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Dental “MythBusters”

Throughout my years as a dentist, I have seen and heard of some pretty outlandish home remedies to help with toothaches. Here is a list of the best and the worst home remedies I have come across:

Aspirin: “If I have a toothache, can I just place two aspirins on my tooth to make it feel better?” If you had a headache, would you just place two aspirins on your head? The same goes for your mouth. You can’t just put two aspirins on your tooth and expect the pain to go away. Placing aspirin directly on the infected area can actually do harm to your mouth due to the acidity in the pill. It can burn and irritate your gums. My word of advice? Just swallow the aspirin.

Garlic Cloves: This actually works. Dating back to the age of my great-great-grandparents, a garlic clove actually has some medicinal value (in addition to warding off vampires and zombies). Rest a clove against the sore area until pain goes away. You can also use a drop or two of clove oil, but be careful, too much can be toxic. However, my best advice is to crush the garlic clove. When crushed or finely chopped, two chemicals in the garlic join to form Allicin, which is an organosulfur compound obtained from the clove. Allicin has been known to offer some relief. Be sure you get it right on the tooth, getting it on your gums can really irritate them. And no, you cannot use garlic powder as a substitute.

Bourbon/Whiskey: The old wives’ tale says that strong liquor applied to the gums, swished in the mouth or taken down straight can bring relief from toothaches. Yes, the alcohol may kill a small percentage of the bacteria in your mouth and it may provide you with momentary relief from the pain, but I assure you it is not a home remedy for a toothache.

Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne Pepper is a key ingredient in many Mexican, Cajun, Creole and Indian dishes, and some think that it is a home remedy for toothache relief. I am here to tell you, it’s not. The hotness of the pepper only masks the pain that your mouth is feeling, and as soon as the hotness from the pepper goes away, your mouth will begin feeling the pain. Cayenne Pepper is meant to be a seasoning for foods, not for medicinal relief.

My tip to you is that if you are having dental stress, take an aspirin (don’t lay it on your tooth) and then make an appointment at my office. Dental stress and toothaches, if untreated, will only get worse. The best advice that I can give to you is take proper care of your mouth, and see your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

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