A toothache has the power to quickly ruin your day. The pain can be debilitating and can make it difficult to focus on anything else. You want relief – fast.
Many patients wonder if a home remedy such as rinsing with salt water will help until they can get to the dentist. The answer depends on the cause of your toothache.
Toothache Cause: Cavities
The most common cause of a toothache is a cavity or decay. Many cavities are too small to see, so you may not know you have one – until your dentist spots it during an exam or on an x-ray. Unfortunately, a toothache is often your first symptom of decay if it’s been a while since you visited your dentist.
A salt water rinse may alleviate some of the discomfort, but it won’t solve the problem. Call your dentist ASAP if you have a toothache so your teeth can be carefully examined and the decay can be corrected quickly.
Toothache Cause: Broken Teeth or Trauma to a Tooth
In some cases, you may know for certain what caused your toothache. Perhaps you hit your tooth on an object and it cracked or broke. Or, you may have injured your tooth but can’t see an obvious crack, which means there could be damage to the nerve that you can’t see. People who grind their teeth often don’t know they’re doing it – until they crack or break a tooth.
Whatever the cause of the trauma, you’ll need prompt dental care to get the tooth repaired and to stop the pain. A broken or injured tooth is not only painful, but can leave you susceptible to an infection. Be sure you call your dentist right away if you’ve injured your tooth. In many cases, doing a salt water rinse, along with pain relievers, can help you get by until your appointment.
Toothache Cause: Infection
An infected tooth, also known as an abscessed tooth, can be extremely painful. It occurs when bacteria get inside the tooth, often as a result of a damaged nerve. An infected tooth is serious because it can damage surrounding bone and teeth if it spreads. You can also get an abscess in the gums as a result of gum disease or food getting trapped between the tooth and gum.
A salt water rinse is a safe way to cleanse your mouth and relieve some of the pain of an abscess before your dentist appointment. Call your dentist immediately if you see signs of an abscess, such as a red, swollen area that may have pus inside. If an abscess is suspected, you’ll need prompt dental care.
How to Rinse with Salt Water
A salt water rinse is easy and effective for temporary relief before you see your dentist. Add one teaspoon of salt to 8 oz. of warm water and stir. Gargle with the mixture for 30 seconds, and repeat several times a day as needed.
Preventing a toothache is certainly more pleasant than trying to treat the pain. See your dentist every six months, and discuss any dental health concerns you have. Proper care for cavities, wearing a bite splint for grinding, and addressing gum problems are just a few of the ways your dentist will help you keep your mouth healthy and help you prevent tooth problems and pain.
Do you have a toothache, or do you just need a dental checkup? Contact the expert team at Craig Armstrong, DDS, to schedule your appointment!
Benefits of Rinsing with Salt Water
The use of salt as a remedy for common ills is popular throughout the world. Besides cleaning wounds, you can also rinse out your mouth using salt water. Salt has potent antibacterial properties and this could explain why it is used for rinsing. It is advisable to use warm water when preparing a salt water rinse.
1. Treats sore throat
A person with a sore throat usually feels pain and the throat feels very dry. A good home cure for this particular problem is using a salt water rinse. Once the mixture of salt and water enters your throat, it helps neutralize the acids causing the sore throat. This helps to relieve the burning and itchy sensations and speeds up healing. A salt water rinse also helps to eliminate surplus mucus and this enhances blood circulation towards the throat.
2. Reduces gum pain
Gum pain is a very uncomfortable condition that has several causes such as a gum infection. However, it is important to know that you can easily manage gum pain by using a salt water rinse. Remember to avoid cold water when preparing your rinse since it can aggravate the sensitive teeth. Warm water helps to melt all the salt crystals unlike cold water. This enables the soothing effects of salt to reach the smallest crevices within the mouth like an abscess. In this case, the salt works by draining the abscess and thus reduces the gum pain.
3. Inhibits bacteria
A salt water rinse could assist to stop the action of bacteria within the mouth. It temporarily increases the PH levels inside the mouth and this prevents bacterial proliferation. This is usually because all bacterial species thrive in acidic environments.
While using a salt water rinse is harmless, swallowing this mixture in large amounts may be harmful as it can cause dehydration.
Please help us improve. Please rate this article:
Are there any long term side effects of rinsing the mouth with salt water?
“Does it weaken the tooth, or interfere with saliva secretion, or is it irreversibly abrasive to the taste buds?
How does a salt water rinse compare with dental mouthwashes?”
– Question from Stephanie in Chermside West, Brisbane
Dr David Kerr replies:
Salt water mouthwash rinses are an excellent short term treatment when you have wounds in the mouth, for instance, when you’ve had teeth removed.
The reason they are so good is that the salt is not only a natural disinfectant, but it also removes any swelling from the tissues. So using salt water for two or three weeks post surgery, or if you have an infection or a mouth ulcer, works really well as a short term measure.
How about using salt water long term?
Longer term, the salt water is acidic, so there would be a problem if you were to use it every day, it could erode the teeth, but is not necessarily abrasive to the teeth. It is the acidity of the salt water that could eat away and soften the enamel on the teeth making them more susceptible to wearing, chipping and cavities.
A mouthwash is a bit more PH neutral than salt water but there is a different problem with mouthwashes. Many mouthwashes have alcohol in them – some as much as 20%, which is a big problem, and that increases the risk of mouth or oral cancer, which is a growing problem in Australia.
I only ever recommend two mouth rinses – one is Colgate NeutraFluor 500, which is useful for people with concerns of tooth decay. It is useful if you’ve had tooth decay in the past. It is also useful if you are over 40+ and have some gum recession – when the gums recede, the exposed part of the tooth where there is no enamel decays 8 times quicker than if it wasn’t exposed.
For someone who’s trying to protect from decay, or is susceptible to gum problems, where they need a chlorhexidine or a bacterial mouth rinse, really the best one by far is called Curasept. The reason it’s so good is that it won’t stain the teeth like many other chlorhexidine mouth rinses.
Do you recommend using mouth washes daily?
The chlorhexidine mouthwashes have a residual effect, so using it for 2 weeks and then stopping for 3 months is as good as using it every day.
The only mouthwash we recommend you use every day is one with fluoride.
How about off-the-shelf mouthwashes?
Many of the ones you can buy in the supermarket don’t do much or they have side effects that you don’t want, such as the presence of alcohol which, as mentioned increases the risk of mouth or oral cancer.
Before you spend your money, do your research or consult with your dentist about what is best used (if any at all) for your own personal situation.
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