Toothache: self-care

Toothache (Aftercare Instructions) – What You Need to Know

Toothache: self-care

This material must not be used for commercial purposes, or in any hospital or medical facility. Failure to comply may result in legal action.


A toothache is pain that is caused by irritation of the nerves in the center of your tooth. The irritation may be caused by several problems, such as a cavity, an infection, a cracked tooth, or gum disease.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • You have swelling in your face or neck.

Contact your dentist if:

  • You have a fever and chills.
  • You have trouble opening or closing your mouth.
  • You have swelling around your tooth.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water 4 times a day or as directed.
  • Eat soft foods to help relieve pain caused by chewing.
  • Apply ice on your jaw or cheek for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

Help prevent a toothache:

  • Brush your teeth at least 2 times a day.
  • Use dental floss to clean between your teeth at least 1 time a day.
  • See your dentist regularly every 6 months for dental cleanings and oral exams.

Follow up with your dentist as directed:

You may be referred to a dental surgeon. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2020 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

IBM Watson Micromedex


4 Homemade Toothache Remedies | Colgate® Oral Care

Toothache: self-care

If a toothache strikes when you can't see your dentist – in the middle of the night – you may feel desperate to relieve the pain. For temporary relief, consider trying one of these homemade toothache remedies.

1. Cold Compresses

If your toothache is associated with swelling, holding a cold compress against the outside of your cheek (20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off) may provide some relief. Cold helps numb the area, which can relieve tooth pain; it also helps reduce swelling and inflammation, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Cold compresses may offer temporary relief and help you fall back asleep, but they won't address the root cause of your toothache. If you have a cavity or another dental problem, it won't get better until you see your dentist.

2. Clove Oil

Clove oil can be used to temporarily reduce pain and swelling associated with a toothache. For this homemade toothache remedy, dip a cotton ball in clove oil and soak up a few drops. Gently rub the cotton ball over the sore area of your tooth and gums.

Clove oil contains eugenol, a natural anesthetic, which is why this remedy works. However, clove oil only helps with the pain of your toothache; it won't cure the underlying problem. Clove oil also tastes bad, so this remedy may be unpleasant to try.

3. Salt Water Rinses

If your tooth hurts and your gums are swollen, rinsing your mouth with warm, salt water may offer some relief. Add a couple teaspoons of salt to a cup of warm water. Swish the mixture around your mouth and then spit it out.

While both hot and cold water can be uncomfortable when you have a toothache, warm water is soothing. The warm water helps ease the pain, and the salt helps to reduce the swelling in your gum tissue. Again, these effects are only temporary.

4. Tooth Pain Medications

To cope with the pain of a toothache, you can take over-the-counter pain medications according to the package directions. It's important that you don't hold the medication against your sore tooth since this can burn the nearby gum tissue and lead to further discomfort.

Pain medications can keep you comfortable while you're waiting for your dentist appointment, but other home remedies, they're not a long-term solution. If you medicate your pain and don't seek treatment, your tooth could get worse.

When to See a Dentist

The American Dental Association recommends having your toothache evaluated immediately by a dentist, so make an appointment right away.

Dentists often leave time slots available for emergency patients, so you may be able to get a same-day appointment.

If you have any symptoms of a tooth abscess – a fever, facial swelling or incessant pain in your tooth – and can't be seen by your dentist, visit the emergency room for treatment.

Toothache Prevention

While several dental conditions can cause toothaches, cavities are the most ly cause. Fortunately, there are many things you can do at home to protect your teeth from cavities.

Brush your teeth twice per day with your Colgate® 360°® Enamel Health™ Sensitive Toothbrush which has extra soft bristles especially for sensitive gums, and remember to floss. It's also important to visit your dentist regularly for checkups.

If you develop a cavity, it can be detected and treated before it gives you a painful toothache.

Homemade toothache remedies can keep you comfortable while you wait for your dentist appointment, but they don't get to the root of the problem.


Toothache: self-care

Toothache: self-care

Toothache is a common dental complaint. Pain may be felt in the affected tooth; however, in some people, the pain may feel it is coming from your head, sinuses, jaw or ear. Most people describe the pain as throbbing and continuous. Sometimes pain and swelling in the jaw can be a sign of a tooth infection or abscess.

