At Dental Fear Central, we realise that you may be tempted to perform DIY dentistry rather than face a dentist. Please note that this is neither recommended nor endorsed – this is strictly damage-limitation (or Coronavirus) territory. Before you attempt anything downright dangerous, have a look through our website and forum – and find a dentist who is right for you.

Video: How to manage broken teeth, fillings that come out, and crowns that come loose

In this BAFTA-nominated Corona Special, dentist Lincoln Hirst teaches us the tricks of the trade:

Pain Relief for Toothache

The best over-the-counter painkillers for toothache are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs for short. These include ibuprofen, or even better, ketoprofen if you can get hold of it. Ibuprofen is sold both as a generic version (cheaper!) and under many brand names. The most common are Nurofen (UK) and Advil and Motrin (US). Ketoprofen is either sold under its “real” generic name or under a whole host of tradenames – just ask your pharmacist for “Ketoprofen”. Dentists may prescribe 800mg Ibuprofen every four to six hours as an alternative to narcotic pain relievers. Do not take these if you have asthma and always read the label for contraindications!

Paracetamol/Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or even aspirin (Disprin) are also pretty good for dental pain. Some people have reported that Paracetamol with Codeine has worked for them when other pain meds wouldn’t. However, dental pain often comes from inflammation and pressure on various tissues and nerves of the face. NSAIDs can be better for dental pain because they are both pain relievers and good anti-inflammatories (vs. acetaminophen which is only a pain reliever). It can be very dangerous to take too much paracetamol/acetaminophen.

For contraindications, side-effects and maximum doses, always read the label!

Do not place disprin on or around the sore tooth! It can burn your mouth and harm your teeth.

Another product which occasionally gets good reviews for alleviating dental pain are over-the-counter dental anaesthetic gels, pastes, or liquids, such as Anbesol, Orajel or DenTek Stix. “Maximum strength” versions (20% benzocaine) are available. The problem is that the effect doesn’t last very long at all.

Alternating Ibuprofen with codeine can help if you’re on the maximum Ibuprofen dose, for the hours in between when the Ibuprofen has worn off. If you are too scared to see a dentist, ask your GP or pharmacist for directions.

If a cavity is causing your toothache, you could try rinsing your mouth with warm water and using a toothpick to remove food from the cavity.

Do not use oil of cloves – clove oil can give short-term relief but long term is toxic to the nerve in the tooth and could lead to needing root canal treatment.

“If your pain is from nerve damage and you are getting the spontanous night pain try sleeping in a sitting position. The nerve and pulp chamber doesn’t get filled with fluid and blood and usually you don’t get that throbbing pain.

If the pain is from a broken tooth and you have an exposed nerve, if the nerve is still relatively healthy just covering it up will cause a great amount of relief. Take a piece of sugerless chewing gum chewed up and cover the nerve and tooth, it should help alot. I have had patients try it all to cover the nerve, shove cardboard in their tooth, air plane glue trying to seal the tooth, etc. but the sugarless chewing gum is your best temporary solution.”

If the pain is really, really bad and/or your gums or face are swollen, or there’s stuff oozing out around a tooth, or you have a fever, these may be signs of an infection or abscess. Please visit a doctor or, if that’s out of the question, the emergency department of your local hospital asap. You may need antibiotics to prevent the infection from getting worse and spreading.

Antibiotics kill the bacteria that are causing the swelling, tissue damage and infection and therefore help to relieve pain as well.

If you have cavities but cannot see a dentist yet due to fear or finances, you can find out how to stop cavities from getting worse here!

DIY Kits

Resist the temptation of superglue, and go for a dental repair kit instead. OK, it might mean an embarrassing encounter with a pharmacist, as well as having to face dentistry-related paraphernalia… but it really is a much safer choice. Boots stock the Dentanurse kit – click on the picture to find out more!

Have fun fixing teeth with this neat little kit, invented by a dentist… not a drill in sight! Which only goes to show that dentists are pussies.

Similar kits are available outside the UK – have a poke around your local drugstore for things like DenTek’s dental kits range (see below)!

To temporarily re-cement lost crowns (“caps”), bridges, or veneers, use a temporary dental cement, such as Dentek Thin Set (see below). Kerr Temp-Bond is stronger, but harder to get hold of (it tends to be sold in quantities more suitable to dental practices, rather than end consumers). But if money is no object, it can be ordered online. Denture adhesive (such as Fixodent in the US) may also hold crowns and bridges in place temporarily. If you’ve lost a temporary crown, it is always better to put it back on because it prevents tooth movement, and allows you to eat. If the temp crown fits the tooth well, and you can’t get to a pharmacy or drugstore, a simple toothpaste should be enough, although a denture cream is even better (but not everyone has that lying around).

