John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

Benzocaine vs. Clove oil – On two approaches to tooth pain

April 10th, 2010


Obviously, a toothache is first and foremost an indication that one needs to get to the dentist – but whether for financial or temporal limitations, sometimes we have to sit around for a while waiting for a chance to see the real medical professionals.  That said, the time frame between the onset of symptoms and treatment is an incredibly miserable period.  There’s something unique about tooth pain that makes concentration and relaxation almost impossible!

Anyway, this throbbing upper molar had been driving me nuts for a few days now and its probably going to be a while until I can scrap together enough cash to cover the uninsured costs of major dental surgery.  I’m just kind of assuming the issue will be expensive because the tooth in question already had a filling put in it once and this pain is much, much worse.

Benzocaine Marketing

Now obviously, if you think about something to temporarily fix a toothache you’re probably thinking of Orajel or one of the many similar products with a big marketing budget.  That’s sort of why they spent so much on advertising in the first place!

But I don’t like to go with the flow unless I know exactly what I’m getting in to.  So I had to do a bit of research to figure out exactly what the active ingredient was doing.

Unfortunately, benzocaine is one of the chemicals tied to a condition called methemoglobinemia:  the excessive presence of methemoglobin in the blood stream.  Unfortunately, methemoglobin won’t bind to oxygen and tissue starts to die from hypoxia.  Unfortunately again:  the 20% concentration of most oral pain killers is plenty to get in to your blood stream and trigger production of methemoglobin.  That might not even be the worst of it, because it suppresses the gag reflex and can lead on to fluids in the lungs.  It is considered particularly dangerous to use benzocaine, drink something, and go to bed.

So what, my tooth still hurts!

Now now… I haven’t forgotten about that horrific tooth pain, I just wanted to figure out if the common solution was the best solution or just the one with the biggest advertising budget.

There are other choices available with much less risk, you just have to look around a bit.

This is where clove oil comes in.  The oil of cloves has been used for thousands of years in various medical situations and still occasionally in dentistry because it is extremely effective in killing pain, and has an added bonus of killing off infections. Yup, it is both an analgesic and an antiseptic, and the lethal dose would probably be about an ounce of pure stuff swallowed in a short period of time. Sure, its potent enough to be dangerous in extremely large quantities, but there really are no known side effects at the effective dose (other than the rare instance of allergy that can pop up with almost any medication or food.)

Yeah, does it work?

Well, I’m writing again, aren’t I?

I managed to find some clove oil at the local CVS, and once applied to a bit of cotton and placed on the painful tooth, the stabbing sensation seemed to vanish immediately.  The taste is extremely strong and bitter, but almost in a pleasant way.  Remember, cloves are primarily used in cooking:  either as a potent spice or as the primary component in what we westerners like to call chai tea.

The pain didn’t come back before I went to bed a few hours later.  I slept very well, and to my own amazement there wasn’t even any pain when I woke up.  12 hours after the first dose, there wasn’t the slightest hint of the tooth ache that had been driving me insane.

Perhaps most comforting of all, is that the swelling in my gums near the affected tooth is drastically reduced.  Now I’m starting to wonder if it was a cavity at all, or if it was really some kind of gum infection that the antiseptic properties of cloves can actually cure.

Either way, I’m saving up for that trip to the dentist.  You know, just in case!

Taco and Cookie Diets? Really?

January 4th, 2010

One expected feature of a society in crisis is that people would start to learn about their mistakes and apply scientific logic to solutions when it becomes apparent that the ‘magic cures’ offered during an unraveling were as ineffective as snake oil.

Now, I’m not saying that its impossible to lose weight by eating at Taco Bell – there are just much healthier and cost-effective ways to drop a few pounds.  Of course, if you eat the dry meat-free burrito or whatever they’re trying to pass off as a healthy alternative, you’re going to consume fewer calories and you might even be nauseous enough to avoid further hunger cravings.  On the other hand, if you spent a little while cooking you could make your own mix of fresh veggies in a wrap – without two days worth of salt that comes with the Bell.

So it was bad enough to see that Taco Bell is trying to push a healthy image for their particularly unhealthy food, but imagine my surprise this morning when I saw commercials for a cookie diet.  They looked like they were probably made out of oatmeal, but the message they’re selling this year is all about the gain without the pain.

If your only goal is to lose weight, all you have to do is spend more calories than you consume.  Easy simple stuff.  Fats and sugars have the most calories, so analyze your typical diet and find the foods that tempt you there.  Find some way to create your own replacement with fewer calories or simply find a new favorite you can enjoy with less guilt.