Toothache is usually caused by dental decay, which is in turn caused by acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. These acids break down sugars and attack tooth enamel.

The corrosion of tooth enamel can mean exposure of the nerve endings in your teeth, which is why you feel pain.

Toothache can also occur because of broken teeth, a lost filling, a recently restored tooth, or due to sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus cavities behind the face).

Typically, you feel toothache when chewing and your teeth may be sensitive to hot or cold food. Depending on the severity, people may also develop bleeding around the tooth or gums.

If pain improves, the nerve ending may have died. However, tooth decay does not go away and your tooth will continue decaying unless a dentist treats it.

If pain intensifies or there is swelling, the tissues surrounding your tooth could be infected and require treatment.

Although good oral hygiene is important in preventing tooth decay, other reasons, such as hereditary factors and lack of saliva, can also cause it. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay because it neutralises acids and helps clear acids and bacteria from your mouth.

Regular dental check-ups can prevent dental decay and major dental surgery, such as root canal treatments.

See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional

  • if you have inflammation (redness), abscess or fever
  • if you feel generally unwell
  • if you have a swollen jaw or face
  • if you have an injury caused by trauma, such as a blow to the mouth
  • if you have other symptoms, such as dry eyes and dry mouth
  • if the person with tooth pain is elderly, or a child
  • if you take other medicines that cause a dry mouth
  • if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as some medicines may not be suitable

Treatment Tips

Tips for healthy teeth and gums:

  • brush your teeth twice daily and gently brush your gums and tongue
  • fluoride in toothpaste and water can help prevent tooth decay
  • dental floss and interdental brushes help reduce tooth decay by removing food and plaque from between your teeth
  • mouthwashes containing antiseptics temporarily lower the number of bacteria in your saliva
  • people with sensitive teeth often have different reactions to toothpastes designed for sensitive teeth, and may have to try a number of products before they find one that suits them
  • use a soft toothbrush to prevent damaging your gums
  • chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva production
  • saliva substitute products can help manage dry mouth (Biotene, Hamilton Aquae); check with your pharmacist
  • limit sugary foods and drinks
  • do not smoke
  • visit a dentist regularly (every 6 months)

Treatment Options

  • use temporary pain relief until you visit a dentist
  • do not use aspirin for tooth pain as this can increase the risk of bleeding when your dentist treats you
  • always tell your dentist which pain reliever you have taken before they treat you
  • some pain relievers are not suitable for everyone; check with your pharmacist
  • apply a cold compress against the cheek to reduce swelling
  • avoid very hot or cold foods

Oral pain relievers (analgesics)


e.g. paracetamol [smaller packs] (Panadol Tablets/ Mini Caps, Panadol Optizorb Caplets/ Tablets, Panadol Rapid Caplets/ Soluble Tablets, Herron Gold Tablets); paracetamol for children (Panadol Children 7+ Years Soluble Tablets)


paracetamol [larger pack sizes] (Panadol, Panamax, Panadol Optizorb Caplets/ Tablets, Panadol Rapid Caplets); paracetamol for children (Panadol Children 3+ Years Chewable Tablets); paracetamol liquid preparations (Dymadon for Babies 1 Month-2 Years, Dymadon for Kids Suspension 2-12 Years, Panadol Children 1 Month-1 Year Baby Drops, Panadol Children 1-5 Years Suspension, Panadol 5-12 Years Suspension, Panamax Elixir)

  • paracetamol is a safe choice for most people but it is important not to take more than recommended
  • paracetamol is an ingredient in many cold and flu remedies, so be careful not to double dose
  • the maximum daily dose for an adult is 4 g (4000 mg), and no more than 1 g (1000 mg) every four hours
  • see manufacturer’s directions for children’s doses (dose by weight for children)

