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How do you stop a rotting tooth from smelling?

A rotting tooth can produce a foul odor that can be embarrassing and difficult to eliminate. The smell is caused by the anaerobic bacteria that thrive in the moist, oxygen-deprived environment of a decaying tooth. As the bacteria feed on the tooth structure, they produce sulfur compounds that have a potent rotten egg smell.

Stopping the smell requires treating the decay itself. This involves removing the decayed portions of the tooth and placing a filling to prevent further breakdown. Proper oral hygiene is also essential to keep the area clean and free of bacteria-feeding debris.

Here are some tips on how to stop a rotting tooth from smelling:

Get the decay treated

The most important step is to get the tooth decay professionally treated. This involves having the dentist remove all the decayed material and disinfect the area. Then a filling will be placed to close off the tooth surface and prevent further breakdown.

Without this treatment, the smell will continue as the bacteria have access to the interior of the tooth to feed. Dental fillings are impervious to bacteria and cut off their food supply. This will eventually starve out the bacteria and eliminate the odor.

Practice good oral hygiene

To help reduce odor in the short term, it’s important to keep the area as clean as possible. Meticulous oral hygiene will help dislodge debris and starve some of the odor-causing bacteria.

Be sure to brush twice daily, taking extra time to focus on the area around the decayed tooth. Use a soft-bristled brush and brush both the tooth’s surface as well as the space between teeth. Flossing is also essential to remove trapped food particles in hard-to-reach areas.

An antibacterial mouthwash can also help kill bacteria and freshen breath when used as part of daily oral hygiene.

Rinse with salt water

Salt water rinses are an easy, cheap way to help cleanse the area around a smelly tooth. The salt helps draw out fluid from the gums and dislodges debris and bacteria.

Stir a teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water. Swish a mouthful around the affected tooth for 30 seconds, then spit it out. Repeat with a few more mouthfuls then rinse your mouth with plain water. Do this 2-3 times a day.

Use dental products containing zinc

Zinc is a mineral known to help neutralize odor causing sulfur compounds. Look for toothpastes, mouthwashes and gels formulated for bad breath that contain zinc.

Zinc chloride is one common ingredient added to oral care products to help fight odor. Using a toothpaste containing zinc regularly will provide ongoing odor protection.

Chew sugar-free gum

Chewing gum stimulates saliva flow in your mouth. The extra saliva helps neutralize odors and wash away bacteria.

Choose a sugar-free gum to avoid worsening any tooth decay. Look for gum containing odor-fighting ingredients like zinc, tea tree oil, xylitol or peppermint.

Avoid strongly flavored gums like cinnamon which may worsen bad breath odors.

Use a sealed night guard

A custom night guard sealed over your teeth at night can help block odors from a decayed tooth. The tight seal limits oxygen flow, restricting bacteria growth and sulfur compound production.

Visit your dentist and get fitted for a durable, comfortable night guard to wear when sleeping. Make sure to keep it clean by brushing thoroughly each morning.

Try a bacteria-blocking oral rinse

Oral rinses containing chlorhexidine gluconate can help combat bad breath by killing and blocking bacteria. This antimicrobial ingredient adheres to surfaces in the mouth and prevents odor-causing bacteria from accumulating on teeth, gums, cheeks and tongue.

Use an antibacterial rinse like Peridex once or twice a day, swishing it around your mouth for 30-60 seconds before spitting it out. Use mouthwash without alcohol to avoid drying out your mouth.

Apply tooth sealant

If the smelly decay is in a hard to reach spot like in between teeth, your dentist may apply a protective plastic sealant. This liquid plastic flows over the uneven surface of the tooth and hardens to form a barrier.

Sealants keep food particles out and limit the bacteria’s food source. They are often applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth prone to decay development.

Get periodontal treatment

Gum disease can also contribute to foul odors emerging from a tooth. Infection and inflammation in the gums provides an anaerobic environment for odor-causing bacteria.

See a periodontist for deep cleanings to remove bacteria from below the gum line. Antibacterial mouth rinses are often prescribed to help control bacteria between dental visits.

Have an oral probiotic applied

Some newer dental therapies involve applying beneficial bacteria called probiotics to help crowd out and compete with odor-causing microbes.

After a professional dental cleaning, your dentist may place a probiotic gel in the under-gum pockets near the decayed tooth. These beneficial bacteria help neutralize odor and prevent more harmful bacteria from colonizing.

Use oral enzymes

Oral enzymes are proteins that help break down sulfur compounds and eliminate odors. Enzyme-containing gels and mouth sprays can be applied directly to the rotten tooth several times a day to attack odor production.

Products like Therabreath use the enzymes lactoperoxidase and glucose oxidase derived from papaya extract. Using these oral enzymes helps degrade sulfur compounds as they form to nip odors.

Have decay permanently removed

In some cases where the tooth decay is too severe, the only way to completely stop odor is to have the tooth extracted. Removing the rotten tooth eliminates the bacteria’s food source and shelter.

Your dentist will determine whether the tooth can be saved with restorative work or if extraction is the better option. An implant or bridge can be placed later on to replace the missing tooth.


A decaying, rotten tooth can produce strong odors that are uncomfortable and embarrassing. While good oral hygiene and over-the-counter products can provide temporary relief, only professional dental treatment can fully eliminate the smell.

Get prompt help from your dentist to remove decay and place a filling. Stay vigilant with brushing, flossing and using antibacterial rinses. With diligent home care and the help of your dentist, you can stop a smelly, rotten tooth in its tracks.

Method How it Helps
Get decay treated Removes decayed tissue and cuts off bacteria’s food source
Practice good oral hygiene Keeps area clean and reduces bacteria
Salt water rinses Cleanses area and dislodges debris
Use zinc products Zinc neutralizes sulfur odor compounds
Chew sugar-free gum Stimulates saliva flow to wash away bacteria
Wear a night guard Blocks oxygen to bacteria at night
Use antibacterial rinse Kills bacteria and prevents accumulation
Apply tooth sealant Blocks food particles from entering decayed area
Get periodontal treatment Removes bacteria under the gumline
Use oral probiotics Beneficial bacteria crowd out odor-causing ones
Apply oral enzymes Break down sulfur compounds that cause odor
Extract rotten tooth Removes bacteria’s food source and shelter