How to handle a toothache for four days?
December 19, 2014 6:40 PM   Subscribe

I have a fairly painful toothache due to an exposed nerve that started a couple days ago. Unfortunately, I couldn't get in to see a dentist until next Tuesday, but the pain is definitely getting worse. I'm probably going to go to the campus clinic tomorrow to see if I can get some painkillers (and maybe antibiotics if they decide I need them), but are there any other ideas out there for dealing with tooth pain? I'm not a huge fan of taking opiates for longer than I need to (drowsiness, addictive potential, acetaminophen side effects, etc.), and I've found that the oral numbing gel is ineffective.
posted by PlasticSupernova to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Clove oil is a natural remedy for tooth aches. You can get it at the drug store, and it's supposed to have numbing properties. I hope you feel better soon!
posted by shortyJBot at 6:47 PM on December 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

In a similar situation and with no clove oil available, my daughter had good luck just using powered clove. Apply to the base of the tooth. Messy disgusting mess but it helped the pain so she could sleep one night. So +1 for clove oil.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:57 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Putting something on the outside of the tooth so that the nerve isn't exposed can really help. They sell some sort of silly-putty like stuff in the drugstore or wax will sometimes work. Take opiates for sleep. You might be able to get some actual medicine that will work on nerve pain from the campus clinic.
posted by jessamyn at 6:59 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I second the clove oil, but you absolutely must mix it with something like coconut oil before applying to your gums - it's a 'hot' oil and thus direct, 'neat' application of the oil can burn you. You can look up recipes for how much clove oil relative to coconut oil to use - it's a small amount.

Chewing raw garlic is another natural option.

But it sounds like what you really need are antibiotic pills. IANAD/IANYD, an actual doctor will confirm this of course, but your symptoms sound consistent with an infection. The antibiotics should get the infection down within a day or two to the point that the majority of pain subsides and opiate painkillers aren't necessary.

You said you're probably going to the campus clinic tomorrow, but I'm going to recommend that you definitely go rather than probably. Don't take increasing tooth pain for granted. My boyfriend did until it became so gutwrenching he couldn't do anything except writhe in pain on the floor, and I had to drag him to the ER (he was uninsured at the time, and it was the middle of the night so none of the urgent care clinics were open). We were lucky that the ER we went to had very, very understanding nurses - they took him back quickly and not only prescribed him antibiotics but got him about six percocet pills, when most ERs will not give out any painkillers for toothaches (it's apparently a not uncommon thing for opiate addicts to claim when shopping around for painkillers).
posted by nightrecordings at 7:06 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

You can use paracetamol (acetaminophen) topically - just break a bit off a tablet and stick it up where it hurts, it really helps.

It's not an opiate, at all, and provides very effective pain relief without side effects for the vast majority of people when used acording to guidelines (no more than 1000mg every four hours).
posted by goo at 7:09 PM on December 19, 2014

nothing has worked better for me then Benzocaine. I have a slowly-going-to-hell wisdom tooth that causes me excruciating pain every other month or so. Orajel does absolutely nothing to help it and ibuprofen only dents it. This stuff? This stuff is magical. It's this.. toothpaste like substance. I just stick it on my tooth and the surrounding gums and it, usually in combo with ibuprofen, takes 90% of my pain away.

This stuff is also really good, but doesn't last nearly as long as the paste/cream, but works immediately. It did numb the entirety of the left side of my mouth for 30 minutes or so. The cream can take 10-15 minutes, I find.