Even if you just want to lose weight for purely superficial reasons and don’t care about the health benefits, you still need to exercise!  Skinny might be better than fat, but our human aesthetic sense still evaluates an entire health picture.  Plenty of men recoil from the sight of ‘supermodels’ who look like they desperately need a sandwich.  This also helps burn the calories, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to add that double-chocolate milkshake to your reasonable dinner.


Yeah, its still important to find diet foods that make you happy.  Eating is a simple and essential pleasure in life, so try different stuff until you can balance your caloric needs with what your taste buds tolerate.  If this means an occassional trip to Taco Bell or an oatmeal cookie, that’s probably not the worst thing that could happen.  Just don’t expect to eat a half dozen chalupas every night while thinking a few situps will help offset the ‘slip.’

Worried about CO2? Don’t Look at Your Water

December 8th, 2009

I’ll just come out and say it – I think Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and the fear of global warming is the biggest distraction to ever derail environmentalism.

CO2 is an extremely common chemical – its a natural component of our atmosphere, its essential for plants, and its a constantly produced byproduct of non-plant life.  Yes – it has greenhouse properties, but its just one of thousands of warming and cooling agents we daily add to the air. If we really wanted to deal with CO2 we would get cracking on the development of nuclear power sources or we’d plant more trees.  This nonsense with cap and trade is looking more and more like a power-grab by the established interests that won’t even do much to address the supposed problem.

Meanwhile, pay no attention to the actually toxic things inside the air or even your tap water.  Millions of Americans drink water contaminated with arsenic or uranium, but we’re holding a global political conference to discuss the gas you exhale.  Its not just toxic elements either, we’ve also got this growing issue of drugs and pharmacuetical waste ending up in the water supply.  It doesn’t just affect humans drinking tap water and coffee, it also effects the river and ocean life that props our whole ecosystem up. To get a new drug approved, you pretty much just have to prove that its less lethal than the disease its supposed to treat – but this says nothing about the toxicity these chemical delivers to otherwise healthy fish, plants, and human individuals.

So we strip mine the rainforests – we let the toxic debris run off into our once pristine rivers and seas.  We continue to overfish the oceans and watch as our sonars drive dolphins & whales insane.  We have literal piles of radioactive coal ash lying around near our towns and cities, and we have hundreds of locations in this country deemed unfit for habitation or agriculture.

But holy crap, we have to do something about that CO2 in the atmosphere! We have slightly more of it than we used to – even though we really don’t have that much if you’re considering a real geological time-scale.

So the fish are deformed, the trees are diseased, and every one of us is drugged from you to me to my pet dog over there.  I hear it will all be ok, if we just get a lid on that evil carbon dioxide…

My Prescription for the Flu

November 3rd, 2009

Well, something hit me.  It was just a matter of time since Aisling caught it first and she’s been lying around the house sick for a week, but I was hopeful it would pass over me with some minor symptoms.

Now obviously, its probably a good idea to actually talk to a doctor if the sickness gets real bad or continues to get worse for more than a few days.  I’m kind of busy though, so I don’t have time for a prolonged illness – and luckily I had plenty of supplies on hand to deal with it.

Hot Tea, Hot Food, Hot Showers, Sleep, Repeat

It hit when I woke up Sunday morning to a bad taste in my mouth and aching muscles.  First thing was first, I sprayed some lemon juice extract down the throat and swished it around a bit.  Its a little strong, but it knocked the bad taste out immediately and probably put a major block on the infection’s momentum.

Next step is to brew up some green tea.  Coincidentally, it happens to taste great with some of that lemon juice.  After a few big mugs of that, I was finally awake and at least a little bit hungry.

Well, the processed soup won’t work because the wheat would make me even sicker.  So I had to broil up a few steaks and steam some broccoli & carrots.  And it must have sit just right, because in the next 48 hours I would end up eating about 2 pounds of each one.

Of course, after lunch it was time to have a hot shower and head back to bed.

Another four hours of sleep is just enough to get the appetite back.  Eat some more greens, drink some fruit juice, and head back to bed for the night.

By Monday morning, I was a little worried that the routine hadn’t worked.  I went for one more round of tea and grub, then headed straight back to bed.  When I woke up at noon, I decided sleep was still a better idea.  Finally, when I got up Monday evening from my fourth consecutive nap, I knew the bug was as good as defeated.  The sinus pain was gone, the aching had dulled, and I finally had some energy and a clear head.