In one of his famous plays, William Shakespeare proclaimed “for there was never yet philosopher who could endure the toothache patiently”, while Scotland’s Robert Burns produced a work on the subject, ‘Address to the Toothache’ in which he suitably described it as ‘thou hell o’ a’ diseases’. We are, of course, referring to that most hellish of afflictions, namely toothache, that searing pain caused by dental diseases or by non dental diseases, such as non dental diseases that come to affect the mouth, or through accidental blows to the mouth. Other ways include general wearing away of the enamel, which comes to expose the pulp inside the tooth, and can then become infected. Dental abscesses, which are characterised by the collection of pus in a certain area, and also when the surrounding area of a tooth becomes inflamed, the gum or the bone, and can affect the tooth as a result.
This video made me laugh when I saw it, from a site called Funny or Die. This is one way to get a toothache!
Most humans will concur that the magnitude of pain brought on by a bout of toothache is among the most painful sensations one can endure. It is therefore easy to see why sought naturally occurring remedies for such a pain, as one caught in the midst of a genuine aching tooth can be incapacitated, and unable to think in a clear and normal fashion. This has driven humans to look for remedies to toothache since at least the first recorded mention of toothache, which was back in Sumerian times. Since then, different natural materials have been employed to give relief to the pain, as well as some procedures which may raise an eyebrow or two, including the pouring of wax into the tooth, or the burning of the flesh by way of a hot needle. The history of humans using different materials as a medicine for toothache has a long and entertaining history, and it will be rewarding to look into that now.
History of Natural Remedies for Toothache
A cuneiform tablet found in ancient Sumeria around 5000 BC conveys history’s first recorded mention of human toothache. The idea of a pain in the tooth was cleverly put down to what was termed a ‘tooth worm’. The idea being that a tiny organism inside the tooth was responsible for eating away parts of the tooth, causing the pain one experienced. This concept was popular in Egypt, Japan and China for centuries, and this idea of a worm inside the tooth persisted up until the late 17th century in Europe, when the Age of Enlightenment took over and other, more factual reasons were offered as to the source of toothache. As far back in history as 936 CE, an Arab Muslim surgeon, Albucasis used cautery, or burning, by inserting a red hot needle into the pulp of the tooth, closing it off and with it, pain.
Studies exist, fleshed out by theories, that the Egyptians suffered accelerated tooth wear, possibly due to the fact that the dough from which they baked their bread was infused with particles of sand from the all encompassing desserts they used as their habitat. This increased the speed at which their teeth would wear down. The Egyptians also wore amulets around their wrists, to ward off the tooth worm, and any association with bad and painful teeth. In the 15th century, physician/priest Andrew Boorde described a ‘de-worming technique’ which basically involved the pouring of hot wax into and onto the afflicted tooth. Burns wrote his poem after suffering from a bout of toothache, and there existed in Nepal a tree dedicated to Vaishya Dev, the Newar God of toothache. The shrine consists of part of an ancient tree to which sufferers nail a rupee coin to the tree and ask for relief. The lump of the ancient tree is said to have come from Bangemhuda, a legendary tree in its own right. Interestingly, on the street near this shrine operate a number of businesses offering tooth extractions, and printed advertisements have also been placed next to the actual shrine itself, offering visitors to the shrine a more permanent solution to their problem.
What Options Do I Have for Natural Remedies?
Many options are available that utilise natural materials and properties. Different remedies will be more effective to some, and less effective to others, it is a case of trial and error, and finding the one that works best for you. Of the many options, some are:
Salt water. Mix a heaped teaspoon of salt with warm water, mix, and swirl around in mouth for as long as you can. Repeat as necessary.
- Onion. Slice a fresh piece of onion, so that some juice is available, and press onto the afflicted tooth and hold.
- Oil of cloves. An essential oil is used from the clove plant, which has natural analgesic and antiseptic properties. The oil is applied directly to the tooth giving the pain.
- Ice. This remedy utilised the fact that the ice will numb the area in pain, thus providing relief. Place a small ice cube in a plastic bag, cover with a thin cloth and apply to the area for 15 minutes.
- A warm, wet tea bag is a traditional way in which to seek relief from toothache. The astringent tannins contained in the tea is said to reduce the swelling and pain.
- Baking soda. A very versatile substance, dip your toothbrush into some powder and gently clean the tooth and surrounding area. Can reduce the pain and swelling fairly quickly.
- Garlic. Believed to slow down bacterial progress through its medical properties and offer a good amount of relief. Press and hold onto the affected area.
- Guava leaves. Again said to offer a decent amount of pain relief from toothache, chewing these leaves will release oils that combat the discomfort, or boil three or four leaves in water, add some salt to the solution and use as a mouthwash.
- Wheatgrass juice. Contains natural antibacterial properties that alleviate the pain and also has some properties to help fight tooth decay. Use the extracted juice as a mouthwash, allowing the gums to extract properties that reduce the growth of bacteria. Can also be chewed to achieve the same results.
Of course, these are just some of the more popular and well tested treatments, but all methods listed are for short term pain relief from toothache, the single most important thing to do is to contact and make an appointment to visit your dentist as soon as possible, where the extent and source of the pain can be identified, and corrected. Browsing through some magazines of testimonials about which natural remedies work best, it is fairly easy to observe that there exist many different types and methods, which seem to work well with some, and others who it doesn’t work so well for, and who have keep on looking for something that will prove to work for them. It indeed seems a case of trial and error as to which remedy that may turn out to be.
Do Natural Remedies Really Work?
Given the overwhelming amount of testimonies to be found in the various media outlets, it would be churlish to suggest that these home-made and natural remedies have no effect. Many thousands of people suffer from toothache in any given year, and some of the most popular remedies do provide temporary relief until a dentist’s services can be sought. The most popular is the oil of the clove plant, which is an ideal analgesic, providing a good degree of pain relief. The fact that the oil is also a natural antiseptic enhances the benefit of using the clove oil, as it keeps the site free of bacteria and other germs that could possibly lead to a more serious infection, which, funnily enough, may not be as painful as the actual pain suffered from the aching tooth.
A good number of the other natural remedies mimic this concept of working on the nervous system to alleviate pain, while the majority of the other methods include numbing of the area, so as not to feel any pain. Both methods seem to be successful sometimes, in some conditions, and on some individuals, which is about the fairest way to interpret any testing offered as to the effectiveness of the different methods. Having said that, it is very likely that any individual who chooses to experiment with differing ways to relieve themselves from the pain of a throbbing tooth, will at some point come across a method that works either very well for them, or better than most of the others tried. As with almost any subject one can think of, the internet has a variety of natural toothache remedies, and testimonies from individuals who all contribute to seemingly active online discussions about which treatment works best. A quick look on there when one is distressed from the pain of toothache and one can quickly find lists of natural and home-made remedies, which can be tried and worked through, until the most effective way is found.