How Long Does Orajel Last?

Hand written by Dr David Chen, an actively practicing dentist and avid writer. #doctorswrite

How long Orajel lasts is a legitimate mystery because there is no stated duration of effect on the label at all. Since it is unknown, we’ve turned to scientific studies for clues on how long it could last. In addition to that we’ll also give you our perspective of what we see in our day to day clinical practice.

How long Orajel lasts according to the manufacturer

Unfortunately there is no mention of the duration of effect for any of the Orajel products. As evidence, we’ll show you three of the most popular lines of products from them. They have their active ingredients, uses, and directions listed but what is not present is how long it lasts.


The original orajel is meant to provide instant pain relief for mild toothaches only. This is their least potent product out of all of their available offerings.


Active ingredients:

  • Benzocaine 10% – oral pain reliever

Use: For the temporary relief of pain due to toothaches.

Directions: Apply to affected area up to 4 times daily or as directed by a dentist or doctor

There is no mention of how long it lasts at all. The label only states that it can be used to relieve minor pain and that you can use it up to four times at most per day. There is only one ingredient in this formulation.

Orajel 3X

The orajel 3X is actually not three times more potent than the original one. The 3X simply means that it consists of three ingredients. The benzocaine concentration is twice as much as the original.

Orajel 3X

Active ingredients:

  • Benzocaine 20% – oral pain reliever
  • Menthol 0.26% – oral pain reliever
  • Zinc chloride 0.15% – oral astringent

Uses: for the temporary relief of pain due to minor irritation or injury of the mouth and gums

Directions: Apply to the affected area for up to 4x a day.

Once again there is no mention of how long the orajel 3x lasts in the uses nor directions on the label. As a side comment, it does seem to be stronger than the original formulation since the benzocaine concentration has literally doubled. The menthol just offers a cooling effect.

Orajel 4X

This is supposed to be their most potent product but similar to the 3X formulation, the orajel 4X is not four times as potent as the original one. The 4X simply means that it has four ingredients in it.

Orajel 4X

Active ingredients:

  • Benzocaine 20% – oral pain reliever
  • Menthol 0.5% – oral pain reliever
  • Zinc chloride 0.15% – oral astringent
  • Benzalkonium chloride 0.13% – oral antiseptic

Uses: to temporarily relieve pain from minor irritation or injury to the mouth; can also be used as a first aid to prevent infection in minor oral irritation

Directions: Apply to the affected area up to four times a day.

Once again the orajel 4x does not say how long it lasts. The concentration of benzocaine is the same as the 3x one but the menthol is twice as concentrated. They’ve also added an additional ingredient, benzalkonium chloride to the 4x and that is what gives it an antiseptic property.

Orajel’s duration of effect according to studies

Despite not having any guidance on the product labels, there have also been a lack of studies on Orajel itself. However there are research studies on Benzocaine, which is the primary numbing agent in orajel. From that we can extrapolate how long orajel could potentially last.

According to the two research studies which we’ve found, benzocaine can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

  • The first study tested a 20% concentration of benzocaine and found that it started to produce an effect within 30 seconds. The total duration of action was about 5-15 minutes.
  • The second study found that benzocaine took less than 1 minute to produce an effect and it lasts from 5-10 minutes.

In conclusion, it seems like benzocaine should last at least 5 minutes but it could be long as 15 minutes. It may be dependent upon how much of the gel you are using. Nonetheless, the good news is that it seems like it works pretty quickly because the numbing effect required less than a minute .

With all of this data that we now have, we can extrapolate it to Orajel since none of the studies tested it directly. The most potent Orajel product is the Orajel 4X and that one contains the same concentration of benzocaine as the studies, 20%. However it also has 3 additional ingredients.

Since the Orajel 4x has more ingredients than pure benzocaine, we can probably say that it can last longer than benzocaine alone. If we had to guess, we would say that Orajel may last up to 20 minutes since it has more ingredients.

How long Orajel lasts in clinical practice

Your dentist may not use Orajel itself but they do use the generic version of it, Benzocaine. They actually just use pure 20% benzocaine with no additional ingredients.


As we’ve established in the previous section, Orajel 4X should be more potent than pure benzocaine since it contains three additional ingredients. What that means is that product that you’re buying OTC is actually more potent than what your dentist uses!

Isn’t that interesting?

But yes, in clinical practice we often do see this numbing gel lasting anywhere from 10-20 minutes. That is consistent with what the two research studies have suggested.

What does your dentist use this one?

We actually don’t use this as our primary numbing agent. We use the benzocaine as a pre-numbing agent. It is mostly used to prepare the injection site so that the novocaine administration is not as painful.

It is the local anesthetic injection that gets your tooth completely numb.

What we’re implying is that for you to be numb enough for a tooth filling or tooth extraction you will need the local anesthetic injection. Just using the numbing gel like orajel would be inadequate anesthesia.

Basically as the Orajel label says, it is only meant for mild or minor toothaches. For anything more severe you will need to see your dentist to have it addressed. Don’t try make it into some kind of miracle drug because the manufacturer them-self never said it would do that!

Would we use Orajel?

Yes, we would use Orajel even if it lasts only about 20 minutes because it is better than not using anything and it does work. Dentist still love this product despite the shorter duration of action. If they didn’t like it they wouldn’t stock the office with it!

Orajel does relieve pain

You may think that the duration of action is a little short but the product WORKS. It will temporarily relieve some of the pain that you’re feeling because it is a legitimate numbing agent.

One study tested the analgesic effects of benzocaine and found that it significantly reduced orthodontic pain. If you’ve ever had braces you should understand how painful it could be whenever you go in for an adjustment. It is a relief that this numbing gel can reduce some of the pain.

Another study tested intraoral pain relief of various benzocaine formulations. They tested two different 20% benzocaine solutions as well as one 10% one. All of the numbing gels resulted in about 66% pain reduction. The researchers could find no difference in perceived pain between the 20% and 10% benzocaine.

What we can conclude from the second study is that perhaps the higher concentration of benzocaine didn’t really reduce more pain. Maybe both concentrations are equally effective?

Better than nothing!

Despite Orajel potentially only lasting for about 20 minutes max, it is still better to get some temporary pain relief than no relief at all. If you’re having a raging toothache, it is better to at least use some Orajel to relieve some of the toothache pain. It can potentially hold you over until you can make it to the dentist.

Since it works and does relieve some of the pain, there is no reason not to use it!

However what you do need to understand is that if you’re having a bad toothache you WILL need to see your dentist. That is the only way to permanently fix the tooth pain.

Just to remind you, the Orajel label specifically says that it “temporarily relieves tooth pain” and that you SHOULD seek a dentist if you’re having a toothache.

orajel advice

The image above was taken from the orajel website and they explicitly say that if the pain lasts longer than 1-2 days you need to see a dentist! So don’t try to blame them and send an angry email asking them why it’s not working when you have a severe toothache.

Although you may want to be cautious of using this product if you are pregnant.


Orajel does not say how long it actually lasts but we know that the primary numbing agent, benzocaine lasts about 5-15 minutes. Since Orajel has three more ingredients than pure benzocaine, we can extrapolate and say that it can probably last as long as 20 minutes.

Don’t forget that you still need to see a dentist if you’re having a true toothache. This numbing gel is only meant to temporarily relieve your pain. For a permanent solution you will need the help of a dental professional.


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The purpose of the content at afterva is to encourage you to seek in person care with a doctor. It's not nor was it ever meant to be a substitute for medical advice. Every situation is unique and impossible to diagnose without a clinical exam.

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