Can Vanilla Extract Kill Tooth Nerve?

Written, Edited, and Reviewed by Dr David Chen.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any scientific evidence which proves vanilla extract can kill your tooth nerve. Although even without research studies, the theory behind why it would alleviate your toothache was implausible to begin with.

Vanilla extract - trader joes

We’re going to debunk all of the false claims and properly place this home remedy in the useless discard pile once and for all. There are much better options to alleviate your tooth nerve pain.

No scientific evidence

There are currently zero research papers available which have documented the efficacy of vanilla extract killing a tooth nerve. You read that correctly, none, nada, and zilch.

That is despite the extract having been around since 1858, when it was first extracted by French biochemist Nicolas-Theodore Gobley. It’s been in existence for over 150 years but not a single scientific study was ever done in regards to its potency as a tooth pain reliever.

Can you guess the reason why? It’s because it has zero analgesic properties. That includes dental purposes as well as overall medical uses.

Have you ever been prescribed a dose of vanilla ice cream to alleviate any type of bodily pain? Probably not because it doesn’t work!

Can vanilla extract alleviate tooth pain?

Vanilla extract cannot kill a tooth nerve and we will disprove the two alleged claims which purportedly grant it dental analgesia.

Alleged claims of it being able to deaden the nerve:

  • The alcohol numbs the teeth, gums, and mouth.
  • It contains eugenol which has pain relieving properties and widely used in dentistry.

Alcohol is not a pain reliever

Yes, the extract does contain alcohol because it is literally made by combining vanilla beans with alcohol (usually vodka).

Ingesting alcohol will get you intoxicated but what it won’t do is relieve your tooth pain because it’s not a pain killer. What it is typically used for is as an antiseptic such as using rubbing alcohol to disinfect a wound.

Can you recall the last time you used isopropyl alcohol on a cut? It stung upon contact rather than numb the pain, did it not? You can apply that same concept to your toothache. Placing it on your tooth would probably make it sting rather than numb it.

Clearly if it had analgesic properties, people would drink alcohol instead of taking ibuprofen for tooth pain, which is clearly not the case.

In summary, the alcohol content of vanilla extract cannot relieve your toothache because it doesn’t have anesthetic properties. This is also the reason why rubbing alcohol can’t kill a tooth nerve despite having an even higher alcohol concentration.

Vanilla extract doesn’t contain eugenol

While eugenol does have analgesic properties, vanilla extract doesn’t contain any of it which means it can’t alleviate your toothache.

People mistakenly believe that synthetic vanilla extract (vanillin) contains eugenol because it was synthesized from it. It is correct that eugenol can be used to synthetically make vanillin but once it has been synthesized, the eugenol structure is no more.

Production-of-vanillin-via-eugenol
Credit: A. Converti; B. Aliakbarian; J.M. Domínguez; G. Bustos Vázquez; P. Perego

Once the synthesis has been completed, there are NO MORE traces of eugenol left because it has been fully transformed. The evidence of this is the change in smell.

  • Eugenol has a distinct clove smell.
  • Vanilla does not have that clove smell, it just smells like vanilla.

In summary, after the synthesis the extract has become a completely different molecule and has lost all of its previous properties and former glory. This theory has been debunked.

Would be ineffective even if it was an analgesic

Let’s pretend we’re in an alternate universe where vanilla extract can numb a tooth nerve. Even if that was true, using it on your tooth still wouldn’t give you the pain relief which you’re expecting.

Tooth Anatomy - Mouthhealthy
Credit: Mouthhealthy – ADACredit: Mouthhealthy – ADA

The reason is because the extract isn’t able to penetrate through enamel and dentin to reach the tooth pulp. Those two outer layers of the teeth insulate the nerve and prevent it from being in contact with the oral environment.

Basically, there is no way for your home remedy to make its way to the nerve to be able to exert its effect on it. Yes, that includes dabbing it with a cotton ball and even rinsing with it.

Our experience using Vanilla Extract

We did an experiment with vanilla extract to see if it has any numbing effect on the mouth.

Key points:

  • Unfortunately, we did not experience a numbing sensation.
  • It did smell sweet but didn’t taste sweet.
  • At least it wasn’t offensive tasting.

In comparison to using Orajel, which gave us a near instantaneous numbing sensation, vanilla extract fell short. There was no analgesic effect at all from the extract.

Better alternative to kill tooth nerve

If you’re experiencing extreme tooth pain, a guaranteed way to kill the nerve is by seeking the help of a dentist. It’s necessary since the pulp is well insulated and protected by layers of dentin and enamel which prevents your home remedy from affecting it.

However, your dentist is able to bypass this obstacle by drilling through the layers of your teeth to create a direct pathway to the nerve. From there, they can physically remove the nerve via 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 a temporary method to lessen the tooth pain in the meantime.

In lieu of the home remedies which we described earlier, you should try taking a specific pain killer, Advil Dual Action. It’s not just ibuprofen because it also contains acetaminophen.

advil dual action - front of box view 1
Advil dual action – ibuprofen with acetaminophen

The combination of the two pain medications can drastically decrease your tooth pain when compared to taking a similar dose of each of them separately. Make sure you follow the instructions on the label properly.

The Verdict

It is impossible for vanilla extract to get rid of your toothache.

  • There are no scientific evidence to support it.
  • The alcohol within it does not numb the pain.
  • It also doesn’t contain eugenol.

Due to the reasons above, this home remedy’s tooth pain relieving theories have been debunked. It is safe to say that this belongs in the useless discard pile of home remedies that can kill your tooth nerve.

What we’re curious about is who spread this nonsensical false information to begin with? Absolutely unbelievable.

For the record, we’re not against vanilla extract because it has its use in cooking and baking. It makes delicious treats. However, where it has no use is in the field of dentistry.

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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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