Home Remedies for a Tooth Infection

By Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP
Medically reviewed
September 1, 2021

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 can be very painful, 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.

For example, if you have a bacterial infection in your mouth, your dentist or doctor may treat it with an antibiotic medication like amoxicillin or cephalexin, along with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

You may also need dental work, such as a root canal, to stop the infection and prevent it from spreading throughout your gums and mouth. 

But if you’re in pain and can’t get to a doctor or dentist right away, there are also home remedies for a tooth infection that 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 you attempt to treat your own abscessed tooth.

Here are 10 natural remedies for a tooth infection. 

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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 you can use this pantry staple to support your oral health, including as a home remedy for tooth infection.

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. 

Saltwater rinse

Another pantry essential, salt, is a natural antiseptic, so it can come in handy for treating a tooth infection.

Not only does salt help to reduce bacteria, but rinsing with warm saltwater 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 tap 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.

This common cooking ingredient contains a component called allicin, which has been shown in scientific research to kill bacteria. 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. Apply the paste to the infected area a few times per day. 

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 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, then applying it on the outside of the painful area.

You can also use a bag of frozen vegetables 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 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% hydrogen peroxide and water. Swish the solution in your mouth for about a minute, then spit it out, being careful not to swallow the mixture. You can use the solution as needed a few times a day. 

While hydrogen peroxide can be a great way to reduce bacteria in the mouth, be careful to never 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 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 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 have antibacterial properties, so they may be useful for helping with a tooth infection. 

  • Clove oil: The oil from this cooking spice has been found to have both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. If you can’t find clove essential oil, you can also use dried cloves from your pantry to numb the pain. Simply place a clove in your mouth, between the tooth that hurts and your cheek, for several minutes.
  • Thyme oil: This common cooking herb is also antibacterial.

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. 

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.

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When To See A Doctor

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

Keep in mind that dental abscesses can cause significant health problems, especially if left untreated. 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.

Along with treating your infection, your provider can also help with pain relief. 

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

And if you have symptoms including fever, chills, confusion, or fast heart rate accompanied by a tooth infection, seek immediate medical care.

These signs could indicate a spreading infection or even sepsis, a potentially fatal complication that occurs when bacteria enters a person’s bloodstream.

How K Health Can Help 

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

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.

Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP

Dr. Hemphill is an award winning primary care physician with an MD from Florida State University College of Medicine. She completed her residency at Halifax Medical Center.