Toothache and dental pain relief
Introduction and general advice
Among a number of dental challenges human beings can face, toothache is likely to be the most pressing one. In fact, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 - 1799), first German professor of experimental physics and known as an author and art critic for his scientific treatises and witty aphorisms, wrote the following in his "wastebook": "To invent an infallible remedy for toothache by which it would be instantly arrested, might well be worth as much and more than the discovery of yet another planet."
Since my best friend and I discovered for ourselves what personally seems like a truly infallible home toothache remedy (salt water, salt, tea tree oil, which we have successfully tested time and again), I can only shake my head in amazement (and horror) at the way we are being held "prisoner" and at the mercy of the "dental industry"... Like many or most in the westernized world, I grew up being told by dentists, family and the media that once you have a toothache denoting the presence of a "cavity", there is nothing you can do to truly help or cure it since teeth, once attacked and softened by caries, will never heal or repair themselves. All you can supposedly do is take whatever pain medicine, home remedy or herb you can think of to temporarily ease, alleviate or hopefully stop the pain while rushing to see the emergency dentist or oral surgeon at the earliest possible time since s/he holds the only effective tools to "properly" repair the tooth cavity and get the tooth fixed via drilling, filling (and billing). And of course, once you have caries bacteria starting to gnaw away at your tooth, there is no means known on this earth to stop them from relentlessly progressing, which could be found outside the dentist's office and chair.
I know differently now - at least with respect to my own teeth, and I understand those of some others following similar principles.
While medical diagnostic efforts certainly yield lots of impressive-sounding Greco-Latin words (including several denoting "cause unknown"!), dentist “Paul Revere” writes in his book Dentistry and Its Victims that if one asks ten dentists for a diagnosis of the same tooth, one will get ten different diagnoses - an observation the accuracy of which was frankly confirmed by one of my former dentists.2 More at Dental Glossary: on the causes of toothache, dental and gingival pain.
Mix and/or switch: generally speaking, I think it is frequently a good idea to combine remedies (using two or more simultaneously) or to alternate between them. For example once I used sea salt water repeatedly with a more stubborn tooth/gum ache (relating to an infection that had developed under a bridge which had come loose1), and felt that the salt had at some point itself become an element of irritation to the nerve (noticeable from a strong initial increase in pain when taking the salt water in my mouth). When I switched to using organic tea tree oil in-between (applied topically), all was well, as far as toothaches from rotting bridge pillars go :-).
Keep it clean: while any kind of touch or fluid can trigger or increase pain in a painful tooth, it is important to disinfect the mouth, so rinsing is essential, and if you add things such as salt (see My best toothache cure), baking soda, essential oils etc., they will further help to combat germs (when in doubt, start with simple water or a weak solution of whatever you plan to use). A relatively innocuous "chemical" product which does a radical clean-up job is chlorhexidine (it kills virtually all bacteria in the mouth it comes in contact with and has helped with stubborn toothache).
Improve your tooth strength: with toothache, an important initial consideration can be the likely need for simply strengthening your teeth. See Nutrition and dental health and decay, remineralizing products, Herbs for strengthening teeth and gums, the upcoming page "Sunlight and vitamin D" (eg in wintertime, just taking Vitamin D has helped me with incipient tooth sensitivity), and generally all pages relating to the various tooth-friendly minerals. The testimonials section provides many examples of how people dramatically improved the health of their teeth and gums, often in surprisingly [to some] simple fashion. Improving tooth strength naturally also means avoiding any and all things that can weaken them, see Foods and drinks that can damage your teeth. In summary: throw at your teeth whatever you've got in terms of nutritional help while avoiding anything that harms them - including stress!
Combat dental infections and inflammation from the inside (via diet and detox): among the many nutritional avenues available, personally I found borage oil particularly helpful, see this impressive Borage oil testimonial (listed under "Dental cavitation infections"). Other rich sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) may be equally helpful.
Follow your intuition and use whatever you have available: numerous methods for obtaining toothache relief have worked for various people (although a couple of simple things such as salt water rinses or packs, garlic and tea tree oil seem to stand out as the most effective by far) so as you read the many suggestions provided, I would advice you follow your intuition and/or whatever you happen to have available in your pantry, including combining several remedies as you feel inspired.
Long-term commitment to building up stronger teeth: finally and personally, any procedure to stop tooth pain is only the first step I would take since I believe that it's best to not just aim at lessening or temporarily numbing the pain before getting dental emergency treatment or "proper" dental work done. The next and most important step in fact in my eyes is effecting a long-term toothache cure by consistently working to help one's teeth remineralize, i.e. to form a new hardened enamel, and thus restore them to functionality. For many suggestions on rebuilding damaged teeth, see Advice on what to do without a dentist (particularly Regenerating teeth via diet) and for facts, observations and "philosophy" behind it, see Dental self healing, regeneration & regrowth of teeth and gums.
If after trying many of the remedies found on this (and perhaps other) site(s), starting with my personal best toothache cure, you (unlikely) still suffer from chronic “intractable” dental pain, you may find this e-book very helpful.
1 Compare Risks of dental bridges which includes important advice for those who wear a bridge and who develop pain.
2 See "Ten dentists - ten diagnoses": On misdiagnoses or the quality and reproducibility of dentists' treatment decisions.