As a full time general dentist in Orange, CT, I see lots of techniques patients use in attempts to relieve pain. The most famous one is part of my Dental MythBusters series and involves placing an aspirin next to the offending tooth. Hint: it doesn’t work! Other techniques I have seen, which vary in their efficacy, include garlic, oil of cloves, alcohol (both the rubbing kind and the drinking kind), lemons, and other items.
One toothache remedy that is not well known was proposed by Pierre Fauchard (1678 – 1761). Fauchard was a prominent French physician who is often credited as “the father of modern dentistry.” He authored the work Le Chirurgien Dentiste (English: The Surgeon Dentist) in 1728.
Fauchard wrote about a number of treatments and theories that are still applicable today in dentistry:
- He theorized that sugars were responsible for cavities (and not tooth worms which was the prevailing theory).
- He developed one of the first dental drills.
- Fauchard proposed the placement of filling materials into teeth.
- He developed new techniques for dentures.
All of these were quickly adopted by others and put into use. But there was one idea that did not take off.
An aPEEling Toothache Cure?
Fauchard made a startling proposition: rinsing with your own urine will cure a toothache!
He even went so far as to say:
“One should retain it (urine) some time in the mouth and continue its use.”
Not surprisingly, many of Fauchard’s medical colleagues and patients did not embrace his idea like they did his others. After all, it was 1728!
But Fauchard’s theory did have some credence behind it. Urine contains ammonia as well derivatives of ammonia. Ammonia had been used previously by the Romans as a detergent and to remove stains. Some people in France a century before Fauchard were known to bathe in urine because of its cleansing properties. While ammonia was useful for many reasons, it helps with toothaches in part because it is a base and can neutralize the acids associated with the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Definitive Toothache Remedies
The best remedy to a toothache is not urine but a trip to the dentist for a definitive diagnosis. In nearly all cases, pain in a tooth or a couple of teeth is due to either decay (cavities) or gum disease. But there are other factors that can mimic a toothache: sinus infections, jaw muscle discomfort or joint pain (called TMD), grinding, trauma, receded gums, cold sores (called aphthous ulcers), and many others.
I will never forget the day in my residency when a patient came in with lower left jaw pain that he thought was from a tooth but was really from an acute heart attack he was experiencing! See this page if you don’t believe me.
But remember, regardless of the source of the pain, there are much better techniques for teeth and gum pain than rinsing with your own urine!