I would get thee to the nearest pharmacy and look for a product with Benzocaine in it.
posted by royalsong at 7:11 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you go to an emergency department or urgent care that is equipped with dental supplies - many if not most are - they can put a temporary dental cement (like calcium hydroxide) over the exposed nerve which will cover it until you can get to a dentist! I'd highly recommend it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:12 PM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Clove oil. Do not get it on your gums or it burns. Also teething gel used for babies can help.
posted by wwax at 8:19 PM on December 19, 2014

Chew/ suck on actual cloves - less burning
posted by treadstone11 at 9:24 PM on December 19, 2014

If you go to Walgreens or Rite-Aid or possibly even your grocery store, on the rack alongside the dental floss you'll find a little "kit" called a Dental Repair Kit or something like that. It has a little plastic bottle with a clay-like substance in it and a wood stick like an orange stick. Buy the kit - it's not expensive - and it'll fix you right up; in fact, buy two kits, just in case you use up all the clay in one bottle before you figure out how to keep it in your mouth (ask me how I know).

Use the stick to dig out enough of the clay to fill the hole in your tooth. Work the clay with your fingers until it's malleable and then pack it into the hole - use plenty of it. Once the hole is plugged, your pain should diminish immediately; if it doesn't, there's still hole to fill - more clay.

Now just sit quietly and let some saliva accumulate in your mouth and gently roll it around the clay - the saliva will set the clay and harden it. Within a couple of hours you can drink liquids and within four or five hours you can eat food, carefully, but you'll be surprised at how well this works. I have no dental insurance and I use oxygen and my teeth just simply disintegrate from the incredibly dry mouth the oxygen causes - yes, this is what the dentist says causes my tooth decay. But because I have no dental insurance, I've come to consider this dental clay a major blessing. I've often used it for a couple of weeks at a time and had the root die, I guess, since the cavity never hurt again after the clay came out; this has happened several times. Oh, and you can gently brush the clay along with your teeth once it's hardened. If it comes out, just start over - it's amazing, and will certainly make you feel 100% better until you can get to a dentist.

Please try this - you're going to be impressed.
posted by aryma at 11:12 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Myrrh oil is also pretty amazing, better than clove imho. There's a good reason it ranks with gold as a VIP birthday present!
posted by KateViolet at 12:32 AM on December 20, 2014

I went thru this a few months back. Weekend, couldn't see a dentist till Monday.
Antibiotics will treat the infection, but they take a few days. Meanwhile I went thru every home remedy and OTC drug -- and the pain was increasing.
What I needed was serious pain medicine. My dentist should have prescribed it, but he wasn't reachable (even tho he advertises otherwise). Likewise my primary doc; the on-call member of his group flat-out refused. I was getting ready for an ER visit, even tho at the time I was told that many of them offer only one treatment, which is to pull the tooth.
I ended up going thru our stash of pain meds, which I always save for this specific reason, i.e. tooth pain. And I'm so glad I do. I found a heavy hitter and spent a peaceful, pain-free nite. I also used it after my dentist pulled the tooth -- his pain Rx just didn't cut it.

NOW: This is important. Many Rx pain meds combine a powerful opioid with acetaminophen (aka tylenol). I had already taken plenty of tylenol, and going thru my stash I found that every one would put me way over the limit -- except one, which had no acetaminophen. Praise glory. But be careful with this. It's serious.

As to immediate advice, you have to decide how bad the pain is. You may be able to get by with some of the natural/OTC remedies offered above. Or find a provider who'll prescribed an opioid. But like I said, if I hadn't had an old Rx med on hand, I would have gone to an ER.
posted by LonnieK at 6:46 AM on December 20, 2014

Putting an icepack on your face may help. It can help numb it plus hot and cold treatments help knock back infection, so if you do have infection (and you probably do), an icepack may help keep that under control until you can get antibiotics prescribed.

Some of the natural remedies suggested above (perhaps all of them, but I am not familiar with all of them) also have antibiotic properties and will help keep the infection down to a dull roar until you can get antibiotics prescribed. So, unlike pain killers, it is not merely masking the problem.
posted by Michele in California at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2014

Went to Urgent Care and got some penicillin and painkillers. Thanks to everyone and special thanks to aryma for suggesting the Dental Repair Kit. It made things a lot more bearable, and I wish I'd learned about it a lot sooner.
posted by PlasticSupernova at 5:05 PM on December 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

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