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Last Updated on February 22, 2023

Anbesol vs Orajel Toothache Relief Gel – A Detailed Comparison

When you get a cough, a cold sore, or a toothache, it can be a small thing that ruins your whole day. What you need is a pain reliever, but these days there are so many brands competing for your attention that it can be hard to figure out which one is the best. How do you even pick between the top name brand pain relievers?

The answer is that you let someone else do it for you. The comparison is between the leading brands of benzocaine-based local gel and liquid pain relievers: Anbesol and Orajel. These are the ones you are most likely to find when searching for an oral pain relief solution.

Anbesol vs Orajel at a Glance

Anbesol Advantages:

  • Higher Content of Benzocaine
  • Can be used on teething children
  • Lasts longer

Anbesol Disadvantages:

  • Still does not last long
  • Pain can worsen after it wears off
  • Potential side effects

Orajel Advantages:

  • Comes in more forms
  • Reportedly better tasting
  • Easier to apply

Orajel Disadvantages:

  • Unsafe for teething children
  • More filler ingredients
  • Potential side effects

Winner: Don’t want to read the full article? The editor’s choice is Anbesol.

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What’s the Difference Between Them?

There are several main differences between Anbesol and Orajel. Let’s take a look.

Benzocaine content

There is one significant difference you will notice by looking at the ingredients. It is the difference in the amount of benzocaine each brand uses in their products. Benzocaine is the main ingredient to both brands’ entire line of products.

Examining the benzocaine content of each product from either brand can tell you a lot about how it will feel to use. It will also tell you other things, such as how often it is meant to be used, and by what age groups.

Anbesol almost always has a benzocaine content of exactly 10% or exactly 20%. Compare this to Orajel, which is all over the place in terms of benzocaine content. There will be things like Orajel toothache gel, which has a benzocaine content of 20%, and then toothache rinse which has a content of .27%.

What you can take away from this is that Anbesol always uses percentages in increments of 10% while Orajel will use amounts of benzocaine measured in decimals of a single percentage. That means that the benzocaine content in Anbesol products is far higher, making them more effective for adults with serious pain around their mouths.

Conversely, Orajel has products that are for adults in pain, but it also has products for children in pain. A child should probably not use a product that is 20% benzocaine. They can, but only in a limited amount.

Winner: Anbesol generally has higher benzocaine content for more effective pain relief

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Another difference between the two products can be found in the ingredients: Orajel uses noticeably more flavorings and ingredients that are not as active as benzocaine. Some people might consider this a disadvantage since benzocaine is so effective. But it also means that the potential risks associated with benzocaine are mitigated better.

The two ingredients that Orajel usually mixes into its benzocaine-based treatments are zinc chloride and menthol. Menthol is there for flavor and to stimulate numbness. How does it “stimulate numbness”? Well, menthol is a mint flavoring, and mint is a flavor that people feel as well as taste. Essentially, the menthol flavor is there to make your mouth or gums highly sensitive at the same time the benzocaine numbs them.

The combination of the menthol flavor’s induced sensitivity and the benzocaine’s induced numbness is that you feel the sensation leaving the area you apply the mixture to.

Zinc chloride is used to stimulate the growth of cells that have dried out. Since the most common side effect of benzocaine is extreme dryness of the gums, zinc chloride is there to offset that side effect as it happens.

Winner: Orajel adds cooling menthol for a more pleasant application

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What relieves more pain?

When considering which product relieves more pain all you have to do is compare their benzocaine content. Anbesol simply has more benzocaine. Orajel waters their products down by having things like zinc chloride and menthol flavoring in their mixtures. The issue with that is that it is unnecessary to relieve pain.

Anbesol and Orajel both come with the same warnings and usage instructions. If you use Anbesol correctly, you will not suffer any side effects. That means that the extra ingredients that Orajel comes with are redundant; you do not need something to help you deal with side effects if you are already dealing with them by being careful.

Anbesol relieves more pain due to having more benzocaine, while Orajel forces you to pay for chemicals that you will not need. Because of this, the superior pain treatment is clear.

Winner: Anbesol tends to offer more effective pain relief

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Which is more versatile?

This is where all Orajel’s extra ingredients start to pay off big time. Because both Anbesol and Orajel are essentially just gel and liquid-based painkillers, one might wonder how they can be versatile. Isn’t the difference between their individual products just a matter of packaging?

In the world according to Anbesol, yes. Most Anbesol products are just different ways of getting their benzocaine to the part of your body that is hurting. Whether that is your lips through a cream or your gums through a gel, the only differences between products are those born of necessity.

Orajel does things a bit differently, and to great effect. Because Orajel uses lower contents of benzocaine, it can put that benzocaine in different forms and still deliver it to you safely. One of the big things about benzocaine is that it is unsafe to swallow. If you do, you may develop methemoglobinemia.

