Ask the Past: toothache

I have a bit of a sore tooth, but I can't get a dentist's appointment for a couple of days. What should I do about my toothache until then?

The most common remedy for toothache (one that you will still find recommended today) is clove oil, but if you can't find any of that, or if you can't stand the taste, you have other options. Hyleigh's Medical and Stock Book has several remedies:

Cotton-wool saturated with carbolic acid and inserted in the cavity will cure nine out of ten cases of toothache.

A German remedy is to saturate cotton-wool with kerosene and insert in cavity.

If the issue is less around the tooth and more around the gums, the Harmsworth Household Encyclopedia says that, while you wait to see the dentist:

Some relief may be got by painting the gum with a mixture of equal parts tincture of iodine and tincture of aconite.

If you are really desperate, though, you can always try this suggestion from The Australian Enquiry Book:

Mix some clean bone dust - obtained from filing it from a leg bone of a sheep - with thick mastic varnish into a stiff paste. Then having well cleaned out the cavity, scrape out as much of the decayed part as possible, dry the inside well with little pieces of cotton wool, and fill in the cavity with the mixture. One can do it for oneself with the aid of a looking-glass, but it is best to get a friend to do the filling in, as it is awkward for oneself.

Do be careful if you go down the carbolic acid route, because it is quite poisonous. The Modern Household Encyclopedia includes this remedy if you accidentally put a little too much into your mouth:

Give 1 tablespoon Epsom salts mixed with 4 egg whites and milk; or Epsom or Glauber salts in water, vinegar, or soapsuds; or lime water; or raw egg whites in water. Do not give any oils or fats. Brandy or strong, black coffee may be given as stimulants, preferably injected through the bowel. Apply external heat on arms and legs.

An old newspaper ad for a dentist, with text as follows: C J. COOMBS SURGICAL AND MECHANICAL DENTIST (By Exam.) Will visit Cromwell on Tuesday and Wednesday. JUNE 27th & 28th. Teeth made by other dentists proving unsatisfactory may be Re-modelled at small cost. Painless extractions with Nitrous Oxide Gas, Cocaine, Ether, or Chloroform. Stopping with Gold, Amalgam, or Cement.
At least after all that the dentist will offer you your choice of chloroform, nitrous oxide or cocaine. From the Cromwell Argus, 17 June 1899

I'm sure that will help.

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