Will Toothache Mouthwash Buy Me Some Time with Dental Emergency?

orajel toothache mouthwash dental emergency question

I’m facing a bit of a dental emergency. I’m between paychecks and my back right tooth started hurting. I knew I had a cavity there, but I haven’t been able to get it fixed. So, I’m not surprised it’s angry with me, but I still need to do what I can to hold off until my next payday, which is a little more than a week away before I can go in and get it fixed. Anyway, I was looking at all the options in the store to see what would help me get through and I came across a mouth wash designed for toothaches. I normally wouldn’t put much stock in something like this, but it’s from a reputable brand (Orajel) and I want to see if it will help. If it does work, how much time will it by me? My tooth isn’t so bad that I’d really classify this as a dental emergency yet, but I’m aware of it throughout the day and have been taking ibuprofen.



Dear Mimi,

There are lots of different products that claim they can help you with a toothache, but each one has unique ingredients. Some have proven/ tested ingredients and some don’t. Because you asked about the newer Orajel one- the “Toothache Double Medicated Rinse,” that’s what we’ll break down here.

Ingredients in Orajel Toothache Rinse

As you’ll see on the label, the main two active ingredients are Benzyl Alcohol and Zinc Chloride.<

Benzyl Alcohol

The chemical compound Benzyl Alcohol has been proven to be an effective pain reliever. In this form, it gets absorbed by the tissues and blocks out the pain. Some studies have actually looked into it as an injectable anesthetic for minor surgeries and determined it’s effective for that as well. However, in a strength appropriate for over-the-counter use and in oral/ topical form, it does have limited ability to diminish pain.

The bottom line: It can help reduce pain, but it’s not a miracle.

Zinc Chloride

Zinc Chloride is included as an “astringent.” That means it job is to shrink the tissues, but the compound can also help mask odors and dries tissue out, so it can give people the sense that a product is “working” because they have a noticeable change.

The bottom line: It can help reduce swelling, which is beneficial if the discomfort of stretched tissue is affecting you, but it doesn’t impact anything deeper than that.

Can a Toothache Mouthwash Prevent/ Stave Off a Dental Emergency?

Toothaches can be caused by many things, but mouthwashes don’t address any of the underlying causes. In your particular case, you know you had a cavity. The fact that it hurts now is likely because it’s large enough that the pulp is irritated or you’ve developed an infection. If the pulp is only irritated, getting the tooth filled or having a crown done will likely give it the opportunity to recover, but if it has turned into an infection, you’re probably looking at a root canal at this point. Using a mouthwash like this one may help reduce your discomfort some, depending on the severity of the condition, but even then, it’s only masking the symptoms. This particular brand makes no claims at all about buying you time or allowing you to put off dental care because it can’t. It’s not designed for that.

The bottom line: If you’re in pain, don’t mask the symptoms and try to put off care. You can use a product like this after you’ve scheduled an appointment to help keep yourself comfortable until the appointment, but it’s not a good idea to use it for anything more. There is an underlying condition and this won’t help with it, and that condition will continue to progress until you have it addressed by a dentist. You may be fine for a week, but you might also wake up tomorrow and have a roaring infection that spreads. There is no way to predict how your body will handle what’s happening with it.

If you can’t afford treatment, at least get in for a diagnosis. Most insurance plans will cover the exam and x-ray at 100%, and if there’s an infection brewing, you can get on an antibiotic to keep it in check until you get paid or your dentist may have other suggestions to help you bridge the gap or to make treatment more affordable.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin. Dr. Sirin’s practice offers same-day appointments for dental emergencies and compassionate care.

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