Garlic on Your Gums for a Toothache

garlic photo

Garlic on your gums may not give you the results you are hoping for.

Since publishing Dental MythBuster #5 – Placing Aspirin on a Tooth Cures a Toothache back in February 2013, the post has quickly become the second most widely viewed on this site, with over 40,000 page views as of January 2016. It is no surprise why – the internet is rife with home remedies for all types of conditions – including the aforementioned one.

As a dentist in private practice, I’ve seen lots of unexpected things (such as patients sucking on fentanyl patches, tattoos in mouths, etc). But recently, I had someone come in who was medicating his toothache with garlic. I had only read about the whole “garlic cures a toothache” topic but never seen it up close. I was actually quite excited to see what the area looked like!

A Detailed Photo After Placing Garlic for a Toothache

This individual had a toothache for nearly one month and had been primarily medicating it with a combination of oil pulling as well as placing garlic next to it for several hours at a time. According to him, he would crush the garlic to release the oil, and then place it up next to the tooth. This is what it looked like when he came to see me:

Photo showing effects of garlic on gums for a toothache

Large, white lesion on the gum tissue after medicating the area with garlic. The white area was the exact location where he would place the garlic.

The above photo shows the effects of the garlic on his soft tissue. The white patch was somewhat painful to the touch. And, even after medicating the area for over a month, the tooth was still extremely painful. He also indicated that upon placing the garlic, he would frequently experience a burning sensation.

So did the Garlic Work?

As a medical professional who relies on hard science for treatment recommendations, I can’t say definitely whether the treatment worked or not. To do so would require a detailed study with multiple subjects and other controls. But several key observations can be made:


He stated that no vampires approached him since he started his treatment.

  • The patient’s pain did not go away despite the daily use of garlic.
  • His pain and symptoms continued for at least a month.
  • He developed a painful ulceration that was presumable caused by the garlic.
  • Upon placing him on antibiotics and then having me extract the offending tooth, the toothache pain – and garlic induced ulceration – went away within days.
  • Within one week, he was back to normal and could eat, chew, and smile without any complications.

So did it work? I’ll let you readers be the judge. I think the facts speak for themselves – at least in this case.

But we do know for sure that the patient did not experience any vampire attacks during the course of treatment. He’s on the lookout now given that he’s no longer using the garlic…

The Most Interesting Tattoo in the World?

As a dentist in private practice, I’ve seen my fair share of crazy and interesting things. I’ve seen cases of horrible gum disease, scars from sucking fentanyl patches, disastrous attempts at people doing dentistry on themselves, and many other things. I’d thought I had seen almost everything. That was until this patient walked in the door:

Beer tatoo on the lip seen at the dentist

Beer tattoo on his lower lip. Clicking on the image will show a larger version in all of its glory! Image copyright Dr. Nicholas Calcaterra.

As you can see by the facial hair, this was obviously a male – at least we would hope it is a male!

beer tatoo seen at the dentist on the inside lip

View of the tatoo looking down (which is why “beer” is upside down).

In talking with him in my dental office about his tattoo, it was clear that he was both simultaneously proud and ashamed of it. He loved showing it to me and my entire staff  – and to a couple of my other patients too! He enthusiastically gave a long and detailed description of how it was done, when it was completed, and who did it. It was clear this was one of his favorite stories to tell.

But then he confessed in an almost bashful demeanor that it was “the last stupid thing I ever did.” His tone and level of excitement were much lower than before. He did not advertise this to anyone but me. It was clear he had a love/hate relationship with his tattoo.

Most Interesting Tattoo in the World?

Most Interesting man in the world with an interesting tattoo

Does the Most Interesting Man in the World have this tattoo? (image courtesy Anderson Group via

Could this possibly be one of the most interesting tattoos in the world? Could it be the most interesting? Do you think the most interesting man in the world has anything close to this? After all, the actor who plays the Most Interesting Man lives in Vermont, less than three hours from my office in Orange, CT.

At his last dental visit, I did not get a chance to ask him what his favorite beer was. But part of me thinks the beer he enjoys the most is Dos-Equis.

Despite my patient’s mixed emotions about this tattoo, I don’t think he will be trying to get rid of it anytime soon. After all, it is not visible to anyone, except when he comes to our office.

As I said before, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things as a dentist, but this one was totally unexpected. To this day, I still look at it every time he comes in for cleanings. And he enjoys showing it to us!


