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Toothaches: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Dental Health and Toothaches

A toothache is a pain in or around a tooth that may be caused by:

  • Tooth decay
  • Abscessed tooth
  • Tooth fracture
  • A damaged filling
  • Repetitive motions, such as chewing gum or grinding teeth
  • Infected gums
  • An injury

Symptoms of a toothache may include:

  • Tooth pain may be sharp, throbbing, or constant. In some people, pain results only when pressure is applied to the tooth.
  • Swelling around the tooth
  • Fever or headache
  • Foul-tasting drainage from the infected tooth

When Should I See a Dentist About a Toothache?

See your dentist as soon as possible about your toothache if:

  • You have a toothache that lasts longer than 1 or 2 days
  • Your toothache is severe
  • You have a fever, earache, or pain upon opening your mouth wide

Proper identification and treatment of dental infections is important to prevent its spread to other parts of the face and skull and possibly even to the bloodstream.

What Happens When I Go to the Dentist for a Toothache?

To treat your toothache, your dentist will first obtain your medical history. He or she will ask you questions about the pain, such as when the pain started, how severe it is, where the pain is located, what makes the pain worse, and what makes it better. Your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, gums, jaws, tongue, throat, sinuses, ears, nose, and neck. X-rays may be taken as well as other tests, depending on what your dentist suspects are causing your toothache.

What Treatments Are Available for a Toothache?

Treatment for a toothache depends on the cause. A root canal might be needed if the cause of the toothache is determined to be an infection of the tooth’s nerve. Bacteria that have worked their way into the inner aspects of the tooth cause such an infection. An antibiotic may be prescribed if there is a fever or swelling of the jaw.  Another alternative to a root canal would be an extraction of the tooth. Sometimes your dentist can also freeze you up to alleviate the pain for a few hours.

How Can Toothaches Be Prevented?

Since most toothaches are the result of deep tooth decay, following good oral hygiene practices can prevent toothaches. Good oral hygiene practices consist of brushing regularly with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, flossing once daily, rinsing once or twice a day with an antiseptic mouthwash, and seeing your dental hygienist as recommended for a professional cleaning. In addition to these practices, eat foods low in sugar and ask your dentist about sealants, fluoride applications, and our preventative High-Cavity Kits.

Common Questions & Answers

How do you stop a toothache at home?

  • Saltwater rinse. For many people, a saltwater rinse is an effective first-line treatment.
  • Hydrogen peroxide rinse. A hydrogen peroxide rinse may also help to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Cold compress.
  • Peppermint tea bags.
  • Garlic.
  • Vanilla extract.
  • Clove.
  • Guava leaves.

What is the best painkiller for a toothache?

Anti-inflammatory analgesics such as Ibuprofen are the best for toothache as the pain is usually caused by swelling. If you can’t take them – if you are allergic to aspirin, for example – then paracetamol is the next best thing.

What can I do for severe tooth pain?

  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater.
  • Gently floss to remove food or plaque between teeth.
  • Apply a cold compress to your jaw or cheek.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen.
  • Try home remedies for toothaches like clove oil to numb the gums.

Getting rid of a toothache at night

  • Use over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Keep your head elevated.
  • Avoid eating acidic, cold, or hard foods right before bed.
  • Rinse your teeth with mouthwash.
  • Use an ice pack before bed.

What can stop a toothache fast?

8 Proven Ways to Stop a Toothache and Relieve Pain Fast

  1. Apply a cold compress.
  2. Take an anti-inflammatory.
  3. Rinse with salt water.
  4. Use a hot pack.
  5. Try acupressure.
  6. Use peppermint tea bags.
  7. Try garlic.
  8. Rinse with a guava mouthwash.

Trusted Sources & Resources

Toothaches: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention – WebMD

Home Remedies for Toothache

Toothaches at Night: Treatment, Home Remedies, and Causes

10 Home and Natural Remedies for Toothache Pain

Toothache: First aid – Mayo Clinic

What causes a toothache? – Delta Dental

Dental Emergency Toothache Relief | Colgate® Oral Care


When in doubt, check it out

If you’re unsure of your health status, have multiple health problems or are pregnant, speak with your doctor before starting a new dental procedure. Working with your doctor ahead of time can help you plan the medical/dental treatment that’s right for you. And that’s a good first step on your path to oral health.

Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of something you have read on the Sherwood Dental website.

Medical Disclaimer


Dr. Rakesh Patel B.Sc., DDS on April 1, 2020