Health and Fitness

Toothache: Its Cause And Home Remedies

Toothache is a pain affecting a tooth. It usually results from a fracture, gum disease, or cavities and mostly requires emergency care from a dentist. If you have a toothache and want a fast solution to relieve the pain at home while you wait for an appointment with your dentist, you can take pain medication like ibuprofen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin.

If the pain is intense or persists for more than a day or two, prevents you from opening your mouth, causes your face to drop and accompanied by an earache or fever, contact your dentist immediately.

Although toothaches are common, you can prevent an ache in your teeth resulting from cavities by having good oral hygiene, using remineralising toothpaste containing fluoride or hydroxyapatite, attend your dental check-ups, visit your dental hygienist regularly and avoid cavity-causing drinks and foods.

When you experience intense and unbearable tooth pain, you can either try to stop the pain or determine how soon you should see your dentist.

Below are ways to stop toothache quickly, the common causes of toothache, home remedies for the pain and possible treatments your dentist will recommend.

Symptoms of toothache

The symptoms of toothache include, but not limited to:

  • Pain that worsens when lying down
  • Fever headache
  • Throbbing, constant or sharp pain in the teeth
  • Swelling of the gums surrounding the tooth
  • Pain that occurs when you push the tooth with a dinger, tap the tooth or bite down
  • Smelly discharge from a tooth infection

How to quickly stop toothache

The fastest way to stop your toothache at home is to take effective pain relief medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can also take an NSAID to reduce the inflammation as it may be more effective than other painkillers.

This Advil toothache trick which dentists recommend, can provide fast relief for your toothache.

  • Take three Advil (600milligram), three times daily for three days

Best painkillers for toothache

Ibuprofen is one of the best painkillers to relieve toothache. If you take ibuprofen and the pain does not subside, try aspirin. Aspirin is also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Acetaminophen may not be suitable to relieve toothache because it is not an NSAID and cannot reduce the inflammation that results in tooth pain. Opioids and non-NSAIDs are not effective for relieving toothache pain.

If you take over-the-counter pain medication and it doesn’t stop the toothache, contact your dentist immediately as you may need other medication and treatment like an antibiotic.

The common cause of toothache

The following are common causes of pain in and around the teeth.

  • Tooth abscesses
  • Root sensitivity
  • Fractured tooth
  • Tooth decay or cavity
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Gum disease
  • A lost or damaged filling
  • Failed dental work
  • Sinus infection
  • Food stuck between the teeth
  • The eruption of wisdom or adult teeth

Dental abscesses

When you have an abscessed tooth, a pocket of pus accumulates at the root of the tooth because of a bacterial infection. Tooth abscesses usually cause intense tooth pain. You can have a tooth abscess after trauma to the teeth or an untreated cavity leading to infection.

In gum abscess (periodontal abscess), a pocket of pus accumulates in the gum, causing significant pain. A gum abscess is an advanced stage of gum disease, and it affects a lot of people.

The home remedies and treatment for a dental abscess is different, depending on the type of abscess you have.

Root sensitivity

Tooth root sensitivity may result in mild and infrequent tooth pain. If you experience tooth pain after taking a sugar drink or food, you may have tooth-root sensitivity. It usually occurs when the dentin becomes porous due to wearing the enamel from acid erosion or brushing the teeth aggressively.

Fractured tooth

An injury or trauma to the teeth may cause a tooth to chip or fracture. When you have a fractured tooth, it results in intense pain when you bite down and severe tooth sensitivity when you take hot or cold drinks and food

Tooth decay or cavity

 Cavities, also known as dental caries, result in tooth pain as the bacteria present in the teeth damage the dentin and enamel. The bacteria produce acid, which gets to the dentin and causes inflammation and swelling.

The tooth pain caused by cavities is unique because the swelling in the pulp cannot expand, leading to excruciating pain, which only stops when the swelling goes down.

Teeth grinding or clenching

Grinding and clenching your teeth while sleeping can cause toothache, sensitivity, and trauma that wears down the enamel and dentin, leading to tooth decay. The weakened dentine becomes prone to fracture, which also causes toothache


Over time, pain in the temporomandibular joint, also called TMD which affects the jaw, can also an ache in the teeth.

Gum disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, can cause gum recession, which exposes the upper part of a tooth root. When your tooth root is exposed to cold or hot foods and drinks, it will cause intense pain.

Gum disease will cause bleeding and, over time, cavities and other pain-related dental issues.