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

e.g. ibuprofen [smaller packs] (Nurofen Tablets/ Caplets/ Liquid Capsules, Nurofen Zavance, Advil Tablets/ Liquid Capsules, Herron Blue Tablets); ibuprofen for children (Nurofen for Children 7+ Years Chewable Capsules)


ibuprofen [larger pack sizes] (Advil Liquid Capsules, Nurofen Tablets/ Caplets/ Liquid Capsules, Nurofen Zavance, Rafen); ibuprofen suspension (Advil Pain & Fever Infant Drops, Advil Pain & Fever Relief Oral Suspension, Dimetapp Children’s Pain & Fever Relief Ibuprofen Oral Suspension, Nurofen for Children Baby Drops 3+ Months, Nurofen for Children 3 Months-5 Years, Nurofen for Children 5-12 Years); diclofenac (Voltaren Rapid 12.5); naproxen (Naprogesic)

e.g. ibuprofen [higher strength] (Nurofen Zavance 400 Double Strength Tablets, Advil 400 Double Strength Caplets, Advil 12 Hour Extended Release Tablets); diclofenac 25 mg (Voltaren Rapid 25)

e.g. diclofenac, higher strength (Voltaren Rapid 50 mg); celecoxib (Celebrex); ibuprofen, larger pack size (Brufen) and others

  • NSAIDs relieve pain and reduce inflammation (redness)
  • ibuprofen has been recommended for dental pain
  • paracetamol and NSAIDs can be used together as they work differently. They are usually given at different times; see your pharmacist for dosing advice
  • do not use aspirin for tooth pain as it can increase the risk of bleeding when your dentist treats you
  • NSAIDs are not suitable for everyone. Check with your pharmacist before taking NSAIDs if you:
    • have a history of stomach problems, such as ulcers or indigestion
    • have asthma; some people with asthma find their condition is made worse by these types of medicines
    • have kidney problems or a heart condition
    • take other medications (e.g. for blood pressure, arthritis or sports injuries; lithium or warfarin)
    • have an allergy to aspirin or NSAIDs
    • are pregnant or breastfeeding
    • are dehydrated

Sometimes NSAIDs can cause side effects. It is important to take these products with a glass of water and food to minimise heartburn. If you develop indigestion, or unusual or increased bleeding or bruising, stop taking them and talk to your pharmacist.

Paracetamol + caffeine

e.g. paracetamol and caffeine [smaller packs] (Panadol Extra Caplets, Panadol Extra Optizorb Caplets)


 paracetamol and caffeine [larger pack sizes] (Panadol Extra Caplets, Panadol Extra Optizorb Caplets)

  • caffeine acts on paracetamol to increase its effectiveness
  • if you have caffeine-containing drinks while taking this medicine, you may experience caffeine-related side effects, including sleeplessness

Paracetamol + ibuprofen


 paracetamol and ibuprofen [smaller packs] (Nuromol, Combigesic, Ibupane, Maxigesic and Mersynofen)

e.g. paracetamol and ibuprofen [larger pack sizes] (Nuromol, Combigesic, Ibupane, Fenmol, Maxigesic and Mersynofen)

  • these products contain two ingredients that relieve pain in different ways
  • try single-ingredient products first, and if these do not give adequate pain relief, then consider trying combination products
  • see the warnings above relating to individual ingredients, particularly for ibuprofen – see  NSAID warnings above
  • be careful with combined paracetamol and ibuprofen products as different brands have different doses, dosing instructions and maximum daily doses, check with your pharmacist
  • don’t take combination analgesics with other single ingredient analgesic products, in case you double up and increase your risk of side effects
  • always follow the directions on the packet and do not take more than the recommended dose

Ibuprofen + codeine

e.g. packets of 24 or fewer (Nurofen Plus, Panafen Plus)

Paracetamol + codeine

e.g. packets of 24 or fewer (Codapane Forte, Panadeine);  larger pack sizes (Codalgin Forte, Mersyndol Day Strength, Panadeine Extra, Panamax Co)

Analgesic+ Sedating Antihistamine

e.g. Mersyndol

  • these medicines are used for moderate pain and contain two or more ingredients that relieve pain in different ways
  • see the warnings above relating to individual ingredients, particularly for ibuprofen
  • codeine reduces perception of your pain by blocking pain signals from nerves in your body
  • products containing codeine may cause constipation
  • products containing a sedating antihistamine can make you drowsy; do not drive when taking them, and avoid alcohol. They may not be appropriate for people with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications
  • always follow the directions on the packet and do not take more than the recommended dose

Topical pain relief


local anaesthetic benzocaine (Nyal Toothache Drops); benzocaine + clove oil (Oral-eze Dental Emergency Toothache Medication)

  • apply drops to the affected tooth with a cotton wool swab
  • clove oil is irritating and may damage gum tissue and teeth
  • keep clove oil reach of children as it is harmful if swallowed
  • not to be used for longer than 48 hours

More Information

Availability of medicines

  • GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
  • PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
  • PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.
  • PRESCRIPTION ONLY available only with a prescription from your doctor or other health professional.

