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Does clove oil relieve tooth pain?

If you go to a health food store, you might notice that clove oil is touted as a natural remedy for toothaches and other dental emergency pain. But is this claim really true?

Clove oil is an essential oil, extracted from the clove plant. Cloves were originally cultivated in Indonesia and were brought by Arab traders along the Silk Route to the Middle East, Europe and China. As a spice, clove is used to flavour a variety of foods, from gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie, to hams and Indian curries. The ancient Chinese used cloves as a breath freshener. In the third century B.C., a Han dynasty ruler insisted that everyone addressing him chew cloves beforehand to sweeten their breath.

Clove oil has traditionally been used as a home remedy for toothaches, since it is thought to have natural analgesic (pain-killing) and antiseptic (infection-killing) properties. In 2009, a study was done in Kuwait to see if the clove oil is as effective as benzocaine, an over-the-counter medication, for treating tooth pain.

In the study, 73 volunteers were divided into four groups: one group had a homemade clove oil paste applied to their gums; one group got benzocaine gel; one group got a placebo resembling the homemade clove oil paste; and one group got a placebo resembling the benzocaine gel. Participants in all four groups were then given dental needles.

The result: there was no discernible difference in pain between the group that got the benzocaine gel and the group that got the homemade clove oil paste. There was, however, a big difference between the participants who got placebos and everyone else. The conclusion: there might be something to your grandmother’s claim that clove oil relieves tooth pain.

Of course, you should always consult an emergency dentist about any tooth pain, and you should check with your doctor before using any natural remedy.

Source: Anahad O’Connor. “Remedies: Clove Oil for Tooth Pain.” February 17, 2011.