Can Ground Cloves Kill a Tooth Nerve?

Written, Edited, and Reviewed by Dr David Chen.

Ground cloves do have the potential to kill a tooth nerve because it has analgesic properties but the efficacy depends on how you use it. Under normal circumstances such as trying to use it at home may not give you the numbing effect that you’re looking for.

Ground Pemba Cloves - burlap & barrel
Ground Pemba Cloves – Burlap & Barrel

While this home remedy may not be dangerous, there are much more effective ways to deal with your tooth nerve pain.

Note: We have an entire collection of spices from Burlap & Barrel at home and the quality is top notch. My significant other is obsessed with them! Anyway, the ground cloves may not relieve your toothache but it certainly makes for a delicious meal.

Can ground cloves kill the tooth nerve?

Ground cloves can in fact kill the nerve of your tooth because it has analgesic properties. Although to be more precise, it is the eugenol within the cloves which gives it the analgesic effects. Eugenol is the essential oil of cloves and is also commonly known as clove oil.

As further evidence to support its efficacy, dentists use a LOT of dental products which contain eugenol. Yes, that is the same exact ingredient within ground cloves.

Summary benefits of cloves:

Analgesic effect

Dentists use it

Ground cloves have analgesic properties

To demonstrate the anesthetic efficacy of cloves, look no further than this research study done on fish.

  • Basil, tea tree, and clove oil were used to anesthetize fish.
  • All three substances including the cloves, were able to bring the fish to the stage of surgical anesthesia.

In other words, the cloves were potent enough to numb the fish so that they can receive surgical treatment.

Dentists use eugenol based products

If animal studies are not to your looking, you can simply look at real life examples at your local dentist office. Dentists use a variety of dental products which contain eugenol in it. Have you noticed how a lot of dentist offices smell like cloves?

IRM - eugenol based dental product
IRM – eugenol based dental product

The most notable dental product which has eugenol is called IRM (intermediate restorative material). Yes, it has a distinct clove-like smell once you open the package. The material sheet literally states that there is eugenol (clove oil) in it!

IRM - material sheet
Eugenol in IRM

What is IRM used for?

Dentists will often use IRM during endodontic procedures such as pulpotomies and root canals. They place it directly inside the pulp chamber to calm an irritated tooth nerve. In other words, it relieves tooth nerve pain!

If your dentist is using eugenol to kill your toothache, isn’t that enough proof that it should work for you to use ground up cloves for your tooth pain?

Why this home remedy may not work

Yes your dentist uses it to kill your tooth nerve and it does work, but unfortunately you won’t get the same results doing it at home.

You can ground up some cloves and place it on top of your tooth but you will not get any relief from doing it. You can even wait half an hour, an hour, or even an entire day and you still won’t get numbing effect.

In order to have an effect on the tooth nerve, the ground cloves needs to be in direct contact with it. Under normal circumstances, the pulp of the tooth is protected from the external oral environment by the dentin and enamel layer.

Tooth Anatomy - Mouthhealthy
Credit: Mouthhealthy – ADA

However, it is a completely different situation when it is in your dentist’s hands because they drill a hole through each layer of the tooth to reach the pulp. Once the pulp is exposed, they can place their eugenol based product directly onto the tooth. That is the main reason why it works for your dentist but not for you at home.

In summary, ground cloves may not alleviate your toothache because it has no way of coming into direct contact with the nerve of the tooth.

Are ground cloves safe to use on teeth?

It is perfectly safe to use ground cloves on your tooth because it is a spice used in cooking. In fact, it is often used as a flavoring agent in a lot of products even in cigarettes. If you can ingest it, it certainly wouldn’t harm your mouth by placing it on your tooth.

However, that only holds true if you use it in moderation because excessive use can lead to eugenol overdose.

Overdose side effects:

  • Agitation
  • Decrease in consciousness
  • Coma
  • Acidosis
  • Respiratory depression
  • Severe hypoglycemia
  • Liver failure
  • Jaundice

The adverse effects above is only in the case of extreme overdose.

How to use ground cloves for a toothache

While this home remedy may not be as effective as you like, it should be safe enough for you to try at home.

spice house - ground cloves back of bag

How to use it:

  • Crush some cloves with a mortar and pestle or use a spice grinder.
  • Place it directly on the affected tooth.
  • Leave it for 5-10 minutes before removing.
  • Rinse out your mouth really well to remove residue.

We do not believe it will get rid of your toothache but if you’ve no other option, you can give it a try. However, a better way to get out of pain is by seeing a dentist.

Better alternative – See a dentist

If you’re experiencing an unbearable toothache, the best way to kill the nerve is by seeing a dentist. The pulp is well insulated and protected by layers of dentin and enamel which prevents home remedies like cloves from affecting it.

Your dentist is able to bypass this hurdle because they can drill through the enamel and dentin to create a direct pathway to the nerve. From there, they can physically remove the nerve with a root canal treatment.

What if I am unable to make it to the dentist

We understand that not everyone will be able to get to the dentist immediately which is why we’ll provide one way to temporarily lessen the tooth pain that you may be feeling.

In lieu of the home remedies which we described earlier, you should try taking a specific pain killer, Advil Dual Action. It is the best painkiller because it is formulated with two pain medications (ibuprofen + acetaminophen) into one.

advil dual action - one pill
one pill next to bottle

The combination of the two pain medications can drastically decrease your tooth pain much more so than taking a similar dose for each of them separately. Make sure you follow the instructions on the label properly.

The Verdict

While ground cloves do possess the potential to kill a tooth nerve due to the eugenol in it, it most likely won’t be effective as a home remedy. Yes, your dentist does use it to calm an irritated tooth nerve but they’re able to place it directly into the pulp chamber.

They can do this by drilling a hole through the tooth to be able to do that. Unfortunately, you’re not able to make a direct access hole to the tooth nerve. That means there is no way for the ground cloves to exert its analgesic effects on the nerve.

What you should do instead is see a dentist as soon as possible so you can get permanent tooth nerve pain relief. In the meantime while you wait for your appointment, you should consider taking Advil dual action to help reduce the discomfort.

Just make sure you’re not allergic to either of the medications and that there are no contraindications to any of your health conditions.


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Our purpose at afterva, is to encourage you to seek in person care with a doctor. It's not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. Each situation is unique and that makes it impossible to diagnose and treat without a clinical exam.

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