Home Remedies for a Tooth Infection

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 28, 2022

Tooth decay, untreated cavities, recent dental work, or injuries can cause a tooth infection, or tooth abscess, at the tip or side of a tooth’s root.

Dental infections cause inflammation and can cause extreme pain.

They are one of the most common causes of toothache, and if they’re not medically treated, the bacteria can spread to the gums, bone, and even the eyes. 

If you think you have a tooth infection, talk to a dentist or doctor who can diagnose and properly treat the problem.

But if you’re in pain and can’t get to a doctor or dentist immediately, home remedies for tooth infection can help manage the pain and keep the infection from spreading.

In some cases, your provider may also recommend home remedies to manage your pain while they’re treating your infection. 

While some of these home treatments aren’t likely to cause major medical concerns, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before attempting to treat your abscessed tooth.

Home Remedies for a Tooth Infection

Here are 10 natural, simple home remedies for a tooth infection.

Baking soda

Baking soda is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to reduce bacteria and relieve pain in your mouth and gums.

There are a few ways to use this pantry staple to support oral health, including as a home remedy for teeth infections.

First, you can try making a paste of equal parts baking soda and water, then applying it to your gums. This method works especially well when the abscess is on the side of your tooth or on your gums. 

If your tooth infection is inside or on top of your tooth, make a baking soda rinse by combining a half tablespoon of baking soda, a half cup of water, and a dash of table salt.

Swish the solution in your mouth for a few minutes, then spit and repeat until your mixture is gone. 

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Saltwater rinse

Another pantry essential, salt, is a natural antiseptic, so it can come in handy for treating a tooth infection when used to make a salt water rinse. All you need to do is add one teaspoon of table salt or more into a glass of warm water.

Not only does salt help to reduce bacteria, but rinsing with warm salt water can also remove debris from your mouth, break up pus around the tooth, and help ensure proper wound healing.

To create a saltwater rinse for a tooth infection, simply mix a half teaspoon of salt with a half cup of warm water. Swish the mixture inside your mouth for two or three minutes, then spit and repeat as needed. 

Garlic

Garlic is widely used for infections due to its germ-fighting properties. They are considered natural antibiotics.

This common cooking ingredient contains a component called allicin, which has been shown in scientific research to kill bacteria. Fresh garlic may also soothe pain from a tooth infection. 

But you’ll need to do more than eat garlicky foods. To reap the bacteria-busting benefits of garlic, create a paste by crushing a fresh clove of garlic. Apply the paste to the infected area, e.g., the root of the tooth, a few times per day. 

If you experience sharp pain, you can also peel a clove of garlic and bite down on it gently with the affected tooth for a few minutes to ease pain and prevent bacterial growth.

Alcohol

Drinking excessively when you have an infection isn’t a good idea because alcohol can suppress your immune system. 

But applied directly to the tooth infection, alcoholic drinks such as whiskey, scotch, or vodka can help numb pain thanks to their anesthetic properties.

Soak a cotton ball in the hard alcohol and apply it to the area that hurts. Keep in mind: Alcohol won’t kill enough bacteria to reduce your infection, but it may provide some temporary relief.

Don’t use alcohol to treat a child’s tooth infection. 

Fenugreek tea

The Mediterranean herb fenugreek is often used as a home remedy due to its antibacterial properties.

You may be able to find store-bought fenugreek tea bags to drink, but you can also make a potent solution to apply directly to the infected tooth for more relief. 

Heat one cup of water and add one teaspoon of ground fenugreek. Once the tea is cool, dip a cotton ball in it and apply the wet tea bag to the painful area as needed.

Cold compress

A do-it-yourself cold compress is a great way to relieve tooth pain and reduce swelling on the outside of your mouth.

Because most typical ice packs are large and don’t bend, try making your own cold compress by wrapping ice in a clean washcloth or towel to form a smaller ice pack, then applying it on the outside of the painful area.

You can also use a bag of frozen vegetables, ice water, or fruit. Even an ice cube massaged directly on the sore gum can help reduce the pain of a tooth infection.

Use this remedy as needed, up to several times a day.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide also has medicinal uses. They can be an effective disinfectant, including in the mouth.

To help relieve a bacterial infection in your gums or mouth, make a mixture of equal parts 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and water. Swish the hydrogen peroxide solution in your mouth for about a minute, then spit it out, be careful not to swallow the mixture. You can use the hydrogen peroxide rinse as needed a few times a day. 

While hydrogen peroxide can be a great way to reduce bacteria and toxins in the mouth, be careful never to put food-grade, or 35% concentration, hydrogen peroxide in your mouth.

