For centuries traditional Indian and Asian medicine made use of cloves and clove oil to treat a variety of dental ailments. History saw the arrival of the fragrant little buds in Europe in the fourth century. But it wasn’t until the seventh and eighth centuries that clove’s additional uses—ranging from food preservation to aiding in localized pain relief—became in fashion.
Cloves were also used as natural breath fresheners. It’s documented that a Chinese leader in the Han Dynasty from the third century B.C. required all guests to chew on cloves before addressing him.
Cloves are made from the dried flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum. They are rich and potent in flavor. The name clove originates from the French word “clou,” which means nail.
Today most of the world’s cloves are found in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, although they are also readily and easily available at your local grocery store. Cloves are traditionally used in spiced chai drinks or baked into gingerbread cookies or other cakes. They’re as versatile as they are delicious. But probably most importantly, these sweet, savory morsels pack a powerful numbing agent that can be used to help you treat your tooth pain, naturally.
Cloves for Toothache
For centuries people have been treating toothaches with cloves because they contain eugenol. Eugenol has both antiseptic and anesthetic properties and provides a natural numbing sensation when applied to the gums or affected tooth. Eugenol is an antiseptic in that it can fight the germs causing an infection, and an anesthetic in that it provides pain relief by numbing the painful area.
Eugenol is believed to work just as well as many drugstore numbing agents but without the risky side effects. In fact, this study in the Journal of Dentistry found that administering cloves and Benzocaine, a popular over-the-counter tooth pain medication, provided the same amount of noticeable pain relief when tested against a placebo.
Young mothers have even used a little clove essential oil on a teething baby’s gums or a child’s mouth to relieve the pain of teething.
Note: Please consult with your pediatrician or doctor before using any essential oils on your baby or child.
Cloves for Other Gum/Tooth Health
While cloves for toothache are an excellent alternative in a pinch when you’re in pain and on your way to the dentist, they can also be a unique way to stave off and prevent any other dental maladies.
Cloves have natural antioxidants that are helpful in preventing effects of free radicals in the body and this case, to the teeth. Incorporating cloves into your regular dental routine could prove beneficial.
Cloves are also natural teeth whiteners. Applying clove essential oil to your teeth after brushing has the potential to whiten your teeth. In fact some traditional Chinese toothpastes that contains cloves have been shown to both naturally whiten teeth and prevent cavities and plaque buildup.
Cloves have several other health benefits, including being able to regulate blood sugar, and they may even serve as a preventative aid to those with type 2 diabetes.
How to Provide Pain Relief to Your Gums with Cloves
You can find tooth pain relief with the help of cloves in any of three ways:
- Whole cloves: Rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Gently hold a few cloves as close to the aching tooth as possible. As the cloves begin to soften, gently chew to release the natural eugenol within the cloves to the affected area.
- Ground or powdered cloves: You can ground your own cloves with a mortar and pestle by gently pressing them into the pestle. You can also purchase previously ground or powdered cloves at your local grocery store or specialty store. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Apply a bit of the ground cloves to the area between your cheek and the gum of the affected tooth. Your saliva will activate the eugenol, and the numbing sensation will take place.
- Clove oil compress: If you’re in extreme pain from your toothache, a clove compress is a quick and effective form of relief.
Mix 3 to 4 drops of clove essential oil with a 1/2 teaspoon of a carrier oil (like olive or fractionated coconut oil). Soak a cotton ball in the liquid and gently apply to the affected tooth.
While cloves are an excellent and natural alternative to many over-the-counter pain management agents, they are not a replacement for dental treatment. Please consult with a dentist or hygienist regarding any tooth pain as it could be a sign of something more severe.
Please be advised: cloves are a highly potent herbal supplement that is safe for human consumption; however, when ingested consistently in large quantities, cloves may cause liver and respiratory problems.