Herbal Q & A: Ouch, my tooth
A reader asks if there are any herbal options for lingering dental nerve pain. This poor person has had pain for almost a year, following some drilling work at the dentist. He doesn't want to return to the dentist, for fear any suggested remedies will only make it worse.
I can offer some herbal and dietary suggestions and, and, and... please follow up with your dentist anytime you have chronic pain of this kind. I get it that ongoing mouth pain is a real nuisance and it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to return to the dentist if the pain started there. The thing is...
There can be a lot of reasons for dental pain, ranging from a loose filling to an infection, and it's really best to have a dentist take a look at it and give you their explanation and ideas for next steps and/or relief. It’s always, always up to you if you decide to go for a medical procedure, or not. Your dentist may have a simple solution, which would be wonderful. If they don’t or if your dentist puts you on edge, it may be time to make a change or seek another opinion.
As for herbal options, if the cause of the pain is nerve trauma, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is the herb of choice. A standard dose would be 3-6 mls (milliliters) of tincture (herb extracted into alcohol) per day (or 1-2 mls taken 3 times per day). Or for a more economical option, or for those avoiding alcohol, you could prepare a tea of 5 grams of St. Johns Wort flower and leaf, steeped in a quart of water for 15 minutes, then strained and sipped throughout the day.
Precautions: St. John’s Wort is considered safe for long term use, but it does have known interactions that can reduce effectiveness of some medicines, so it is very important that you consult with an herbalist or your doctor if you are taking any pharmaceuticals. St. John’s Wort can also make you more sensitive to sunlight, so take extra care to protect your skin from the sun while taking.
Prickly Ash Bark (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) would be another herb to try. This plant increases saliva and circulation in the mouth and has a reputation for reducing pain in the trigeminal nerves (facial/mouth nerves). Start with 1 ml tincture, three times per day. This plant has a very unique taste and will make your mouth tingle.
Healing in the mouth may also be aided by an herbal mouth rinse (never mind the marketing name, it's a great oral health tonic). Herbs in this formula are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, increase circulation in the mouth, and would be a useful addition to your oral care routine. You could also try rubbing in a topical St. John’s wort oil , around the affected area inside and outside the mouth.
Of course maintaining a healthy diet and good oral care are critical to healing in the mouth. Brushing and flossing, as directed, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet are foundational. A helpful reference, if you’d like to try a homemade tooth powder or explore other ways to use herbs for dental care, is Dental Herbalism by herbalist and PhD Leslie Alexander and dental hygienist Linda Straub-Bruce.
Thanks for this great question and best of luck! Nerves can take a long time to heal, sometimes over a year, so hang in there.