Appalachia Appalachian Medicine

Toothache Remedies

Toothache cures

Ever have a toothache? In my opinion, a toothache is one of the most aggravating and painful problems to have. Lucky for folks today relief is usually just a phone call away.

Back in the day-things were a little different. Dentists weren’t plentiful, it was hard to get into town to see one, and even if you could you might not have the money needed to pay the bill (the money issue still may keep us from seeing a dentist today!). As with most ailments there are tons of old medicinal remedies for toothaches in Appalachia, I’ve even tried a few myself.

A few years ago, I had a severe toothache. I kept taking over the counter pain medication and putting off going to the dentist. One night when the the pain was pretty bad, Pap told me to take peroxide and swish it around in my mouth then take a toothbrush and dip it in the peroxide and brush the tooth as hard as I could all around it.

Honestly, for about 15-20 minutes I thought I was going to pass out from the pain .It was almost unbearable, but after about 25 minutes it eased off and actually quit hurting.

Appalachian Toothache Remedies:

  • hold liquor in the mouth for several minutes then swallow
  • chew ragweed leaves
  • put cinnamon oil on the tooth
  • put clove oil on the tooth (I tried this one couldn’t really tell that it helped)
  • put persimmon juice on the tooth
  • place a piece of cloth soaked in kerosene on the tooth (Yikes! I don’t think anyone should do this!)
  • hold a warm bag of ashes, salt, or water on the cheek (I’ve tried this with a hot water bottle it seemed to help a little)
  • if the cavity is deep in the tooth the hole can be stuffed with soda, spider webs, aspirin, alum-that was burned, cow manure, or salt (double Yikes!)

Now for the really crazy ones:

  • take a splinter/piece of a tree that has been struck by lightning and pick the cavity
  • get up before sunrise each morning and say a Bible verse for 3 days
  • make a hole in a tree trunk a little higher than the toothache sufferers head;  cut a piece of their hair and place it in the hole and plug up the hole

Prevention tips:

  • carry a hog’s head bone in your pocket
  • always put your left shoe on first
  • wear nutmeg around your neck
  • always cut your fingernails on Friday
  • never cut your fingernails on Friday

Ever tried any home remedies for a toothache?


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in September of 2009.

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  • Reply
    Penelope Smith
    September 6, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    It is interesting that clove oil can help get rid of a toothache. It good to know that because my father has been having a lot of problems with toothaches lately. He might want to talk to a dentist to find out why he is having all of those toothaches.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2014 at 7:31 am

    I have a broken tooth right now, that fortunately isn’t causing pain. The dentist was able to just smooth off the sharp edge as a temporary fix, so I wouldn’t cut my tongue every day. She wouldn’t even charge me, because she’s really nice and also she knows I’ll be coming back to her office when it’s time for the “real” fix. That will be multiple appointments and an estimated $1800 out of pocket, so until the tooth starts aching, I can live quite happily with the temporary fix!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    and RB….I remember Cloverine salve in my Granma’s bedroom and bathroom. I think she used it for everything…The best I remember, and I have a empty tin of the era here somewhere in my old tin collection, back then it came in a round tin! Do you remember for shore if it did or didn’t in case the tin I’m thinking of was something else!
    Thanks b. Ruth
    Thanks for passing this on Tipper!

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    July 12, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I learned that peach brandy would do the trick from and old store keeper in Brasstown.

