The New York Times recently published an article on the benefits clove oil may have on tooth pain. Like many people, you may be wondering what clove oil is, how it may affect tooth pain, and whether it is safe.
Clove oil is an essential oil that comes from the clove plant, otherwise known as Syzgium aromaticum. Its main ingredient, eugenol, has been used in dental (and some skin) circles for its ability to dull tooth pain (and inhibit some types of acne). It can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies, usually in the alternative herbal section. According to many reports, over one third of American adults use complementary herbal alternative medicine, like clove oil, on a regular basis.
What about clove oil’s effectiveness. The Time’s referenced a study done in 2006 from the Journal of Dentistry that looked at people who got clove oil, benzocaine or a placebo. The researchers found that the placebos, kind of like sugar pills that didn’t have anything in them, didn’t numb the tissue against pain, but both clove oil and benzocaine numbed the tissue equally well.
Based on that study one might assume that clove oil is as effective as benzocaine, but it’s important to consider that this study was done using only healthy volunteers and it was such a small study that they didn’t examine side effects or possible toxicity. Clove oil is not FDA approved. In very small amounts, clove oil may be beneficial for dental pain, though we do not recommend it based on too limited research. It is also important to know that clove oil used in larger quantities has significant toxicities, such as liver or respiratory failure.