Whisky is one of my favourite things on earth. It is now considered a high-end luxury alcohol to savour, but back in the day it was the choice of drinks for people who liked to drink. Whiskey was surrounded by myth: some people said it was the source of life, others say it can help you see the future and some said it had medical properties. At some level of intoxication, I am sure all of these things are true.
The longest-running myth we know about whisky is that it could reduce the symptoms of (and cure) toothache. I was told this as a child, and my grandfather would recount stories of drinking a glass of whisky before attempting to yank the tooth out (I seem to remember it was with a door and strong string – gross).
So, today we wanted to have a look into this myth, and see if there is any evidence to suggest that you can use whisky for toothache, and uncover any possible benefits of this practice.
So, Let’s get into it.
Does Whiskey work for Toothache?
Part of the reason why this idea started, is down to the high alcohol content in whiskey. A proper whisky can be anywhere between 40% and 60% ABV, and the idea is that the alcohol content means that whisky acts as a disinfectant which will aid in killing the bacteria which may be causing the toothache in the first place. You’ve heard the old saying of brushing your teeth with whisky – some people actually do it!
There is some reason to suggest that this actually may work as a mouthwash, as traditional mouthwash is between 14% and 26% ABV. In fairness, mouthwash does contain other cleaning chemicals and compounds. There is very little evidence, however, to say that it will help to kill the bacteria which causes toothache, and the facts are, consuming alcohol every day is extremely bad for your health. Your best bet is to go to the dentist where they can examine the tooth, and assess whether you need a medical intervention or even antibiotics to deal with the bacteria.
The second theory is that the alcohol content has a numbing, anaesthetic quality to it. This myth has been circling around alcohol for generations, and many people were fed alcohol after injuries or during rudimentary operations (before anaesthetic was invented). It is true that Alcohol does have the ability to temporarily numb the pain caused by a toothache, but it is certainly not a substitute for professional treatment by a dentist (or painkillers).
The downside is that the whisky may actually make your situation worse. High alcohol content beverages will cause dehydration and could dry your mouth and result in a decrease of saliva production. This is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and is more than likely going to make everything worse!
So, in a quick way to answer the question of whether whisky can work for toothache: there are some applications, but no, you should not be using whisky for toothache. Most of the time, a toothache is caused by an underlying infection or damage to the tooth, so, rather than downing a glass of whiskey, get yourself to a dentist and get professional treatment.
Drinks to aid Toothache
If you’re already sold on the part where we said ‘you shouldn’t drink whisky for toothache, but you’re still waiting to go to the dentist, there are some drinks which may actually help relieve some of the pain that you’re experiencing. Here are a few ‘non-alcoholic’ options for you to drink while you have a toothache.
Just a note – this is not a cure, you still need to go to the dentist.
- Saltwater: Gargling with warm salt water is a time-honored remedy for toothache. Saltwater can help reduce inflammation and kill bacteria, providing temporary relief from tooth pain.
- Herbal tea: Certain herbal teas, such as chamomile and peppermint, have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling and pain associated with toothache.
- Clove tea: Cloves contain eugenol, a natural anesthetic that can help numb the area around the tooth. Steeping a few cloves in hot water to make a tea can provide temporary relief from toothache. You may also chew cloves for the same effect.
- Ginger tea: Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which reduce swelling and kill bacteria in the mouth.
- Green tea: Green tea contains natural antioxidants called catechins, which reduce inflammation and kill bacteria in the mouth.
No, it is not a particularly great idea to use whisky for toothache, or any medical problem for that matter. The high alcohol content does have some anti-bacterial and numbing properties, but it also dries out your mouth and creates the perfect environment for the bacteria to spread. In addition, while it can be argued that it is a short term solution, alcohol is horrible for your health and you can take a non-alcoholic alternative to help sooth the pain and reduce the spread of the infection.