This one's an old at-home remedy, and it's completely false -- you should never put aspirin directly on or near an aching tooth. After all, you wouldn't put aspirin on your forehead if you had a headache, would you?
The only safe and effective way to take an aspirin tablet is to swallow it. When you swallow aspirin, it gets absorbed into your body through your digestive tract. It then enters your bloodstream and travels throughout your body. Aspirin works by stopping the production of prostaglandins, molecules that send pain messages from the injured part of your body to your brain. When the aspirin reaches your aching tooth, it inhibits prostaglandin production there, reducing the pain you feel [source: National Institutes of Health]. So even though it may be tempting to bypass the digestive process by putting the aspirin directly on your tooth, it just doesn't work that way.
Need another reason to put this ineffective rumor to rest? Placing aspirin directly on the aching tooth or your gums can cause an acidic chemical burn to your gums and lips. So if the pain of a toothache isn't bad enough, you'll have to deal with more pain when the aspirin leaves a sore in your mouth [source: Fries].
- American Dental Association. "Cleaning Your Teeth & Gums." (August 31, 2011). http://www.ada.org/2624.aspx
- Department of Health and Human Services. "Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General." May 25, 2000. (Sept. 8, 2011)http://silk.nih.gov/public/hck1ocv.@www.surgeon.fullrpt.pdf
- Dillon, Kara, RDH-E. "Unveiling Common Dental Myths." (August 24, 2011).http://www.adams-county-health-center.org/articles-dental/article-unveilingmyths.htm
- Doheny, Kathleen. "10 Toothbrushing Mistakes." WebMD. (Sept. 1, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-10/brushing-teeth-mistakes
- Fries, Wendy C. "15 Myths and Facts About Cavities." WebMD. (August 30, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-10/cavities-myths
- Johnston, Lori. "Can Teeth Whitening Become an Addiction?" WebMD. (Aug. 30, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/can-teeth-whitening-become-an-addiction
- National Institutes of Health. "Medicines by Design." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Aug. 31, 2011).http://publications.nigms.nih.gov/medbydesign/medbydesign.pdf
- Sohn, Woosung, D.D.S., Ph.D., Dr.P.H. and Amid I. Ismail, B.D.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. "Regular dental visits and dental anxiety in an adult dentate population." Journal of the American Dental Association, Vol 136, No 1, 58-66. (Sept. 8, 2011)http://jada.ada.org/content/136/1/58.full
- Today Health. "Secrets Your Dentist Hasn't Told You." April 1, 2008. (Aug. 31, 2011).http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23886665/ns/today-today_health/t/secrets-your-dentist-hasnt-told-you/#.Tl7Ayzsfxys
- WebMD. "Dental Health and Bad Breath." (Aug. 24, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/bad-breath
- WebMD. "Gum Problem Basics: Sore, Swollen, and Bleeding Gums." (Sept. 6, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/gum-problem-basics-sore-swollen-and-bleeding-gums
An abscessed tooth isn't very fun to deal with, but can an abscessed tooth kill you? Find out at HowStuffWorks.