Efficacy of Clove Oil for Toothache – What is the Truth?

Running to a dentist at odd hours when we suffer a toothache is not always an option. We look for home remedies and maybe a quick fix for a toothache. Chances are higher that you bump into clove oil for a toothache while surfing the internet. Clove oil has a substance called Eugenol which works like magic in a toothache. I like to call clove oil a grandma’s fix.

However, the efficacy of clove oil for a toothache could be questionable. Is clove oil for a toothache a permanent solution? How efficient is it? How does it work?


How long should we depend on it for fixing the tooth pain? And what are the precautions for using it? Read on to know more about this pain elixir.

Clove oil has a historic relationship with teeth

Clove oil was first documented for toothaches in 1640. However, it is believed that the Chinese have been using clove oil for more than 2,000 years. Today, clove is widely considered a reliable treatment for pain and discomfort from various dental and gum diseases.

Clove oil also creates a numbing sensation as a potent pain reliever for gum and tooth pain (1) There was a study published in the Journal of Dentistry in 2006 found that clove essential oil has a similar numbing effect to the topical agent benzocaine, which is used before inserting needles in the mouth.

Another study from the Indian Department of Public Health Dentistry found that clove oil would significantly slow dental erosion better than fluoride.

The clove essential oil remineralized teeth which have lost some parts of enamel and dentin (hard tissues of teeth).

How does clove oil work?

Clove oil, derived from its natural source, cloves, is rich in a substance called Eugenol. This eugenol is the primary constituent of clove oil which is responsible for calming the aching nerves in our tooth.

Eugenol is also a major constituent in a wide range of intraoral medicaments and dental cement like Zinc Oxide Eugenol. There are many commercially available toothpaste and mouthwashes which contain clove oil or eugenol.

Eugenol has a numbing effect on open nerve endings, and it has analgesic (pain relieving), nociceptive (cooling effect) and anti-inflammatory effects on tissues. This is how it calms the irritated or aching tooth.

Clove oil when externally applied on the gums or over an affected tooth diffuses through dentinal tubules and reaches the nerve endings of the pulp. Thus, numbing the pain. (2)

How to use clove oil for a toothache and for how long?

Being a dental practitioner, I would discourage the evergreen use of clove oil for a toothache. Because once patients find a quick fix, they become complacent and delay visiting a dentist. Also, it is not recommended in dental emergencies such as a dental abscess, knocked-out tooth, etc.

It has been observed that serious mucosal burns can happen due to constant use of clove oil or even loss of a tooth due to delayed treatment.

I would personally recommend clove oil as a one-time quick fix for a particular tooth or area of gum when visiting a dentist is not possible.

Follow below steps while applying clove oil onto area experiencing toothache –

  1. Take a clean cotton swab or cotton ball
  2. Dip cotton swab in a few drops of clove oil
  3. Dab the soaked cotton ball onto the affected area
  4. You can also dilute the concentration of clove oil by mixing 3-4 drops of clove oil in half a teaspoon of edible coconut oil or olive oil
  5. Leave the clove oil onto the affected tooth and surrounding gum for 15-20 minutes
  6. Rinse your mouth with the salt water solution
  7. Repeat the application not more than twice or thrice in six hours and visit your dentist as early as possible to get a permanent relief

Potential risks and side effects

Clove oil is highly contraindicated if you are allergic to it. Perform a patch test by applying clove oil on a small area of your skin before using it.

Testing of the allergic response of clove oil is a must since ignorance could lead to a massive hypersensitive reaction and you may end up in a hospital emergency room.

Clove oil has a naturally unpleasant taste and a strong odor. One should avoid swallowing clove oil since ingesting clove oil can lead to several side effects, including –

Breathing difficulties

This is often associated with allergic reactions. So patch test should be done before use and clove oil should not be ingested.

Burning in your nose and throat

Eugenol which is a strong aromatic compound could be the reason behind possible throat burns. Ingestion should be avoided at all costs.

Upset stomach

While clove oil is an acceptable alternative treatment for a toothache, it’s not widely supported by mainstream dentists. So, consult your dentist if you have any questions about using clove oil for toothache relief.

Infants and children

Avoid giving undiluted clove oil to children. Children may swallow the oil by mistake. This could make them seriously ill. Mix the clove oil with a natural carrier oil, like edible coconut oil or olive oil, if you want to use this on your child or infant.

Coconut oil dilutes the strength of the clove oil and makes it easier for young children to tolerate. (3)

Where to buy clove oil?

You may get clove oil in various drug stores, health food shops, supermarket and even online stores. Just make sure that you buy high-quality clove oil. It should be organic and 100% pure clove oil.

Don’t buy anything lower than pure organic clove oil since it will be applied internally. Also, pure clove oil has a more beneficial effect than the impure version.

Can I use fresh cloves?

If clove oil is not readily available, you can try fresh cloves. Place 2-3 whole cloves near the affected area of the tooth. Leave it for a few minutes to soften. Later bite them gently so as to release clove oil from them.

Leave the whole thing for around 15-20 minutes and later rinse your mouth with salt water.

Over to you

Clove oil reduces pain and swelling when you have a toothache. But a dental cavity is a systemic issue, and therefore clove oil is merely a temporary fix for a toothache.


A bottle of clove oil is a go-to home remedy to keep handy in a travel bag or where children have no access. Used in small amounts, it’s safe and effective at relieving dental pain.

But for long-term relief, always see your dentist as the expert to treat your toothache. Tooth decay usually causes toothaches and it is recommended to consult a dentist before the problem worsen.

After your dentist finds out the underlying cause of a toothache and treats your dental problem, you can exercise other good dental good habits like proper brushing, flossing, and mouthwash to strengthen tooth enamel and make up for the lost structure of the tooth.


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