A Drilling Dentist in My Fair Lady

Steve Martin singing dentist in the most famous dentist song

Steve Martin in a Little Shop of Horrors. Image from

If you ask almost anyone about a song featured in a movie that mentions dentistry or dentists, over 99% of people will mention Steve Martin’s character in a Little Shop of Horrors.

How did I come up with the 99%? Over the years, I’ve asked dozens of my patients that very question. Their response was always Steve Martin.

However, just recently one patient gave me a response that I was not expecting. He gave his response without even pausing to think:

“Well of course. It is Professor Higgins singing I’m an Ordinary Man in My Fair Lady.”

My Fair Lady Movie Poster which has a song that mentions a dentist drilling on teeth

My Fair Lady. Image courtesy Warner Bros.

My patient was completely surprised that I wasn’t aware of the song. When I told him that most people mention Steve Martin in a Little Shop of Horrors, he said, without even pausing, that he had never heard of the movie nor the dentist character.

Naturally, at my first opportunity, I rushed to Google the song. Here is an mp3 clip of the line to which my patient referred:

Drilling Dentist Line from My Fair Lady:


For those who don’t want to listen to it, the line goes: “I’d be equally as willing for a dentist to be drilling.”

I can’t say that I am a huge fan of musicals but I was intrigued enough to go stream the entire movie. While the musical was definitely entertaining, I would have to say that this line ranks fairly low on the list of best songs about dentists. Steve Martin is still number one in my book.

Does anyone else know of uncommon references to dentists in songs in movies? If yes, let me know!

A Divorce over Bad Breath?

Picture of person with bad breath aka halitosis

Halitosis or Brad Breath. Image courtesy Flickr Commons.

Bad Breath, more formally known as halitosis, is a condition that affects tens of millions of people worldwide. It is defined as a persistent malodor coming from the mouth. Bad breath is primarily caused by conditions affecting the teeth or gums but other anatomical areas such as the nose, throat, and GI system can also be causes.

The annoyance of bad breath has been noticed for centuries – it is not just a recent development. But did you know that in some cultures, you could divorce your partner over it?

Bad Breath in the Talmud

The Talmud is an important text in Judaism and dates back to more than two thousand years. This text serves as the basis for Jewish law and customs.  Surprisingly, halitosis is discussed in great detail in more than one part of the Talmud.

In this great summary by Shira Goldstein, she outlines the details of halitosis and how it was addressed in the Talmud:

  • According to the Talmud, halitosis is considered a “serious disability.”
  • In Jewish marriage, the ketuba is the marriage contract between the husband and wife. If a husband discovers his wife has bad breath, he has the ability to cancel the ketuba over it.
  • Women were able to divorce their husbands over halitosis too. The smell from bad breath was even comparable to the smell from collecting dog dung!
  • There was significant discussion in the Talmud over whether nasal odor and oral odor were equivalent. They were later deemed to be comparable.

So this means that over 2000 years ago, people were gravely concerned about bad breath!

Bad Breath and the Dentist

Photo of teeth with gum disease showing halitosis or bad breath

Would you divorce your spouse if his/her teeth looked like this and the odor was comparable to dog dung?

As a dentist in Orange, CT, patients typically look to me to help them with their real or perceived halitosis. Many people actually suffer from a perception and/or fear that they have bad breath. This is referred to as halitophobia.

But most cases of perceived halitosis are legitimate. Research shows that 85 to 90% of cases of bad breath are oral in origin with the remaining 10 to 15% originating elsewhere. So that means I can help the vast majority of patients with real (or perceived) cases of halitosis. The techniques for treating bad breath are beyond the scope of this post but in general we focus on improving oral hygiene. For the other 10 to 15%, I typically refer to the correct physician specialist for evaluation and diagnosis.

What NOT to do if you have halitosis

I’ve had a great number of patients come to me for assistance and advice on many dental and non-dental issues. These have ranged from whether the Tooth Fairy should come for Wisdom Teeth (no!) to whether used dental floss can be flushed down the toilet (no!) to how do I tell my significant other they should see the dentist (firmly but delicately).

I have yet to field a question regarding bad breath and the status of a patient’s marriage. But I can confidently say:

Do not divorce you partner if he/she has bad breath!

Your dentist and hygienist can help. Just call them.