Your mouth is awash in bacteria.
Normally this is not a bad thing.
But sometimes, the wrong bacteria can get in the wrong spot.
Then you take a bit of food and instead of that delicious food you caught yourself, you feel pain.
You have an infected tooth!
What can you do when there’s no dentist around?
Causes of an Infected Tooth
Some bacteria are not benign. These are known as pathogenic bacteria.
Gingivitis not in the tooth itself, but is an infection of the gums.
The area where your teeth enter your gums is vulnerable to infections.
Often the bacteria come from dental plaque, that whitish stuff that you should brush off of your teeth.
It’s actually a biofilm, which is a bunch of bacteria stuck together.
Food can also get stuck where your teeth meet the gums and provide a buffet for invading bacteria.
Sugar from sugary liquids can also get deposited up there.
When gingivitis gets to the point where it starts damaging important bits, that’s called periodontitis.
The same causes contribute to dental caries, which is when the tooth itself is infected.
Part of the enamel gets worn away and bacteria take up residence.
But this is a hovel and they want a mansion, so they dig deeper into the tooth and eventually cause it to rot away.
Symptoms of an Infected Tooth
The first stage of dental infection is painless.
It’s not until the bacteria starts causing damage that the trouble begins, but the tooth may still be saved.
You’ll notice a dental infection from two main symptoms, pain and inflammation.
Pain is obvious.
Does a tooth hurt when you chew? Or in general?
This can be a sign of infection.
Inflammation causes swelling and redness.
Abnormal sensitivity can be another sign.
Also, if a tooth is soft to the touch, that can be a sign of dental caries.
When it gets worse, abscesses can form.
You’ll know when this happens because you’ll develop a fever and pus will leak out of your mouth.
Abscesses are beyond the scope of home remedies. See a doctor or dentist immediately!
Lastly, sometimes bacteria from your teeth can get into your sinuses and cause an infection there.
Your first sign of a dental infection may be an excessive amount of green snot. Funny, huh?
These home remedies are not a substitution for medical care.
Your body is designed to fight off infections. These remedies will help your body do just that.
But some infections prove too much for your body, even with this help.
There’s no shame in seeking medical attention.
Better a dentist bill than a lost tooth.
Around the world, cloves are used to improve the health of people’s mouths.
They have traditionally been used to combat toothaches and dental infections.
The easiest way to use cloves is to take a whole clove and hold it against the infected area.
A slightly more complex method that also produces better results is to make a compress.
Use ground cloves or clove oil. Put the cloves into cheesecloth or gauze, and hold it against the affected area.
It may take a couple of days, but cloves can make your tooth infection go away.
Garlic is related to cloves and also has antibiotic properties.
You can do something similar with the garlic by applying it inside your mouth.
However, it is also effective as an antibacterial when consumed.
Plus, it makes your food taste better.
But the strongest way to use garlic is to chew a piece of whole garlic.
Make sure you’ve thoroughly pulped it and that it has come in contact with the infected area.
Your taste buds may not be happy with you, but they’re not the infected ones, are they?
A heavily saline environment is unfriendly to bacteria.
The little guys that live in your mouth can’t survive salty water.
So if you take some fresh water and dissolve as much salt in it as water, you have a great weapon against them.
Plus, since it’s a liquid, it can get into the nooks and crannies your toothbrush and floss can’t reach.
Those places are where the infection hides.
Take a swig of the salt water, but don’t swallow.
Swish it around to make sure every part of your mouth has been covered.
Perhaps gargle a bit, for good measure.
Then spit it out.
You can do the same thing with mouthwash, but you have to buy some and it may be too bulky to bring into the woods with you.
Salt, however, have several uses in the wild, so you should have some already.
No, we’re not saying to get drunk.
Though alcohol in mouthwash has fallen out of favor, it can still be effective on occasion.
Alcohol is inherently antiseptic.
It causes the bacterial cells to burst open.
When using drinking alcohol, get booze that is 40% alcohol or better.
Brandy, rum, whiskey, etc.
Just don’t use a liqueur! Those contain sugar, which can feed the infection.
Rinse your mouth as if you were using mouthwash.
For a double whammy, rinse with a strong liquor that contains antiseptic herbs.
Remember, no sugar.
Two examples are absinthe and gin.
Absinthe is made with wormwood, which has antiseptic properties.
So do juniper berries, which are the primary flavoring component of gin.
If you do decide to wash your mouth with absinthe, avoid the traditional ritual involving sugar and water.
Stick with the strong stuff.
Don’t try this with rubbing alcohol because that contains nasty stuff you don’t want to ingest.
What If I Can’t Get to a Dentist?
Perhaps a natural or artificial disaster has occurred and you can’t get to a dentist to treat your abscess.
You still need to treat it, if you can.
The first priority is to drain the pus.
Use a sharp instrument, sterilized by fire or alcohol, and make an incision to let the pus drain out.
This will hurt. A lot.
Then you need to double down on the antiseptic treatments to kill the bacteria that caused the abscess.
Once the bacteria is defeated, you may still need a root canal or tooth extraction to prevent reinfection.
Stay on top of dental hygiene until you can get professional care.
If you let one grow, abscesses can reach vital organs and kill you. So don’t do that.
How Do You Avoid a Tooth Infection?
Bacteria love sugar.
Drinking sugary drinks feeds the pathogenic bacteria in your mouth.
One of the simplest ways of avoiding a dental infection is to cut down on these drinks.
That does include fruit juices.
Practice Good Dental Hygiene
Keeping your mouth healthy in the first place is a good way to prevent a dental infection.
Do everything your dentist tells you to do.
Brush, floss, and use mouthwash.
Toothbrushes with hard bristles can soften up your gums and open them to an infection.
So use the softest toothbrush you can find.
You can get inexpensive travel toothbrushes that are perfect for bringing with you into the woods.
They are small, light, and can store several days worth of toothpaste.
Teeth Cleaning Twig
Of course, out in the woods, you may not have a full mouth cleaning kit.
So what can you do?
Make your own toothbrush-like chewing stick!
Also called a datun or miswak, people use twigs as toothbrush even today.
Most trees contain tannins, which are antibacterial.
Take a twig that is about toothbrush sized and chew one end.
It’ll become bristly. Brush your teeth!
Almost any tree can be used for this purpose, although some are preferred.
Apple, Birch, Hazelnut, Oak, Pear, Walnut, and Willow trees are all suitable.
If you have your choice, go with the softer twig.
A tooth infection is no joke.
Left unchecked, it can lead to an abscess and you may lose the tooth.
But if caught early, there are things you can do at home or in the field to fight the infection.
Cloves, salt, and booze can help you defeat the infection.
And remember, if the remedies don’t help and the infection gets worse, see a dentist immediately!