For centuries traditional Indian and Asian medicine has made use of cloves and clove oil to treat a variety of dental ailments, including cloves for toothache. 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 a tree in the myrtle family, 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. But their medicinal uses for oral health are even more celebrated. These sweet, savory morsels are infused with a powerful numbing agent that can be used to help you treat your tooth pain, naturally.
Cloves for Toothache: A Natural Remedy
For centuries people have been treating toothaches with cloves because of their active ingredient eugenol. Eugenol has both antiseptic and anesthetic properties and provides a natural numbing sensation when applied to the gums or affected tooth. This antiseptic can fight the germs causing an infection, and eugenol also acts as an anesthetic in that it provides temporary relief by numbing the painful area.
A powerful anti-inflammatory, eugenol is believed to work just as well as many drugstore numbing agents but without the risky side effects. In fact, a study in the Journal of Dentistry found that administering cloves as clove oil or clove gel and Benzocaine, a popular over-the-counter tooth pain medication, provided the same amount of noticeable pain relief when tested against a placebo. Clove oil may also relieve the pain of dry socket, a potential complication of tooth extraction.
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 other health care professional before using any essential oils on your baby or child.
Cloves for Other Gum/Tooth Health
While cloves for a painful tooth are an excellent alternative in a pinch when you’re experiencing discomfort and on your way to the dentist, they can also be a unique way to stave off and prevent any other dental maladies.
Cloves contain natural antioxidants that are helpful in preventing effects of free radicals in the body and, in 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 contain cloves have been shown to both naturally whiten teeth and prevent cavities and plaque buildup. You could also include a few drops of clove oil to a homemade mouthwash to gain all the oral health benefits.
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 with any of these three home remedies:
- Whole cloves: Rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Carefully 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.
- Powdered or ground cloves: You can grind your own cloves with a mortar and pestle by gently pressing them into the pestle. You can also purchase clove powder at your local grocery or health food 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 oil of clove with a 1/2 teaspoon of a carrier oil (like olive oil or fractionated coconut oil). Soak a cotton ball or cotton swab 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.