How Does a Dentist Kill a Nerve In Your Tooth?

Written, Edited, and Reviewed by Dr David Chen.

The two ways that a dentist can kill a nerve in your tooth is with either a root canal or tooth extraction. Those are the only dental treatments that can permanently eliminate your tooth nerve pain.

That is different from home remedies which will temporarily relieve your toothache but only momentarily. They don’t treat the source of the problem so the tooth pain always returns.

What we’re trying to say is that you still need to see a dentist at the end of the day and we’ll explain why in greater detail.

Dental treatments that kill the tooth nerve

There are only two ways to kill a tooth nerve permanently, with a root canal or with an extraction but both of them require seeing a dentist.

Root canal

A root canal is an endodontic procedure which physically removes the nerve from the tooth. Once it has been taken out, the tooth will be considered dead since it is now nerveless. The benefit of this is that it permanently alleviates your tooth nerve pain since it no longer has a nerve!

root canal steps diagram

Once the nerve has been completely removed, the canals will be disinfected. Afterwards it will be filled in with a root filling material called gutta percha.

However, your treatment isn’t complete after the procedure is finished because you still need to do a core build up and then place a crown on the tooth to protect it.

Tooth extraction

An alternative way to eliminate the tooth nerve is by getting a tooth extraction. This dental procedure will remove the entire tooth along with the nerve inside of it from your jaw bone.

tooth extraction cartoon

This is different from the root canal in that it is less conservative. The overall superstructure of the tooth gets preserved in the mouth with the endodontic treatment. For the extraction, you’ll have a missing tooth in the socket once the procedure is completed.

Similarly, once the procedure is done, your treatment is still not complete. You should think about tooth replacement options such as a dental bridge or an implant. You don’t want to have a gap in your mouth do you?

How long it takes your dentist to do it

Both procedures which kill the nerve of your tooth can be completed in a single visit. You can expect to spend about 45-60 minutes at your dentist but once it’s done, you will be free of pain. Yes, it is the only way to stop the pain.

Is it painful?

The procedures shouldn’t be painful because you will be adequately numb for it. If you do feel anything intra-op, you can always raise your left hand and let your dentist know. They’ll be more than happy to give you additional local anesthesia to numb you.

How home remedies kill a tooth nerve

Home remedies will not permanently eliminate your toothache but what they can do is temporarily alleviate it. However, not all of the acclaimed remedies are effective so you should be wary of what you’re trying and temper your expectations.

Since you do not possess the equipment and instruments that your dentist has, the home remedies will be relegated to topical and systemic applications only.

  • Topical. Applying the remedy directly onto the tooth. An example would be putting clove oil or thyme on the tooth to soothe it.
  • Systemic. Ingesting the product for an overall effect on the body. This would be eating garlic or taking painkillers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin.

Common home remedies:

  • Willow bark
  • Vanilla extract
  • Guava leaf
  • Orajel or anbesol
  • Salt water rinses

Why most home remedies are ineffective

If you ask us, we think you should skip these remedies because they’ve been proven to be mostly ineffective. There are three main reasons as to why don’t work as anticipated.

  • They don’t have any analgesic properties.
  • They are unable to reach the tooth nerve to exert its effect.
  • They can be unsafe or hazardous to use.

The worse ones fail all three of the above criteria such as attempting to use bleach or even brake fluid in your mouth. Completely unsafe to do and will land you in the emergency department at the hospital.

Professional treatment vs home remedies

Of course, professional treatment is much more effective than home remedies in killing the tooth nerve. The difference lies in their approach to deadening the tooth.

  • Professional treatment involves mechanically removing or eliminating the pulp.
  • Home remedies involve topically or systemically trying to influence the nerve.

It is a no brainer that physically removing the nerve from the tooth will be more efficacious and the results will be permanent. Since the at home remedies leave the pulp untouched, that is the sole reason as to why the pain often returns once the remedy wears off.

The major point that we’re trying to make is that if you’re having a toothache, the best way to relieve it is by seeing a dentist. Whatever you attempt at home will only be temporary and it merely prolongs the time that you’ll be in pain. Why wait when you can be pain-free today.

The Verdict

Your dentist can eradicate the nerve of your tooth along with the pain that you’ve been feeling with either a root canal or tooth extraction. Both of these procedures involve mechanically and physically separating the nerve from the rest of your body.

It is a very physical process which is different from home remedies which do not affect the nerve physically. The at home remedies will try to mask the pain by alleviating it topically or systemically.

However, since the unhealthy nerve remains in the mouth, the pain will often return once the remedy wears off. Therefore if you’re trying looking for permanent tooth pain relief, you should really see a dentist and perhaps skip toothache folk lores.


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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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