Search myDr for Consumer Medicine Information



Causes of Tooth Pain

Toothache: self-care

While tooth decay is often the primary cause of a toothache, it’s important for you to have a complete oral examination to determine the cause.

Other causes of a toothache can include the following:

  • Infection
  • Gum disease
  • Grinding teeth (bruxism)
  • Tooth trauma
  • An abnormal bite
  • Tooth eruption (in babies and school-age children)
  • TMJ/TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder), sinus or ear infections, and tension in the facial muscles can cause discomfort that resembles a toothache, but often these health problems are accompanied by a headache.

Pain around the teeth and the jaws can be symptoms of heart disease such as angina. If your dentist suspects a medical illness could be the cause of your toothache, he or she may refer you to a physician.

If you have a toothache, you may have a cavity or advanced gum disease. The first sign of decay may be the pain you feel when you eat something sweet, very cold or very hot. If the pulp – the inside of the tooth that has tissue and nerves – has become irritated, this can cause pain in your tooth.

Because the symptoms of a toothache may resemble other medical conditions or dental problems, it can be difficult to diagnose the cause without a complete evaluation by your dentist.

If you notice pus near the source of the pain, your tooth may have become abscessed, causing the surrounding bone to become infected.

Or the pus could indicate gum disease, which is usually characterized by inflammation of the soft tissue, bleeding gums and abnormal loss of bone surrounding the teeth.

Contact your dentist immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Swelling around the tooth area
  • Pain when you bite
  • A foul-tasting discharge
  • Continuous lasting pain

How do I alleviate the pain if I cannot see my dentist right away?

Anyone with a toothache should see a dentist at once for diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, a toothache and the condition that is causing it can worsen. However, if you are unable to schedule an emergency appointment, the following self-care treatment can temporarily alleviate pain and inflammation from a toothache:

  • Rinse with warm salt water
  • Gently floss teeth to dislodge any food particles trapped between teeth.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to relieve pain.
  • Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth, as it may burn the gum tissue.
  • Apply an over-the-counter antiseptic containing benzocaine directly to the irritated tooth and gum to temporarily relieve pain. Direct application of oil of cloves (eugenol) may also help to numb the gums. The oil may be rubbed directly on the sore area, or soak a small piece of cotton and apply it to the sore tooth.
  • If there has been some trauma to the tooth, a cold compress may be applied on the outside cheek to relieve pain or swelling.

Your dentist will conduct a complete oral examination to determine the location and cause of the toothache, looking for signs of swelling, redness and obvious tooth damage. He or she may also take x-rays to look for evidence of tooth decay between teeth, a cracked or impacted tooth or a disorder of the underlying bone.

Your dentist also may prescribe pain medication or antibiotics to speed the healing of your toothache. If by the time you see your dentist your tooth has become infected, then treatment could require removal of the tooth or a root canal procedure, which involves removing the damaged nerve tissue from the middle of a tooth.

The key to preventing toothaches is establishing a regular oral hygiene routine and sticking to it. For example, failure to brush and floss regularly after meals can significantly increase your risk of developing cavities, which can cause toothaches.

Here are a few tips to help reduce your risk for developing a toothache:

  • Brush at least twice a day, preferably after meals and snacks.
  • Floss at least once a day to prevent gum disease.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for oral examinations and a professional cleaning


The pain of a toothache can be felt in the tooth itself or in the region around the tooth. Most toothaches are usually the result of either a cavity or an infection beneath or around the gum of a tooth. Insufficient oxygen to the heart as experienced with angina or a heart attack can also cause a toothache. A toothache is common after having corrective dental work on a tooth, but should not last longer than a week. (If it does, inform the dentist.)