But if that is one of the risks of benzocaine, then how does Orajel make a cough drop out of it? Well, by two means: The first is by making benzocaine the active ingredient, but not the only ingredient. There is a shell around the benzocaine that makes it so that if it melts too fast (such as if it were exposed to stomach acids) the benzocaine is rendered inert. This is how Orajel makes its cough drops safe to use.

For that reason, not only is Orajel the more versatile brand, it is also the more functional one.

Winner: Orajel is more versatile and functional

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Measuring the safety of Anbesol and Orajel products is important, as their main ingredient is known to have some serious side effects. The most common of these is methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is an issue wherein too much oxygen is delivered in the blood. This can cause dizziness and disorientation.

These symptoms may not sound too bad and in most adults they will be fairly mild. The FDA has only recorded around 400 cases of methemoglobinemia since 1971. The issue, however, is not how methemoglobinemia affects “most adults”. The real problem arises when it affects people over the age of 50, and children under the age of 12.

When it comes to seniors and young minors, methemoglobinemia can have much more detrimental effects. This is relevant to Anbesol and Orajel since they are benzocaine-based pain relievers. Not only that, but both of them have products that are specifically aimed at teething babies.

An adult getting methemoglobinemia is no big deal. A baby getting methemoglobinemia can be lethal. Now, it is incredibly uncommon. The amount of benzocaine most parents use is rather low, and people generally know what to do if their baby comes down with methemoglobinemia or any other problems.

But the question is: Which brand does more to mitigate the risk of a baby suffering from methemoglobinemia caused by benzocaine? The answer to that is Orajel due to its lower benzocaine content and superior safety chemistry. Most Orajel that is meant for teething is watered down, making it hard to apply too much.

Winner: Orajel has lower benzocaine content so is slightly safer but both have minimal risks when used with care

Value per Item

Here is how some people, particularly governmental agencies, buy medicine: They do not wait for people to be in pain before they order medicine. Instead, they order a massive quantity of medicine in advance. This will usually include a wide variety of pain medications and ointments, particularly benzocaine-based pain relievers.

So, if you were to buy either a huge quantity of Anbesol or a huge quantity of Orajel, which one would give you more value for your money? As a consumer, buying an individual package of their most basic product might mislead you. Anbesol sells a package for $7 while Orajel sells one for $6. Easy win for Orajel, right?

Not quite. The most basic product Orajel sells is a toothache and gum gel that contains .25oz of product. The most basic product Anbesol sells is a general pain reliever that contains .41oz of product. So, per dollar, you are getting .17oz more product per dollar if you go with Anbesol than Orajel.

This is important if you are buying in bulk, as the individual price of an individual product does not matter as much. What does matter is how much bang you get for your buck? Take away the packaging and Anbesol is giving you more pain reliever for your dollar than Orajel is, meaning the victory for Orajel swiftly reverses.

Winner: Anbesol offers more value for money in our opinion


Another factor that consumers can sometimes overlook are the long-term storage capabilities of both the Anbesol and Orajel brands. This is another thing that the average consumer will probably not think about, but it is actually far more likely to impact them than the cost to weight ratio.

The way most people store their medicine is in a medicine cabinet. They will leave it there until they need it, and since their need for most medicine is rather small it is rare that they will run out except at the most dramatic and inconvenient times.

Most pharmaceuticals do not actually display an expiration date on their product. This is curious as most pharmaceuticals do, in fact, expire. Everything from cold medicine to painkillers expire eventually, though the former much sooner than later.

The reason why the expiration date is not listed on food is that many of the most active chemicals in any given pharmaceutical will not expire within a human lifetime. If a pill of aspirin can still work as a painkiller in one hundred years, why even mention that it can expire at all?

Well, because not everything lasts for a hundred years, and nothing is all that effective after just five years. Even though aspirin will not break down till a hundred years after it is made, it will still lose effectiveness every five years till then. At a certain point it will still be aspirin, but ineffective to humans.

Benzocaine-based painkillers abide by this same rule, but it is even more important with them. Consider how Orajel products have zinc chloride in them to help freshen cells that are dried out by the benzocaine. Not only does zinc chloride not last as long as benzocaine, but it actually should be stored at a different temperature.

Benzocaine needs to be stored at room temperature somewhere dry. Zinc chloride needs to be refrigerated. If it is not, its lifespan gets cut from two years to six months. That means that one of the safety features you are paying for when buying Oragel products will degrade four times faster than the benzocaine itself.

Anbesol does not have this problem, and so walks away as the winner by default.

Winner: Anbesol has a longer life span

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Orajel’s safety features are not useless. They are good for short-term applications, home uses, and uses with children. The benefits of a safety-minded pharmaceutical cannot be overstated, and Orajel products deserve your business if only for that.

But the hard truth of the matter is that both products are tested and very safe to use with correct application. You already know how to apply benzocaine-based pain relievers, and if you do not then it is not hard to learn. What you need is power, value, and reliability. And that is what Anbesol offers.

Final Verdict? We think Anbesol offers an overall more-effective choice.

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