Can I cure my infected tooth with salt water rinses?

One of my teeth has become infected and I want to try to heal it naturally.  I’ve read good things about using salt water to cure an abscess, but I want to know if it really works, how often I need to do it and how long it will take my abscess to clear up.




Dear Sam,

Dentists often recommend salt water rinses after an extraction or to help calm inflamed gums.  Many people report back that it helps settle angry tissue and speeds up healing.  I have a friend who is trying to avoid a root canal by using salt water rinses and this concerns me.  He seems to get results for a couple of weeks and then his infection flares up again.  This has been going on for a few months now and I have a feeling one of these days the infection is going to blow up quickly and result in a dental emergency.

Your body is trying to fight the infection and it may succeed for a short time or the symptoms may dissipate, but when you’re using methods at home to treat an abscess, there’s a possibility the infection can settle into the surrounding bone or spread to other areas of the body.  This can be deadly for even the healthiest person, but especially for people with compromised immune systems, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.  Because the tooth is dead or dying, it leaves a space inside it for bacteria to thrive.  So, again, even if your exterior symptoms subside, you still have bacteria inside the tooth, which is another reason why the tooth will keep flaring up.  The only method I’d trust to handle this is a root canal, where the dentist cleans out that space and fills it so the bacteria can’t get back in.

Salt water rinses and other home remedies may buy you some time while you wait for an appointment, but they shouldn’t be trusted as a long-term solution for an infected tooth.  I can tell you from personal experience, the pain is awful when a tooth really flares up and what feels like something manageable one day can become a dental emergency overnight.


This bog is sponsored by Port St. Lucie emergency dentist, Dr. Schamback.