Why and how the warm salt water solution may work to stop & cure toothache

See On causes of toothache, dental and gingival pain.

Can I use salt water with cracked/broken teeth?

While I frequently receive heartfelt letters of appreciation for sharing this simple and virtually free remedy to often obtain instant toothache relief (samples inter alia under Salt water toothache relief testimonials), in May 2009 I received a “kind” letter from an angry person who apparently had tried the salt water on a cracked tooth with the result that his pain got a lot worse.

A second similar case from February 2011 involved a tooth a considerable portion of which had broken off down to the gumline revealing a blackened inside (which generally denotes a dead pulp). A short salt water rinse triggered in this case very strong pain, with the nerve twitching "like crazy" and subsequent spread of the pain to the cheek.

On the other hand, here are four very positive experiences with salt water for a cracked/broken tooth:

"I had an agonizing tooth ache over Christmas due to cracking a tooth. I was popping pain killers like candy, but nothing helped-I couldn't sleep and was in so much pain. I tried the salt in water remedy, which at first didn't work. I then made a VERY strong mixture in luke-warm water/salt and my pain has disappeared. I am so relieved, and look forward to finally getting some sleep!"

"OMG...OMG...OMG THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!! I am absolutely dumbfounded at how quickly this worked, or that it even worked at all. Not sure how long the relief will last but I WAS in absolute agony. A cap fell out of a molar which had had a root canal but had broken ... After it fell out today the pain has been steadily increasing to the worst toothache ever...

Ibuprofen with dolased (combination of paracetamol, codeine etc) did nothing. Dental ointment with clove...made it worse. I made a very strong solution of two heaped teaspoons of sea salt and 1/2 cup of water. Room temperature. Just held it in my mouth around the affected tooth and the pain almost went instantly. ... I am truly amazed.

Even if I have to keep doing this every half hour it will be better than suffering. Hopefully I will get to sleep tonight and be able to go to the dentist in the morning without further suffering. So far so good. I'm so very thankful!"

Similarly, the response by Farah who has translated my first "dental" page My Home Remedy for the Natural Pain Relief of Toothache, Curing Tooth Decay Through Dietary Dental Regeneration into Farsi and who also had good experiences using salt water on a broken tooth:

“[M]y tooth broke when I was chewing food (a broken tooth is worse than a crack), I felt some pain with having a red gum around it. I went to few dentist to get their advice. All of them told me that my tooth need operation means cutting the gum and planting some kind of wall for filling the tooth.

I didn't [follow] their advice, instead I started to apply your [salt water] remedy. The pain [was] gone after a day but my red gum was still there. I found out that my solution is not strong enough and the water should be lukewarm not even room temperature water then I got better result and now my gum is getting pink color.

Other experience is my mom. She is about 80 and she was feeling of a weak teeth while eating and brushing (like when your tooth is drilled and open to air). She started your remedy (even added some bicarbonate soda for better cleaning result) she told me that she feels her teeth are stronger and can eat everything.

The third experience was for my son. .... About 18 months ago I realized that on my son's front tooth a tiny decay is appeared. I advised him to stop using toothpaste and start salt and bicarbonate soda for cleaning and preventing the decay [from progressing]. He is applying sea salt remedy after each meal and not only the decay didn't grow but also it seems getting lighter. ...

As final, whenever I share these experiences with dentists they get ANGRY and say nasty things.
God bless you,
Love, Farah”

Also see the dramatic "broken tooth" testimonial under Salt water toothache relief testimonials where salt water saved the person from agony.

Bottom line: in case you suspect or know the cause of your toothache to be a cracked/broken off tooth, you might consider using this recipe with caution or simply abstain, as you feel guided!

On the other hand, it cannot be ruled out that in the case of the two negative experiences quoted above, the increase in pain would have occurred in any case and was only accelerated by the salt water. Incidentally, even minuscule wounds in your mouth can be the cause of pain after salt application.

When rinsing with salt, does some of the salt get into your system?

Yes, that's very likely. Sea water is the closest in composition to human blood and sodium a vital component of the human body so personally, I am not concerned about sea salt entering my system.

If you have any misgivings about adding salt to your system, see the "Important note" on the salt water main page and apply "when in doubt, go without" as you are guided.

Does a salt application further corrode amalgam from dental fillings?