You can check out DenTek’s range of repair and emergency kits below to see what kind of kits are available – similar kits are available from other manufacturers:

Toothache Kit:

Contents include Temparin temporary filling material (see below), cotton swabs, wooden applicator, toothache medication, and toothsaver. Caution: Do not use if there is throbbing pain or swelling in the affected area.

Be careful not to get the medication (eugenol a.k.a. oil of cloves) onto gums, tongue, and other soft tissue!

Temparin Temporary Filling Material:

For lost fillings: Wash affected area with warm water, dry with cotton swab. Using the wooden applicator, scoop a small amount of Temporary Filling Material and place into the cavity, pack tightly. Bite down and clench teeth together, lightly grinding a couple times to create a comfortable bite. Remove excess product from around area. Avoid chewing on repair for an hour to allow the material to set.

For loose crowns (caps) or inlays/onlays: Carefully rinse tooth area and inside of the crown, cap or inlay with warm water and dry thoroughly with cotton swab. Using wooden applicator, scoop a small amount of Temporary Filling Material and place evenly inside the crown, cap or inlay. Place the crown, cap or inlay on tooth and carefully bite down, applying enough pressure to secure in position. Use a toothbrush to gently clear excess material from around crown, cap or inlay. Avoid chewing for an hour to allow the material to set.

Caution: do not use this to make your own fillings for long-term use! If you don’t remove all the decay (not doable at home) beforehand, the decay will spread and result in a painful abscess. You’ve got a better chance of keeping the area clean if you don’t make your own fillings.

QuickStix Oral Pain Swabs (topical anaesthetic):

Contains 20% Benzocaine for maximum pain relief. Also safe to treat canker sores and sore gums.

Using the swab tip, apply a small amount of medication to the affected area including the surrounding gum or oral tissue. Use up to 4 times daily or as directed by a doctor or dentist.

Caution: Don’t use this product continuously. Do not use if you have a history of allergy to local anesthetics such as procaine, butacaine, benzocaine, or other “caine” anesthetics.

Thin Set Cap & Crown Cement:

See instructions for further details. ThinSet can also be used to temporarily recement veneers, not just crowns (“caps”).

Please note that such products are meant to be temporary measures – so don’t expect them to last long (4-5 days if you’re very lucky).

Stopping tooth decay from getting worse

“Preventing a cavity from getting worse involves some major changes to your eating and drinking habits.
Don’t eat ANYTHING between meals. Don’t sip on sodas or tea/coffee between meals. If you’re thirsty drink water. I’m assuming you get 4 meals a day here…

Next thing to do is when you’ve finished brushing your teeth, get a blob of paste on your finger (make sure you’re using Fluoride paste!) and rub it into the cavity. Do not spit or rinse after brushing.
Make sure that nothing goes into your mouth last thing at night after your toothbrush, (no innuendo here!). During the night your saliva is switched off so stuff lying on your teeth festers all night long.”

Cosmetic DIY Dentistry

If you’re up for an artistic challenge and you enjoy needlepoint, macrame, scrapbooking, and painting ceramic penguins, then Cosmetic Dentistry may be your thing!

Don’t succumb to societal ideals of beauty!

Set up your very own dental lab, with cosmetic teef from Imako!

Dr Bukk’s ministry is to end the suffering of those who look too good or too bad… whatever! Tired of looking so good? No? Then you might want to check out Imako ™ Cosmetic Teeth, which you can get from Dr. Bukk Inc.! Although this smacks of yet another novelty product, apparently it works rather well. As one of our readers has said:

“It is made by the same company that makes those “plastic” vampire teeth. They’re very popular for Halloween in the US. Anyway, it (imako) is a sort of thin shell that fits over a person’s natural teeth. It’s made (supposedly) to look like a perfect, straight set of upper teeth. Personally, I don’t think it looks all that realistic – the “teef” are bigger than my own, but it’s still a definite improvement in my case. It has a plastic backing which you melt in hot water, then mold to cover your teeth.”

You can even create your own faux partials! The review above was written when Imako was only available in a larger size, but now they’re also available in a smaller size which should look a lot more realistic if you have a smaller mouth.

