Can I Use Nyquil for a Toothache?

woman with toothache and Nyquil cup

My friend posted something on Facebook for me that says you can use Nyquil for toothaches, but it didn’t explain how to use it, how much to use, or how it works. I’ve had a raging toothache for a few days now and I can’t get any relief at all, let alone sleep. I was really hoping Nyquil would cure the toothache and help me get some rest. When I searched online, I found that some people are recommending just dipping a cotton swab in it and wiping it on the tooth, but that did nothing for me. I ended up taking an actual dose of it last night (gosh that stuff is wretched!) and I kind of feel like maybe it helped a little, but not much. Is there a trick I’m missing?



Dear Georgia,

Ah, the Nyquil for a toothache posts must be in circulation again. Let’s dig into this old wives’ tale a bit, shall we?

Check Out the Ingredients First

Active Ingredients of Nyquil

  • Acetaminophen: Works as a pain reliever and fever reducer, but does not help with inflammation. Scientists aren’t totally sure how acetaminophen works, but virtually all theories involve it connecting with the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
  • Dextromethorphan HBr: Cough suppressant that works by slowing activity in the part of your brain that triggers you to cough. Also known as DXM, it’s an opioid, but does not act on opioid receptors or impact pain reduction. In high doses, it may have a hallucinogenic effect.
  • Doxylamine Succinate: Antihistamine that blocks your body’s production of things like histamine and acetylcholine, relieving symptoms like runny noses, sneezing, and watery eyes; can make you drowsy too.

Inactive Ingredients of Nyquil

  • Acesulfame Potassium: Used as a sweetener. It’s 100 times sweeter than sugar, but has a bitter aftertaste.
  • Alcohol: Included as a solvent, so the ingredients don’t separate.
  • Citric Acid: Often used as a preservative or for flavoring, but is also an alkalinizing agent.
  • D&C Yellow No. 10:Coloring.
  • FD&C Green No. 3: More coloring.
  • FD&C Yellow No. 6: Still more coloring.
  • Flavor: Nyquil doesn’t say what this really is, but we all know what Nyquil tastes like, so chances are whatever they’ve added is there to make you not want to drink it.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup: Used as a sweetener.
  • Polyethylene Glycol: Used as a thickener.
  • Propylene Glycol: Another thickener.
  • Purified Water: Because otherwise you’d be swallowing a thick mass of nastiness.
  • Saccharin Sodium: Another sweetener.
  • Sodium Citrate: Usually used as an anticoagulant, but works as an alkalizing agent too.

Topical Nyquil for a Toothache is Useless

As explained earlier, acetaminophen is the active pain reliever in Nyquil. That’s what Tylenol is too. Unfortunately, it has no proven effect when used topically. In fact, when the Tylenol brand released its Precise line of topical ointments and patches, they didn’t even bother to include Tylenol/ acetaminophen. They used menthol. Granted, we don’t know what “flavors” are in Nyquil, so they could have tossed some menthol in there too, but even then, it’s not a true pain reliever. It just creates an unusual sensation that takes your mind off pain.

Bottom Line: It doesn’t matter if you swab or swish all night long, topical Nyquil is not going to do anything unless you’re lucky enough to have the placebo effect.

Ingesting Recommended Doses of Nyquil Might Help with Specific Problems

Obviously, you shouldn’t take medicine for off-label use. However, if you did take Nyquil for a toothache, and you ingested it, the acetaminophen might help with specific types of pain, particularly those NOT caused by inflammation, which means it won’t help most of the time. That said, it might make you drowsy enough to sleep despite the pain and, if you’ve got sinus problems contributing to your toothache, it could help relieve some of that.

Use Proven Solutions Instead of Taking Nyquil

  • Take ibuprofen: Most toothaches involve inflammation; either with the nerve or tissues surrounding the tooth. Ibuprofen is good for that. Acetaminophen is not.
  • Book an emergency dental appointment: Seriously. Whatever’s going on isn’t going to get better on its own and, if it’s an infection, putting off treatment can literally be deadly.

At the end of the day, the best course of action is to be seen by your dentist ASAP. If you’re looking for a “cure” at home while you wait for your appointment, check out the previous blog here about essential oils that may help. None of them will fix your underlying problem, but if you feel better using what you can at home while waiting for your appointment, they should be safe—way safer than taking Nyquil or trying other obscure home remedies, that’s for sure! Best of luck to you.

This blog is sponsored by Dr. Steve Sirin, a provider of same-day emergency dental appointments in Elgin, IL.

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