I haven't found a definitive answer. German toxicity expert Prof. Max Daunderer writes that amalgam is corroded by fluoride (incl from fluoridated salt and toothpaste) and by iodised salt (among many other pathways in which dental amalgam's most brain-toxic components mercury and tin are released into our blood and brain). He doesn't refer to unadulterated salt as an amalgam-corrosive agent.

A study I found used three different dental amalgams and immersed them in 0.5% aqueous solutions of salt (sodium chloride) as well as other solutions over a 6-month period and analyzed their silver, mercury, copper, tin and zinc content via atomic absorption spectrophotometer.

The authors write that "Zinc was the first element to be released in sodium chloride solutions. After a 4-month immersion, considerable amounts of copper and mercury could also be found in the same solutions."

Considering that amalgam fillings permanently leak in any case, see On the dangers of dental amalgam (mercury) "silver" fillings, personally I would use salt water anytime for toothache - but this is your call.

Be aware - salt water is somewhat corrosive

so should not be stored in a metal jar (or one with a metal lid). If you wish to keep a jug of salt water handy, a safe option to store the brine in would be a container made of pure glass.

(I once ruined a brand-new vacuum cleaner by hoovering up some spilled salt - it instantly corroded the metal innards of my vacuum - this was undiluted pure salt, of course!)

When salt water doesn't (seem to) help

Occasionally I come across reports saying that rinsing with salt water didn't help or no longer helps. In my experience, there could be a number of reasons for this.

The longest it ever took me to get toothache pain relief from the salt water (over two days) was when the pain came from an area covered by a bridge. It makes sense that the salt water would take longer to work in such a spot since most of the area was impenetrably covered by an artificial "sealant" (which I long hesitated to have removed since I resented paying another small fortune for the work of a few minutes) (see Risks of dental bridges for why I now know this to be a huge error).

A similar case concerns a friend who tried it on some intense gum/tooth pain in the area of a capped root-canaled tooth. It did not work over several days suggesting that the microorganisms involved had developed immunity to the "sterilizing" effect of the sea salt solution, or again, that the salt water simply didn't reach the area.[1]

If you don't get toothache relief from salt water and before trying other avenues,

I also think that using fluoridated, iodised or otherwise tampered-with salt could be an irritating factor (in the US for instance, CODEX STAN 150-1985 allows quite a range of food additives to be added to salt) and/or that an interaction occurred between these chemicals and others already present in the mouth (such as from using conventional toothpaste with its various chemicals) which further irritated the tooth.

Generally, I do not know if salt water works for pain stemming from root canals (i.e. dead teeth) but I suggest it is more than worth a try.

What I'd do when salt water doesn't or no longer (seems to) help

See General advice for homemade (DIY) toothache relief - and beyond and try some of the numerous additional suggestions for toothache relief listed under Natural holistic & home dental remedies for toothache & other dental problems.

If nothing should help, personally I consider direct application (not ingestion) of a painkiller (half a tablet lodged against the area of pain can be totally sufficient) the best solution, in my and a friend's experience this works in less than a minute to completely stop all pain.

Taking analgesics internally (which I'd do just for the "psychological" effect such as swallowing the other half of the tablet) is totally ineffective in my experience. Yes, allopathic analgesics are not natural and likely a toxic burden on the liver and/or kidneys and/or intestines, but ever so welcome in my experience with pain unamenable to other approaches, IF directly applied as close as possible to the tooth.

In other words, with intractable pain, in my experience it's the painkiller tablet directly applied close to the painful spot which will work wonders.

Additionally, I have seen numerous reports extolling the virtues of applying garlic to a toothache but have not tried it myself, for some of the pros and cons see Herbal toothache remedies: garlic.

If you value this content and wish to support my work (all donations are gratefully received), please donate:

For saving me the Paypal fees and/or for a way to donate in many different currencies, please click here.


1 What finally helped him were plain over-the-counter painkilling tablets, with one half of a tablet applied topically and the other half taken internally, while later rinsing his mouth with water and tea tree oil and applying a few straight drops locally (he was fasting nearly throughout the ordeal as the tooth/gum sensitivity and pain didn’t allow him to take food).

The pain-free state thus achieved helped him to properly sleep (very important for the body to do its healing and detoxifying work), with an abscess forming the following day which (in unison with the pain) gradually receded as he resumed occasionally rinsing and thus draining the abscess with sea salt water. He never went to a dentist.

All remedies