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The Use of Clove Oil in Dentistry

Natural Medicine and Dentistry

By

Updated June 02, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

cloves
Photo: Steven Errico / Getty Images

There is a distinctive smell that is often associated with your dental office. Some people love it; others are sadly reminded of a bad dental experience every time they get a whiff of it. What is responsible for the aroma? Chances are, you are smelling clove oil. Used in dentistry for over a century, clove oil is a very effective antiseptic that is known to help relieve dental pain.

Cloves are dried buds from a tree in the Myrtaceae family. Primarily harvested in Indonesia, cloves were thought to first originate in Syria, when they were discovered in a ceramic pot by archaeologists who predict the cloves date back to 1721 BC.

The oil extracted from a clove is known as eugenol. Depending on where the oil is extracted from -- either the bud, leaf, or stem -- the concentration of eugenol generally ranges from 60 to 90%.

Clove oil is generally used in dentistry to treat pain from a dry socket, as well as used in a number of temporary restorative materials. Because the aroma of the oil is very strong, clove oil often leaves a lingering, aromatic presence in the dental office. Clove oil can be found in most natural health stores and in some grocery stores.

Considerations for Using Clove Oil

Clove oil, although natural, is known to be toxic in specific amounts, so people wishing to use the oil for dental pain should be cautious of the amount they are using at a time. Clove oil may cause soft tissue irritation, which may include:
  • A burning sensation in the tissue
  • Pain in the area where the oil was placed
  • Nerve damage

If ingested in larger quantities, clove oil may cause:

  • A sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Kidney failure and/or damage to the liver
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing

Any of the above symptoms should be reported to your physician immediately.

Using clove oil as a dental pain reliever isn't for everyone. Its use in children has not yet been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and as a matter of fact, the FDA currently does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements, such as clove oil. People with bleeding disorders should not use clove oil, as it is known to cause increased bleeding. Also, oil of cloves is known to decrease blood glucose levels, so diabetics should use caution when considering the use of clove oil for dental pain.

How to Use Clove Oil for Tooth Pain

Place two to three drops of the oil in a clean, small container. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. This mixture will prevent any soft tissue irritation that is common when using clove oil on its own.

Soak a small piece of cotton in the oil mixture until it is saturated. Blot the cotton on a piece of tissue to remove the excess oil before placing the cotton in your mouth. Using a clean pair of tweezers, hold the cotton on the painful area for 10 seconds, making sure you do not swallow any of the oil. Once complete, rinse your mouth with saline solution. This step may be repeated two to three times daily.

Always see your dentist if the pain from a toothache persists. Clove oil should only be used as a temporary way to relieve pain from a toothache. Your best pain remedy is to see your dentist.

Sources:

The National Institute of Health - MedlinePlus Health Information. Clove (Eugenia aromatica) and clove oil (eugenol). http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-clove.html Accessed June 30, 2010.

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