  • Reply
    July 12, 2014 at 12:17 am

    P.S. – It’s called Cloverine Salve, and it IS still available. I”ll be darned!!!
    Also, there’s an article about it in Appalachian History where they’re calling it Cloverline Salve, but a commenter corrects them to Cloverine Salve. LOL
    Seems the Appalachian kids use to sell it door to door during the Depression for extra money. Interesting!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    July 12, 2014 at 12:12 am

    The only one I ever remember hearing about was Clove Oil on a tiny bit of cotton, shoved into the cavity with a toothpick. Can’t say we used that remedy, cause we all had great strong, although sometimes crooked, teeth except for Dad whose family all had trouble with their teeth.
    Now I remember Mom putting a wee drop of whiskey in the bottle of a teething baby (well…maybe more than a wee drop if the baby was really being vexatious), but I don’t remember anything back then like the gum nummers we have today.
    Now about the cow dung, our sister Cindy got the heel of her foot caught in the spokes of a bike as a small child and cut it real bad, almost clean off. It bled and bled, and finally our maternal Grandma carried her across the street to Farmer Morgan’s cow pasture, set her heel down in a fresh cow patty which I remember set Cindy to screaming, but it did stop that bleeding so we could finally clean and dress the wound. Now Mom wasn’t good with much blood, so I was the one who learned “farm first aid” kinda young and tended to it, cleaning it with Cloverleaf Salve and changing the gauze covering for days (maybe weeks, can’t remember) until it healed.
    Anyone know what Cloverleaf Salve was (is?). That was some good stuff. I don’t know if you can still get it or not.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Very interesting ideas! However, I think I will encounter the trials of a dentist.

  • Reply
    Joe Penland
    July 11, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Jackie Gleason said the best cure for a toothache was to keep a steady stream of liquor flowing over it.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    When I was about 7 or 8 my brother said he could cure my toothache. I had a big ole back tooth that hurt like the Dickens. Well, he took a .22 Long Rifle bullet, pulled off the lead, opened my mouth and poured the hole full of gunpowder. Didn’t have no taste that I could tell, but I smoked back then. I recon the Good Lord watches over us cause I could have blown my stupid head off…Ken

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    i just had my first crown put in (thank you, dental insurance!) but before i could get it done, for about a month, i plugged the broken tooth with the temporary tooth filler you can get at kerr’s (now walgreens?) i didn’t have any pain, luckily, just a crumbled tooth, but i can see how that stuff would work if it is just a cavity, before one could get to a dentist. i put it n before iwent to bed and it oastest until ate dinner and then replaces it each night. it’s a tiny little potful for around three bucks, and lasts about a week.

  • Reply
    Israel Lee Yew
    July 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Luke 6:44

  • Reply
    spechell ed
    July 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    mi ole olsmobubble hit jumped a tooth an the timin got off an now hit misses a lot an smoks sum butt hits stil agoin * * * sarry if yew git in behin dus il tri two pul over evrwhir the rode is wid enuff

  • Reply
    Canna Noa Hydefrumyew
    July 11, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Yes, how’d you know?

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    We used the oil of cloves & also an aspirin on the tooth. We were far out in the country & poor as church mice. Tooth trouble was a major financial blow. There was a dentist in a small town nearby who would pull a tooth for a dollar. Of course that’s where we had to go.
    I had a baby molar abscess–never will forget that night & the next morning my face was swollen terribly so it was off to the torture chamber. The old dentist would give the injection & turn around & pull the tooth. It was horrible!! The next time I had to go, it took daddy & the dentist to prise my mouth open–probably the beginning of TMJ.
    I’ve had wonderful dentists all my adult life who gave great attention to my comfort. Some have even felt like family.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I don’t know much about such “remedies” but do know far too many folks who have taken the pliers to their own mouths and removed the offending tooth!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    yikes… toothache pain is one of the things that can drop my husband to his knees… he can tolerate any pain.. but tooth pain for some reason is unbearable for him..
    thank you as usual for all the hints and remedies.. i so love hearing all the folklore and remedies.. and especially thank you tipper for this wonderful blog.. im so blessed
    to have found this special place and it has truly enriched my heart and soul..
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Ima Knotdekayed
    July 11, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Does extracting a tooth (pulling, jumping) relieve one of ever having pain in that area of the tooth again? Does having dentures relieve yourself of ever having tooth area pain in you upper or lower mandible? NO! The tooth may be gone but the nerve to the tooth is still there. So if you get a severe sinus infection, you could have pain in the nerve, as they lie most of the time right under the sinus cavities. The lower, after the gums recede after wearing dentures for years a nerve close to the surface can throb temporarily due to biting and the pressure of the hard denture. The same as pain in a arm or itching on a toe that is not there after amputation! Don’t happen often…
    Just sayin’
    In other words take good care of your teeth! Total removal doesn’t always cure a toothache or nerve pain! Antibiotics removes the infection of the abscess only which of course causes the most dangerous toothache illness!

