Getting temporary relief

Toothaches are uniquely irritating. They’re painful, and getting to a dentist for immediate attention may be inconvenient. You can use over-the-counter pain medications, but natural treatments are also available to treat pain.

One of these preferred remedies is cloves. For centuries, cloves have been used as a pain relief technique. Historically, treatments called for inserting the clove into an infected tooth or cavity. They contain an active ingredient that numbs the skin it touches, which may provide temporary relief from the toothache.

Today, instead of grinding cloves, we use clove oil. Clove oil is the extracted, concentrated product from the plant. Read on for instructions on using clove oil.

Trying to use clove oil for the first time?

You’ll need:

  • a bottle of clove oil or powder
  • cotton swab or cotton ball
  • carrier oil (such as coconut oil, almond oil, or olive oil)
  • a small dish

You can also use clove powder meant for baking, but clove oil is more effective.


  1. Collect the supplies and ingredients you need.
  2. Squeeze a few drops of clove oil with 1 teaspoon of olive oil into your dish.
  3. Soak your swab or cotton ball with the clove oil.
  4. Gently swipe the swab or ball around the area that is bothering you. Or place the cotton ball over the area.
  5. Allow the oil sit for 5 to 10 minutes before it starts working.
  6. Reapply every 2 to 3 hours for relief.
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Oil pulling: You can also swirl clove oil mixed with coconut oil in your mouth. Focus on swishing the oil in the affected area to avoid numbing your whole mouth.

Clove paste:You can also make a paste or gel by grinding fresh whole cloves and mixing them with oil. This is less effective than using concentrated oil.

Where to buy clove oil

Look for clove oil in the medicinal section of your supermarket or the home remedies section of your pharmacy. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil. Carrier oils are neutral oils, such as vegetable or nut oils, that help dilute stronger essential oils to make them easier to use and more palatable. Stop use if the clove oil is too strong, upsets your stomach, or burns.

Read more: 10 best practices for healthy teeth »

Clove oil contains the active ingredient eugenol, which is a natural anesthetic. It helps numb and reduce pain to ease a toothache. Eugenol also has natural anti-inflammatory properties. It may reduce swelling and irritation in the affected area. Dry Socket Paste, an over-the-counter treatment dentists recommend for teeth extraction pain, has eugenol.

A British study found that eugenol is more effective at reducing pain, inflammation, and infection than another type of analgesic. Study participants who used the eugenol-based paste also had better wound healing than study participants who used the other treatment or no treatment at all.

Another study looked directly at a homemade clove gel, 20 percent benzocaine, and a placebo. They found that the clove gel and benzocaine reduced pain significantly. The clove gel was as effective as benzocaine.

Clove oil is naturally unpleasant to taste. Avoid swallowing any of it. Ingesting clove oil can lead to several side effects, including:

  • breathing difficulties
  • burning in your nose and throat
  • upset stomach
  • diarrhea

While clove oil is widely seen as an acceptable alternative treatment for toothache, it’s not widely supported by mainstream medical doctors. Talk with your dentist if you have any questions about using clove oil as toothache relief.

Infants and children

Avoid giving undiluted clove oil to children. Children may swallow the oil by mistake, which could make them very ill. Be sure to mix the clove oil with natural carrier oil, if you want to use this treatment on your child or infant. These oils dilute the strength of the oil and make it easier for young children to tolerate.

The treatments for toothache largely depend on what’s causing it. There are other ways to relieve toothaches if clove oil doesn’t work. The alternative treatments mentioned below may provide extra benefits alongside clove oil treatments.

TreatmentWhyWhat to do
peppermint oilcontains 35-45 percent menthol, which can reduce painUse same way as clove oil. Be sure to dilute.
sea salt rinsereduce inflammation and painDissolve a spoonful of sea salt in a cup of warm water and swish around affected area.
clean your mouthtrapped food particles between teeth may cause painThoroughly flossing and brushing your teeth may help. Be sure to rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to help eliminate any infections and reduce sensitivity.
OTC pain medsmay reduce pain and sensitivity caused by toothacheTry Tylenol or ibuprofen.
oral antisepticcan ease irritation and provide temporary pain reliefLook for options that contain benzocaine, which can gently numb your gums.

If you’re experiencing a toothache right now, keep these steps in mind for managing your pain:

  1. Look for dental damage: Can you see any damage to your teeth? If so, you may need emergency medical attention. If a tooth is cracked or broken, no amount of pain relief may help.
  2. Weigh your options: Which is more ideal for you? If you prefer something more natural, try one of the home remedies above. Otherwise, take one or two of your preferred over-the-counter pain relievers.
  3. Try clove oil: Try clove oil for a day or two as a soak or paste. Continue this until the pain goes away or you’re able to visit with your dentist. Consider OTC pain medication if the relief isn’t strong enough.

Know when to call the doctor

Clove oil is a great temporary pain relief. It may be strong enough to ease pain from a sensitive tooth. However, if your pain is the result of a larger dental issue, like a cavity or broken tooth, call your dentist and schedule an appointment.

Keep reading: Warning signs from your teeth »