A tooth infection, also known as a dental abscess, can cause severe pain and damage if left untreated. An infection occurs when bacteria invade the inner pulp tissue of the tooth, often through decay, cracks or injury. As the infection worsens, it can lead to an accumulation of pus around the tooth roots and swelling of the gums, jaw and neck.
Antibiotics prescribed by a dentist may temporarily relieve associated discomfort and swelling, but do not completely eliminate the infection. The infection continues to brew under the surface inside the tooth and roots, eventually requiring more invasive endodontic treatment with a root canal procedure if the pulp becomes necrotic.
However, before resorting to a root canal, there are some natural ways you can attempt to cure an infected tooth at home without further medical intervention. These home remedies aim to clear up the infection in its early stages and potentially avoid the need for a root canal procedure altogether.
Alternative treatments may also be considered, such as draining any abscess present to relieve pressure, or removing the decay and sealing the tooth with a temporary filling. And depending on the severity of your case, your dentist may also choose to monitor pulp vitality tests to determine if root canal is required.
Let’s explore these home remedies and alternative treatments to clear up tooth infections and potentially avoid root canal therapy:
Home remedies for tooth infections
1. Salt Water Rinse
One of the simplest yet effective home remedies for a tooth infection is a warm salt water rinse. The salt acts as an antiseptic to kill bacteria in the mouth while the warm temperature soothes pain and swelling.
- Dissolve 1⁄2 tsp of salt in an 8 oz glass of warm water.
- Swish this around the infected area for 1-2 minutes 2-3 times daily.
- Spit it out when done.
This can temporarily relieve infection symptoms and draw out pus from an abscess.
2. Essential Oils
Potent essential oils like oregano, clove, tea tree and thyme oil contain powerful antibacterial compounds. Applying diluted oils directly on the infected tooth and surrounding gums 2-3 times a day can help eliminate bacteria.
Combine 2-3 drops of oil with 1 tbsp of carrier oil like olive or coconut oil before applying. Do not swallow essential oils.
Garlic has natural antibiotic and antimicrobial abilities that combat tooth infections. Cut a fresh clove in half and rub the cut end directly on the affected tooth and gum area for its painkilling and bacteria-fighting effects.
You can also chew raw garlic cloves or add ample fresh garlic to your diet. The sulfur compounds in garlic fight oral bacteria.
Like garlic, raw onion also has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Place a slice of fresh raw onion directly on an abscessed tooth for 5-10 minutes to relieve pain and draw out infection. Be sure to rinse with antiseptic mouthwash after. The sulfur compounds in onion help kill bacteria.
Taking a good quality probiotic supplement daily helps populate your mouth and gut with beneficial bacteria to fight infection and improve immunity. Probiotics balance bacteria levels in the body for better overall health. Look for broad-spectrum probiotic capsules and consume according to label instructions.
6. Vitamin C and Zinc
Increasing your intake of immune-boosting vitamin C and zinc either through whole food sources or supplements can help the body fight infection. Vitamin C has antiseptic abilities while zinc aids white blood cell function. Get vitamin C from citrus fruits, bell peppers and broccoli. Zinc is found in foods like pumpkin seeds, cashews and chickpeas.
Cloves have powerful antibacterial, anesthetic and antiseptic properties that can temporarily relieve a tooth infection. Use ground cloves and water to make a paste. Apply this directly to the infected tooth and let sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing out thoroughly with warm water. Do this 2-3 times daily.
8. Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract contains antibacterial and antifungal compounds that combat tooth infections. Dilute 5-6 drops into 1⁄4 cup warm water and swish this liquid around in your mouth for 1 minute before spitting out. Do this every 2-3 hours while symptoms persist. The extract will reduce bacteria and pain.
Alternative professional treatments for tooth infections
Alongside home remedies, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible if you suspect a tooth infection. Some key signs that your case may require professional assessment and potential root canal therapy include:
- Severe, persisting toothache and sensitivity to hot and cold foods
- Swelling around the tooth, jaw, neck or cheek areas
- Pimple-like pus blister on the gums
- Cracked, broken or loose tooth
- Bad breath, pus discharge and foul taste in the mouth
Your dentist will diagnose the issue clinically and radiographically to determine appropriate treatment, which may include:
1. Oral antibiotics
If a tooth infection is detected early, a dentist may prescribe a short course of strong antibiotics like penicillin or clindamycin to help manage the infection before it progresses. The antibiotics work to kill bacteria causing the infection and reduce associated swelling and pain.
However, antibiotics alone cannot completely clear infection inside the tooth’s pulp. They aim to buy some time to allow definitive treatment later while controlling the infection temporarily.
2. Draining any abscess to relieve pressure
If the tooth infection has led to a localized abscess around the root and jawline, a dentist may first need to drain the pus accumulation to relieve pressure and pain. This is often done by creating a small incision and gently cleaning out the pus pocket. Draining the infection can immediately provide relief until further treatment like a root canal is completed.
3. Removing decay and placing temporary filling
Initial dental x-rays can reveal if infection was triggered by untreated tooth decay reaching the pulp. In such cases, the dentist will remove the decayed sections of enamel and dentin using a drill and then seal the tooth with a temporary filling. This eliminates the entry point for bacteria and enables assessment of whether the pulp remains viable or requires subsequent root canal therapy.
4. Monitoring pulp vitality tests
Once infection is controlled through the above methods, a dentist will monitor the tooth’s pulp carefully to see if it remains vital and healthy or has become necrotic. They use various diagnostic tests to check the tooth’s pulpal status, such as thermal testing, percussion, palpation, and pulp sensibility. If the tests indicate non-vital tissue, a root canal will be required. Otherwise, the tooth may be monitored longer.
A tooth infection should never be left unchecked. Do not hesitate to promptly visit an endodontist or dentist if exhibiting any of the symptoms discussed above for proper diagnosis and treatment.
While home remedies can provide temporary relief in early stages, professional treatment is key to properly addressing the problem. Natural remedies can help curtail infection and provide relief in early stages.
However, if an abscess ruptures or the infection worsens, a root canal or extraction will be mandatory to cure the infection and prevent its dangerous spread. This provides the best chance of saving the infected tooth and avoiding extraction.