  • Reply
    Ima Knotdekayed
    July 11, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Back in the day of no dentists or far off dentists folks suffered through “tooth jumping” to rid their self of a tooth that they thought was causing the severe pain. Since one can get referred pain around the teeth and gums with a toothache, I wonder how many old folks had someone jump the wrong tooth. Until a tooth abscesses generally the pain doesn’t localize. Of course if you see a large hole in a tooth you may suspect that is where the pain is coming from, just sayin’.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 11:10 am

    LOL! I have to agree with Miss Cindy.

  • Reply
    Israel Lee Yew
    July 11, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Is that you b. Ruth?

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

    A whole clove held on the affected tooth works…

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    July 11, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Our family remedy when I was a kid was the liquor one (got it from my grandmother who was a teetotaler in all other respects), but I was not allowed to swallow it (that came later, toothache or not). It did work pretty well.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 9:21 am

    I’ve heard of the peroxide treatment Pap told you to use. I recently used peroxide for an earache and got temporary relief. My cousin had a toothache when he was a mean little boy and threatened to pull it himself using pliers. I don’t remember if he did or not. Someone told him to plug it with gum. So, off to the store we went. About 5-6 of us barefoot kids walked several miles to buy two slices for a penny pack of Chum Gum.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    July 11, 2014 at 8:49 am

    I gathered what we called old wives tales for a grade school assignment. I still remember some of them. I guess some of our old timers had a good sense of humor.

  • Reply
    Ima Knotdekayed
    July 11, 2014 at 8:10 am

    A proven method for temporary relief of a non-abscessed toothache is, moistened clove powder placed on a tiny cotton ball and put in the cavity of the tooth.
    I was lucky or unlucky to have been a CDA before retiring in ’89, so I had immediate dental care by simply going to work.
    Once a tooth is abscessed the only relief is to hold ice water on the tooth area. I have seen people come into the office the next morning bringing in their glass of ice water with them, after staying up all night trying to keep the pain at bay.
    Please never put hot cloths on the outside of the face, the heat will pull the abscess to the front of the cheek and swell, and could eventually cause a scar on the face. A very rare occurrence now with better dental care. A thought to anyone who knew me then that had a severe toothache. I got in trouble more than once for working a patient in with a severe toothache. I even moved a simple filling patient up or back to make five minutes room for the pain patient. Once you have non-stop tooth pain, you sympathize forever with someone in that kind of pain. You know they aren’t lying ’cause who really wants to see a dentist, except someone in that kind of pain!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 11, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Some of these sound crazy, disgusting, and possibly life threatening. I mean , really, cow manure!
    I think the very first one sounds the best but skip the holding it and go straight for the swallowing….every 5 minutes till the pain stops or you don’t care any more.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 11, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Used the peroxide one. Here in Florida we have a tree that is called the Tooth ache tree, it has spikes that grow along the trunk. If you take one of the spikes and chew on it, it releases a sap that will numb the tooth. Interesting reading. Google Florida toothache tree for more info.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Not much for home remedies when it comes to toothaches, you see I’m allergic to pain. The last time I let a tooth go all I wanted was a bullet to get me out of my misery, The infection was so bad it took 5 shots in the area to deaden it so they could work on it, they said the infection would neutralize the numbing of the medicine.. I still hate going to the dentist tho..

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