A lost or damaged filling

 If your dental filling falls out or gets damaged and your dentin becomes exposed, you may have a toothache. Ensure you schedule an appointment immediately, but the pain may subside when your saliva remineralises the exposed dentin. However, you still need to get treatment because this is not a permanent solution.

Failed dental work

After dental work, you may experience pulpitis, which causes tooth pain.  If you feel tooth pain after dental work, ensure you speak to your dentist about the pain.

Sinus infection

When your sinuses get inflamed or infected, it leads to tooth pain because of the pressure in the teeth and drainage. This pain usually affects the part of the teeth close to the back of the mouth, which is the part of the teeth closest to the sinuses.

If your teeth are infected, it may also cause a sinus infection, so you need to visit your dentist and primary care provider to know the cause of the pain.

Food stuck between the teeth

If you have food between your teeth, it may result in sensitivity and pain at the point your teeth and gum connects. The pain will be intense if you have receding gums.

Although this is not a toothache because the pain affects the gums, it usually feels like a toothache. Removing the stuck food with a knotted floss can help alleviate the pain. If you do not dislodge the food particle, it may cause tooth decay.

The eruption of wisdom or adult teeth

Even as an adult, teething comes with a lot of pain, but wisdom teeth’ eruption is more likely to cause intense pain. Most times, the wisdom or adult teeth do not have enough space to erupt, putting pressure on the surrounding teeth, leading to tooth pain.

Usually, pain from wisdom teeth occurs from food impaction problems resulting from teeth impaction or crowding. This may lead to a cavity because the teeth are not positioned close to one another, creating more space for tooth decay.

When you should see a dentist for toothache

A toothache may require you to see a dentist immediately, seek medical help within a few weeks, or follow the dentist’s advice when you have your next dental cleaning.

You should seek immediate dental care from your dentist under the following circumstances.

  • The tooth pain is severe, interfering with your normal activities like sleeping, talking, or eating
  • The ache lasts for a day or two
  • Your face looks fallen, droopy or distorted
  • You experience the pain alongside an earache, fever and cannot open your mouth wide
  • You experience difficulty swallowing or breathing

If you experience the symptoms above and can’t access the dentist within an hour, ensure you visit an emergency room.

You can call your dentist within the next couple of weeks if:

  • Your toothache started after you sustained an injury to your face, jaw, or mouth
  • You have a damaged or lost filling
  • You experience bleeding gums and other symptoms of gingivitis alongside tooth pain
  • The toothache affects 1 – 3 teeth instead of feeling the pain throughout your teeth.

If the toothache is mild, occurs with a sinus infection, clears as your nasal congestion subsides or subsides with changes in your diet, you may not need to schedule an appointment with your dentist.

However, it is still important to speak to your dentist about the pain during your next dental check-up.

Natural and home remedies for toothache

Although no certain remedy for severe toothache is available, some natural remedies can help alleviate toothache at home. They include:

  • Clove essential oil
  • Warm salt water rinse
  • Cold compress
  • Elevation
  • Benzocaine
  • Guava leaves
  • Peppermint tea
  • Acupuncture/acupressure
  • Wheatgrass juice
  • Knotted floss for food stuck in the teeth

How to sleep with tooth pain

Some remedies can help relieve extreme toothache at night to improve your quality of sleep.

  • Pain relievers

Pain medication like ibuprofen (aspirin) can temporarily reduce inflammation and tooth pain.

  • Topical numbing agents

A topical numbing paste or gel can reduce tooth pain causes bet an exposed nerve. These effective topical products like Orajel contain benzocaine, although they are not safe for children below two years.

  • Elevation

Elevating your head higher than other parts of your body can help reduce severe toothache, and when you lie flat, the pain caused by dental abscesses or cavities may worsen.

  • Avoid foods that trigger pain

Hard foods, such as sourdough bread, very cold and acidic food, usually irritate and worsens tooth pain, so it is best to avoid these foods at night.

  • Use an ice pack

Place a cold compress wrapped in a cloth on the side where you experience the toothache before you sleep, as this would help dull the pain by shrinking the blood vessels involved in the inflammatory response.

Diagnosing a toothache

If you experience toothache and it doesn’t subside after trying some home remedies, you may need to see your dentist to identify the underlying cause of the pain and treat it,

During the diagnosis, the dentist may:

  • Perform a physical examination of your gums, mouth, and teeth
  • Carryout an x-ray or CBCT to check for abscess or decay
  • Ask you the details of your symptoms, such as the location, severity and type of pain, what worsens the pain, relieves it and when the pain started.