Because these may lead to a toothache if left unchecked, tell your dentist if you notice any of the following:

  • Sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods
  • Brown spots or little holes on a tooth
  • A change in your bite (the way your teeth fit together)
  • Loose teeth in an adult
Ask Yourself: Yes No
Do you have any of these problems with the tooth pain:
  • Gnawing pain in the lower teeth or neck
  • Chest discomfort beneath the breast bone
  • Pain that travels to or is felt in the shoulder or arm
  • Sweating
  • Seek emergency care Go to next question
    Are any of the following symptoms present:
  • Fever
  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums
  • Swollen face
  • Foul breath even after thorough brushing and flossing
  • Constant toothache even when sleeping at night
  • Toothache only when eating or just after eating
  • See doctor Provide self-care(see below)

    Self-Care Procedures:

    • To reduce discomfort, take aspirin or another mild pain reliever. Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger, unless directed by a physician, due to its association with Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.
    • Hold an ice pack on the jaw. This will relieve some of the pain.
    • Never place a crushed aspirin on the tooth. Aspirin burns the gums and destroys tooth enamel.
    • Do not drink extremely hot or cold liquids.
    • Do not chew gum.
    • Avoid sweets, soft drinks and hot and spicy foods. (These can irritate cavities and increase pain.) It may be best not to eat at all until you see your doctor.
    • Gargle with warm salt water every hour.
    • For a cavity, pack it with a piece of sterile cotton soaked in oil of cloves (available at drugstores).
    • See a dentist even if the pain subsides.

    Note: To print this document, click on this frame, then choose File –> Print Frame or Print.

    Copyright © 1996 Don R. Powell, Ph.D. From The American Institute for Preventive Medicine's Self-Care: Your Family Guide to Symptoms and How to Treat Them, by arrangement with People�s Medical Society.

    WebMD terms and conditions.

    “,”author”:null,”date_published”:null,”lead_image_url”:null,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:””,”domain”:””,”excerpt”:”The pain of a toothache can be felt in the tooth itself or in the region around the tooth. Most toothaches are usually the result of either a cavity or an infection beneath or around the gum of a…”,”word_count”:1,”direction”:””,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}


    Toothache: First aid

    Toothache: self-care

    Tooth decay is the primary cause of toothaches for most children and adults. Bacteria that live in your mouth thrive on the sugars and starches in the food you eat. These bacteria form a sticky plaque that clings to the surface of your teeth.

    Acids produced by the bacteria in plaque can eat through the hard, white coating on the outside of your teeth (enamel), creating a cavity. The first sign of decay may be a sensation of pain when you eat something sweet, very cold or very hot. Sometimes decay will show as a brown or white spot on the tooth.

    Other causes of a toothache can include:

    • An accumulation of food and debris between your teeth, especially if your teeth have spaces between them
    • Inflammation or infection at the root of the tooth or in the gums
    • Trauma to the tooth, including injury or grinding your teeth
    • Sudden fracture of the tooth or tooth root
    • A split in the tooth that occurs over time
    • Teeth that start to appear (erupt) through the gums, such as with teething or wisdom teeth that don't have enough room to emerge or develop normally (impacted wisdom teeth)
    • A sinus infection that can be felt as pain in the teeth

    A toothache often requires some sort of treatment by your dentist.

    Self-care tips

    Until you can see your dentist, try these self-care tips for a toothache:

    • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
    • Use dental floss to remove any food particles or plaque wedged between your teeth.
    • Consider taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever to dull the ache, but don't place aspirin or another painkiller directly against your gums because it may burn your gum tissue.
    • If the toothache is caused by trauma to the tooth, apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek.

    Use caution with products containing benzocaine

    Previous advice included sparingly applying an OTC antiseptic containing benzocaine directly to the irritated tooth and gum for temporary relief. But benzocaine has been linked to a rare and serious, sometimes deadly, condition called methemoglobinemia, which decreases the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry. So follow these guidelines:

    • Talk to your dentist or doctor before using an OTC antiseptic containing benzocaine.
    • Don't use any products that contain benzocaine — such as teething gels with benzocaine (Anbesol, Orabase, Orajel, others) — in children younger than 2 years old.
    • Never use more than the recommended dose of benzocaine.
    • Store products containing benzocaine the reach of children.

    Call your dentist

    Call your dentist immediately if you have any of the following with a toothache:

    • Pain that persists for more than a day or two
    • Fever
    • Signs and symptoms of infection, such as swelling, pain when you bite, red gums or a foul-tasting discharge
    • Trouble breathing or swallowing

    Last Updated Jun 8, 2018

    ©1998-2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of Use