Does Clove Oil Deaden the Nerve Endings?

Is tooth pain ruining your day? Consider using clove oil for toothache. Eugenol, one of its active compounds, has anesthetic and antiseptic effects, leading to pain relief. In fact, this natural ingredient is widely used in toothpaste and dental products.

Eugenol, a natural compound in clove oil, is a potent analgesic, antiseptic and antibacterial agent. (Image: tycoon751/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

Eugenol, a natural compound in clove oil, is a potent analgesic, antiseptic and antibacterial agent. When applied locally, it can numb the nerves and relieve tooth pain. Its effects are temporary, though. See your dentist as soon as possible to determine the cause of pain and receive treatment.

What Causes Tooth Pain?

Nearly all adults and up to 90 percent of children have tooth decay, a common cause of dental pain, as reported by the World Dental Federation. The pain associated with oral diseases can affect your mood as well as your sleep and overall quality of life. You may have trouble eating, working and interacting with others.

According to the World Health Organization, dental problems are a leading cause of pain and disfigurement. From tooth decay and infections to cavities, toothaches can occur for various reasons. Dental plaque, for example, can build up in the mouth, leading to cavities, abscesses and gum diseases. Any of these conditions may cause aches, soreness and sensitive teeth.

Toothache is often a sign of tooth decay, warns Scotland's National Health Service. The pain can range in intensity from mild to severe. If left unaddressed, it may get worse and lead to infections. Other common causes include a cracked tooth, receding gums or loose fillings. Sometimes, tooth pain is a symptom of sinusitis.

In general, it's recommended to see a dentist if your toothache is accompanied by fever, lasts more than two days or doesn't subside when you take painkillers.

Unfortunately, tooth pain often strikes when you least expect it, such as in the middle of the night or right before travel. Painkillers may not be an option. These drugs have a myriad of side effects, from stomach ulcers and digestive distress to liver problems.

Another option is to use clove oil for toothache. This remedy may offer temporary relief from tooth pain and kill oral bacteria due to its antimicrobial action, according to the Electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC). Furthermore, it acts as a local anesthetic, numbing the nerves.

How Does Clove Oil Work?

Essential oils have long been used for their healing power. Clove oil is no exception. When applied topically, it inhibits yeast and bacteria, as reported in a research paper published in the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology in its October-December 2012 issue. Its antibacterial and antiseptic properties are recognized in dentistry and other areas of medicine.

Researchers discovered that clove oil can reduce the activity of Staphylococcus aureus, E. Coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, three of the most harmful bacteria species. They used a formula containing about 83 percent eugenol, the natural compound responsible for its antibacterial effects. As the scientists note, this oil isn't markedly inactivated by dilution as with other similar products.

Furthermore, clove oil exhibits antioxidant effects. In fact, its antimicrobial and antibacterial activity is higher than that of most spices, fruits and vegetables. Eugenol, its primary compound, may protect against cancer, but more research is needed in this area. Scientists believe that clove oil alleviates pain by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, a class of lipids that form at the site of infection.

When your tooth hurts, it's actually the nerve in its root — not the bone — that causes pain. Take dental abscesses, for example. As the Mayo Clinic notes, this condition occurs when bacteria attack the dental pulp where the tooth nerves are located. Here, they cause inflammation and severe pain. You may also experience facial swelling, difficulty chewing, fever and pain that radiates to other tissues.

Clove oil not only destroys oral bacteria and wards off infections, but it may also relieve dental pain. This natural product has analgesic effects, points out the U.S. National Library of Medicine. For this reason, it's commonly used in the treatment of gum and tooth pain. A few drops of this oil applied to the affected area can temporarily deaden the nerve endings.

Be aware, though, that clove oil doesn't treat cavities, dental infections and other oral disorders. It only relieves your symptoms for a couple of hours, making the pain more bearable. Your dentist is the only one who can identify and treat the root cause of your problem.

How to Apply Clove Oil

Using clove oil for toothache is pretty straightforward and takes just a few minutes. Just follow these steps, as suggested by the eMC:

  • Pour a few drops of oil on a cotton swab
  • Apply it to the affected tooth
  • Avoid touching the surrounding skin and gums

Sounds simple, doesn't it? The best part is that it really works.

In a clinical trial, researchers compared the effects of a eugenol-based paste versus chlorhexidine gel, a topical antibacterial and antiseptic agent used in dentistry. The results were published in the British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in November 2015. The study was conducted on 270 subjects who had their third molars extracted. None of the patients using eugenol developed dry socket, a common complication of tooth removal.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of clove oil for toothache, dry socket, dental plaque and other oral problems. The FDA has actually downgraded its effectiveness rating. However, clinical research shows something else. It's up to you to decide whether or not it makes sense to use this home remedy.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

Beware — clove oil isn't free of side effects. When used in high doses, it may affect the lungs, kidneys, stomach, heart, throat and nervous system. You may experience stomach pain, nausea, rapid heartbeat, breathing problems and dizziness. There is also a risk of burns in the mouth and throat. But these issues are unlikely to occur if you use just a few drops.

This remedy may not be suitable for everyone. In some cases, it may cause hypersensitivity, allergic contact urticaria, skin irritation and even anaphylaxis. These adverse reactions are attributed to eugenol.

Consider trying other home remedies for toothaches before resorting to clove oil. For example, use a cold compress or ice packs and rinse your mouth with mouthwash. Avoid eating hard foods, as they can worsen the pain. Reach out to your dentist as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the risk of complications.

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