When your dentist determines the cause of the toothache, they will prescribe a suitable treatment.

Treatment for toothache

Treatment for toothache differs. Depending on the cause of the toothache, the dentist may offer you any of these treatments.

  • Filling

The dentist may fill the cavity if it is a small or medium one, and the tooth root is still alive. Filling a cavity is possible after cleaning out the tooth.

  • Extraction

You may have a tooth extraction if you have a fractured tooth, tooth abscess, or large cavity, and you may need to get an implant afterwards to fill the space.

  • Extraction of wisdom teeth

If the cause of your toothache is an impacted wisdom tooth, you may need surgery to remove the wisdom tooth. This will relieve the pressure on other teeth, which causes pain.

  • Root canal

You may need a root canal if you have irreversible pulpitis resulting from a tooth abscess or large cavity. In a few cases, excruciating tooth pain signifies that you need a tooth extraction or root canal.

  • Antibiotics

Your dentist or an emergency room attendant may prescribe an antibiotic to shrink a large bacterial infection in the mouth before you get specialised treatment. Antibiotics do not stop toothache or cavities but offer temporary relief by reducing the infection to allow further treatment.

  • Abscess drainage

If you have a gum abscess, the dentist will drain, clean and treat the affected area to relieve the pain.

  • Desensitising toothpaste

If your toothache results from a tooth root sensitivity, your dentist may prescribe a toothpaste, requiring multiple applications to stop the pain.

  • Topical fluoride

If the pain results from root sensitivity, your dentist may prescribe a topical fluoride varnish or fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your dentin and rebuild your enamel. An alternative to fluoride toothpaste is hydroxyapatite toothpaste.

  • Gum disease treatment

If you have gum disease, the dentist may recommend scaling and root planning, also called deep teeth cleaning, a pinhole or flap surgery, depending on the extent of the gum disease.

  • Prescription mouthwash

Rinsing your mouth with chlorhexidine mouthwash will kill the bacteria in your mouth and offer you temporary relief. Although this can alter your oral microbiome, causing other problems, you can take oral probiotics to balance your oral bacteria.

  • Knotted floss

If you experience tooth pain from food stuck in your teeth, a knotted piece of floss can offer quick relief.

  • TMJ treatment

You would work with your primary care provider and dentist to treat the root cause of the TMJ pain.

  • Bruxism treatment

The causes of bruxism are many, but the most common is sleep apnoea. You can also talk to your doctor and dentist to identify the cause of your bruxism and get a suitable treatment.

Remedies for a toothache to avoid

Avoid the following remedies if you have a toothache

  • Hydrogen peroxide

You should not use hydrogen peroxide in your mouth. It has a high antimicrobial property which alters the bacteria natural flora in the mouth. Some health professional believes hydrogen peroxide increases the risk of oral cancer.

  • Aspirin applied to the affected tooth

Holding aspirin on the teeth is a myth, which claims to reduce tooth pain, but it causes teeth, tongue, and mucosa ulceration, leading to more pain.

  • Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol on a tooth only causes more harm. The alcohol will denature your oral mucous and cause canker sores.

  • Undiluted essential oils

Clove oil is one of the few essential oils that can relieve toothache but ensure you dilute this essential oil before applying it to your tooth. However, avoid other essential oils because they are highly antimicrobial and can burn the mouth’s sensitive soft tissues.

  • Products claiming to kill the tooth nerve

Killing your tooth nerve at home will only cause more damage to the tooth. Only your dental professional can safely remove your dental pulp containing nerves while carrying out a root canal.

Preventing toothache

You can prevent toothache by taking steps to prevent oral health problems like cavities and gum diseases. Common ways to prevent toothache include:

  • Having a tooth-friendly diet with the right proportion of nutrients
  • Flossing and scraping your tongue daily
  • Mouth taping
  • Oil pulling
  • Having professional teeth cleaning every six months
  • Using the right rushing technique- circular motions using a soft-bristled toothbrush for at least two minutes per session, twice daily

The pain from a toothache is usually intense, so it’s the best option to avoid tooth pain as getting the right treatment for your tooth pain may not always be easy. Regular teeth cleaning at your dental hygienist will help prevent most dental conditions that may cause tooth pain.

If you need a dental hygienist near you, visit this website today to schedule an appointment for your regular dental cleaning and check-up.

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