How to Use Clove Oil for a Toothache

Dab diluted clove oil on the affected area for a numbing effect

Clove oil is a natural remedy that has been used for centuries to treat toothaches. It is an essential oil derived from the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum) that contains a potent natural anesthetic called eugenol. The oil derived from the clove stem contains the highest amount of eugenol, but the leaves and buds contain considerable amounts as well.

Clove oil is a natural alternative for treating mild mouth or tooth pain. Even so, there are risks associated with using clove oil, including mouth sores and gum irritation. Poisoning can occur if clove oil is consumed.

This article will explain how clove oil is used for toothaches. It will describe the possible risks, side effects, and interactions associated with this highly fragrant essential oil.

Close-up of clove/spice in a ceramic spoon
Veena Nair / Getty Images

How to Use Clove Oil for a Toothache

Cloves are popular in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine where they are commonly used to treat toothache. Today, the active ingredient (eugenol) is commercially used in a temporary filling cement called zinc oxide eugenol (ZOE).

When used in herbal medicine, clove oil is diluted with a neutral carrier oil to prevent irritation. The oil should never be applied to the gums undiluted.

To use clove oil for a toothache:

  1. Add 3 to 5 drops of clove oil to 1 teaspoon of an edible neutral carrier oil like olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, or sweet almond oil.
  2. Dab a cotton ball into the diluted oil and apply it to the affected gums (not the tooth).
  3. Keep the cotton ball in place for several minutes to increase absorption. You should feel a slight warming sensation. There will also be a strong, gun-powdery flavor.
  4. Remove, and wait for five or 10 minutes. If you don't feel significant numbing, dab additional oil on the gums.
  5. Thereafter, you can reapply the diluted clove oil every two to three hours as needed to control pain.

If you have more than one area of pain after a dental procedure, you can add a few drops of clove oil to 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and swirl it in your mouth to coat. Be careful not to swallow.

Some people apply ground cloves directly to their gums. However, the taste is not very pleasant, and it can cause a burning sensation if there are any cuts in your mouth.

Should You Use Clove Oil?

Do not use clove oil or any other natural product as a substitute for dental care. If a toothache is not getting better or is getting worse, it's important to seek treatment from a dentist.

Is It Effective?

Eugenol is the chemical that gives clove its spicy scent and pungent flavor. Depending on the source of the cloves oil (stem, bud, leaves), the concentration of eugenol can range anywhere from 60% to 92%.

Clove oil works similarly to capsicum in chili peppers by stimulating the production of a protein called trans receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV-1) that desensitizes nerve endings near the surface of the skin. Clove oil also has strong antibacterial properties that can aid with healing.

Clove oil is often used in dentistry to treat pain caused by a condition called dry socket that can happen when a tooth is extracted.

Even so, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not believe that this over-the-counter remedy is effective for treating tooth pain. It downgraded it from a Category 1 drug (meaning one that is generally regarded as safe and effective) to a Category 3 drug (meaning that there is insufficient data to classify the drug).

Clove oil may offer short-term relief of tooth pain but does not treat the underlying cause (such as tooth decay, tooth fracture, or an abscess).

Side Effects of Clove Oil

Clove oil is considered safe if used appropriately, but it can be toxic if you use too much or use it too often.

Common side effects of clove oil include:

  • A bitter, off-putting taste
  • Burning sensation
  • Gum redness and pain
  • Gum damage and mouth sores (due to contact stomatitis)
  • Sore throat, coughing, or choking (due to inhaled fumes)

You should never drink clove oil as it can cause liver damage, esophageal stenosis (the narrowing of the feeding tube), and other severe complications.

Allergic reactions affect roughly 2% of clove oil users. Most cases are mild and short-lived. Symptoms include a local rash, itching, swelling, and scratchy throat. Clove oil is generally not associated with a severe, whole-body allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Clove Oil Contraindications

There are certain people who should not use clove oil. According to the National Institutes of Health, contraindications for clove oil include:

  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Due to the lack of safety research, clove oil should not be used while pregnant or nursing.
  • Children: Due to the lack of safety research, clove oil should not be used in children, especially teething children.
  • Bleeding disorders: This includes people with hemophilia in whom clove oil can slow blood clotting and promote bleeding.
  • Anticoagulants: Due to its effects on blood clotting, people who regularly take blood thinners such as warfarin should also avoid clove oil.
  • Surgery: Due to its effects on blood clotting, clove oil should be stopped two weeks prior to scheduled surgery, including dental surgery.

Other Treatments for Toothache

Clove oil has long been a tried-and-true remedy for toothache, but it's not for everyone. If you can't tolerate the taste or experience an allergic reaction or side effects, there are some other ways to treat tooth pain at home:

  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater or ice water.
  • Dab diluted peppermint oil on your gums.
  • Press a moistened peppermint tea bag against your gums.
  • Place a cold compress against your cheek.
  • Taking an over-the-counter painkiller like Tylenol (acetaminophen).

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Clove oil can be highly toxic if ingestion, leading to poisoning and even death. Doses as little as 10 to 30 milliliters (roughly 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons) can cause decreased consciousness or coma within hours and liver injury within 12 to 24 hours.

If someone has consumed clove oil, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 immediately even if there are no obvious symptoms.

Call 911 or rush to the nearest emergency room if someone has overt signs of clove oil poisoning, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Coma

To avoid accidental poisoning, keep clove oil well out of the reach of children and pets.


Clove oil has been used for centuries to treat tooth pain. Dabbing a little diluted oil on the gums may help ease pain and inflammation.

While eugenol, the active ingredient in clove oil, has long been used in Eastern and Western medicine, the FDA does not believe that the evidence supporting its use is strong. Clove oil should not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have bleeding a disorder, or have impending surgery. Children should also avoid clove oil.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health. Eugenol.

  2. Taberner-vallverdú M, Nazir M, Sánchez-garcés MÁ, Gay-escoda C. Efficacy of different methods used for dry socket management: A systematic review. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2015;20(5):e633-9. doi:10.4317/medoral.20589

  3. National Institutes of Health. Clove.

  4. MedlinePlus. Clove.

  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eugenol (clove oil).

Additional Reading

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.