Some caveats: they’re not suitable for eating with, and it doesn’t work if you have protruding (buck) teeth or any tooth that protrudes a lot, or if you have a cross bite (lower teeth out in front of uppers). Wearing them too much would also be bad for your gum health, so they should only be worn for special occasions (such as facing the world). For more info, see Imako’s site: Make Your Own Cosmetic Teeth!

If the whole cosmetic smile makeover is too much of a challenge, or if you’d like to just replace a single missing tooth, you could try TempTooth – a tooth replacement procedure that you can complete in minutes in the privacy of your own home! I asked one dentist what he makes of this product – here’s the answer:

“Yeah that looks interesting, but the esthetic results are a bit mixed. It sounds like some sort of thermoplastic tooth coloured material that people are warming up and adapting into the gap or perhaps a self-setting resin of some sort. I’d have to see the material and instructions to be able to say much more, but this wedging effect makes it sound like the material must be slightly pliable to try to lock into the undercuts around the teeth to keep it in place. It’s probably not the best thing to use, but in a pinch if it works in an emergency, why not hey? I just can’t comment on what long term effects something like that may have on the gums though.”

Pulling your own teeth

You shouldn’t attempt anything that’s more involved than the above in the home setting. The following is a post entitled “extractions at home” which appeared on our message board – and one dentist’s answer to it.

:?: “I need to know how to pull my own tooth. What tools should I use and what type of pain killers? Do not mention seeing a dentist in your reply.Also, I need to know how to fill your own teeth. Should I use portland cement? Also, I want to place shell teeth over a few front teeth. What glue should I use. Someone must know these answers. Also, I want to buy some fake teeth and hold them in place with wires. Also, I am presently munching cashews to get rid of my tooth abcess. It has been 3 days and my abcess has been diminishing! Now I need to protect my tooth, any ideas?”

:!: “Hi there,

I read all of your mail, so please read all of this one! I know you expected a response like this and don’t really want to hear it, but it is all true.

When I was a dental student they showed us pictures of a dentist who did his own treatment. He did it in the surgery (not at home) and obviously was a qualified dentist. His teeth looked terrible and he ended up losing several of them. :-[ I have also heard stories of dentists trying to do their own extractions, using the correct tools they still get themselves into alot of bother and end up having to admit to their colleagues that they have made things worse by trying to save the embarassment of going for an extraction. :-X No one ever considers the dentists out there who need dental treatment, alot of them have issues about it too!!

I don’t know the reasons why you previously did not want to go to a dentist, but unfortunately DIY dentistry will not now solve your problem. At home you could never remove all the decay in a tooth before filling it, and anything you placed in the tooth would leak, or kill the nerve. If you attempted an extraction you could end up fracturing the tooth making it harder to get out when it flares up again, or you could cause a serious infection by using things in your mouth which are not sterile. All the techniques we use in the surgery are tried and tested – and safe.

Remember even dentists need dentists! Please do not try to do this on your own. Go to the dentist and at least talk things through. It will be less painful, look better and cost you less in terms of your general health and in finances in the long run.

I know that you did not want this type of response! However I know that you know that all of this is true. There is no quick fix. I apologise for disregarding your request for no ‘go to the dentist’ responses but I really felt that these things had to be said. I also cannot answer any of your other questions for the reason that there is no good answer. There is nothing that you could do at home that wouldn’t be extremely risky to your dental and general health. Sorry.

I do hope that you manage to get things sorted out. You may even be surprised by how much easier it all is after you have talked things through with a dentist you can relate to. You can obviously handle pain or you wouldn’t be considering such drastic action by your own hand. Anything you did to yourself would hurt 100 times more than it would in the surgery! So I know that you are no coward. Perhaps it is feeling out of control that is the problem? With the right dentist and the right management this need not be a problem – see how well so many others on this forum have got on.”

Further Reading:

Handling Dental Emergencies (Web MD)

“Where There is No Dentist”, by Murray Dickson, Michael Blake, Joan Thompson. Hesperian Foundation (1983). A rollicking good read, according to this rave review on

“Too bad there aren’t more writer’s of the same mind, filling in the gap between costly expertise and layman stricture. The book is a well-balanced work between hand drawn illustrations and simple, succinct text, explaining procedures for teeth cleaning, pulling, simple filling, broken teeth, etc… and describes how to construct the necessary instruments and materials out of what bits can be found at hand, for all the procedures. At one end, we pay for the dentist’s scent & muzak, at the other, with this book, they discard the intervening fluff and tripe and get something done themselves.”