence that acupressure can induce contractions at the end of pregnancy leading to labor.

GB21: Jianjing, gallbladder meridian

Jianjing translates as “shoulder well”. This acupoint is on the shoulder muscle, between the neck and the tips of the shoulders. A person can find it by pinch the muscle using the thumb and middle finger, then applying pressure with the index finger, while slowly releasing the pinch.

A 2019 study states that historically, therapists used Jianjing to treat head, neck, or shoulder pain. However, some acupuncturists also consider this a “forbidden point” during pregnancy.

It is unclear if stimulating this point has any connection to pregnancy loss or complications due to a lack of research.

Toothache often occurs when the dental pulp inside the tooth becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be due to several reasons:

Other conditions and factors may cause tooth pain without affecting the dental pulp. These include:

Acupressure may temporarily ease the pain of a toothache, but it will not treat the cause. People should seek medical treatment as soon as possible to reduce the risk of further complications.

Some cases of toothache require a visit to the dentist, while others may require hospital treatment.

When to see a dentist

A person should visit their dentist as soon as possible if they experience the following symptoms:

If a person has a mild toothache but no other symptoms, they should see a dentist at their earliest convenience.

When to go to the hospital

A toothache can sometimes occur as a result of tooth infection. Sometimes, the infection can spread to other parts of the face or body. These infections are serious and require prompt medical treatment.

The following symptoms can indicate that a tooth infection has spread:

  • swelling or tenderness in the floor of the mouth
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • a severe headache
  • fever
  • confusion
  • difficulty seeing or double vision
  • swelling around an eye

If a person has one of the above symptoms, they should go to their nearest emergency room right away.

Acupressure involves applying pressure to specific points on the body. Some evidence suggests that certain pressure points may help relieve tooth pain, such as the Quanliao, Jiache, and Shenmen points. A person can try to activate these acupoints themselves via massage, or they can visit a registered acupuncturist.

Acupressure may temporarily ease toothache, but it will not treat the underlying condition. To treat the cause, a person will need to visit their dentist. If other worrying symptoms are present, they may require emergency treatment in a hospital.