Oil pulling

Oil pulling, or swishing oil in your mouth, may help remove bacteria from the infected tooth.

To practice oil pulling, take a bit of coconut oil, oregano oil, or olive oil and swish it in your mouth as you would mouthwash. Oil pulling supposedly works best on an empty stomach, so try it in the morning before breakfast. 

While there isn’t extensive scientific evidence supporting oil pulling, one 2017 study suggests it can help with mouth ailments such as bleeding gums, gum disease, and bad breath and that it may be effective at reducing bacteria. 

Essential oils

Many people use essential oils, the distilled essence of a plant, to relieve everyday aches and pains.

Certain essential oils serve medicinal purposes – they have antibacterial properties, so they may be useful for helping with a tooth infection. 

Just drops of essential oil can help relieve severe tooth pain. 

To use an essential oil on a tooth infection, dab a cotton ball or cotton swab in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil; then, add a drop or two of essential oil. 

Rub the mixture directly on the affected area of your gums for relief. You can also apply a drop in the center of the tooth causing you pain.

If you use essential oil in your mouth, be careful not to ingest it, especially in large amounts; doing so could cause liver damage.

Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera gel, which comes from the leaves of the aloe succulent plant, can help heal burns and cuts.

You can also use the gel to reduce mouth pain from a tooth infection. Aloe vera isn’t just soothing; it also has antibacterial properties, which may help resolve an infection. 

You can get your own gel from an aloe plant, but if you don’t have one, pure aloe vera can be purchased at grocery stores.

Simply apply the gel to the painful area of your mouth using a clean finger or a cotton swab.

In addition, you may also want to try out other natural home remedies that have been used since ancient times to treat pain, inflammations, and infections, such as:

  • Tannins
  • Thyme
  • Vanilla extract
  • ​Black pepper
  • Peppermint tea and other herbal teas

Causes of Tooth Infection

Different things can cause a tooth infection.

For instance, a periapical tooth abscess is an infection that occurs when bacteria invade the innermost part of the tooth called the dental pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. 

The periodontal abscess is another type of dental abscess that can result from the accumulation of bacteria in the periodontal pockets. It causes the collection of a pocket of pus in the gum tissues. 

There are billions of bacteria in the mouth, some of which play important roles in digestion. However, these bacteria produce acids that can cause damage inside of the tooth.

It also increases the chances of developing a dental abscess. This is why it is important to adopt good oral hygiene. 

Dental abscesses often occur following dental trauma, tooth rot, or a failed root canal procedure.

Some common causes of tooth infection include:

  • Poor oral hygiene, e.g., not brushing twice a day and not flossing
  • A previous dental work or injury (e.g., after dental cleanings) that makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate
  • Consuming lots of sugary foods or beverages, which encourages bacteria to form plaques that cause tooth decay and abscess
  • Gum disease (also called periodontal disease)
  • A weak immune system which can be caused by underlying medical conditions, such as AIDs and diabetes
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When To See a Medical Provider

While these home remedies can help with tooth infection pain, they’re not treatments that will cure an infection on their own. 

Dentists are the healthcare professionals that will give you the appropriate treatment for your painful dental condition.

Keep in mind that dental abscesses can cause significant health problems, especially if left untreated. However, they may not need you to visit an emergency room. 

If you think you have an infection in your tooth, seek medical or dental care—or chat with a K doctor—right away to find out what’s going on.

Your doctor will first ask you questions about your symptoms. They will check for symptoms of a tooth abscess before prescribing medications for you. Along with treating your infection, your provider can also help with pain relief. This is an effective way of treating the condition.

You should also consult with a medical provider if your tooth issue is currently being treated with antibiotics, but symptoms aren’t resolving or if they’re getting worse.

And if you have symptoms including fever, sore throat, severe discomfort, chills, respiratory problems, confusion, or fast heart rate accompanied by a tooth infection, book an appointment with your medical provider to get the best treatment.

These signs could indicate a spreading infection or even sepsis, a potentially fatal complication that occurs when bacteria enter a person’s bloodstream. However, the goal of treatment is to ensure you get a full recovery.

How K Health Can Help 

Did you know that you can get online dental prescriptions for tooth infections? 

Download the K Health app to check your symptoms using our symptom checker and text with a doctor in minutes. 

K Health’s board-certified, U.S.-based doctors can provide a treatment plan and, if required, a prescription to resolve your symptoms as soon as possible. Clinicians are available 24/7.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.

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