Toothaches always seem to strike at the worst times: over the holidays, on the weekends, before a vacation, when there is a big event coming up. When your tooth starts to throb, the first thought usually is, “How can I get rid of this toothache? What do I have to do to make this go away?” Toothaches can be caused by an infection, tooth fracture, cavity, gum disease, or another dental problem. The good news is you don’t have to diagnose the exact cause of the toothache to ease the pain.
You should do a full evaluation of the extent of the pain though. If the pain radiates through the jaw, it may be time to visit a doctor. The pain may be sharp, throbbing, or only occur when there is pressure applied to the tooth (make note of the nature and location of the pain to tell the dentist). For any other tooth pain, use these steps to make the pain of a toothache go away:
- Avoid drinks and food that make the pain worse, such as hot or cold foods.
- Place a cold pack to the cheek on the side of the mouth where the pain hurts. (Do not use heat which can cause swelling and exacerbate an infection.)
- Try to keep the mouth steady. Stay away from vibrations that can make the pain worse.
- Avoid laying on the side of the mouth that hurts; it can make it hurt worse.
- Use over-the-counter toothache medications to ease the pain. (Always follow the directions on the label.)
If the pain subsides, you can probably wait to call a dentist. For other situations, contact a dentist as soon as possible to make an appointment:
- The toothache does not go away and the pain does not ease from over-the-counter medications.
- Your permanent tooth has been knocked out.
- The pain occurs when swallowing or breathing.
- Your dentist recently pulled a tooth (within 24-72 hours).
- There is discharge associated with the toothache.
- You are experiencing excessive swelling.
- You have a fever. (This can be a symptom of an infection or abscess and should be treated with antibiotics.)
If experiencing any of these symptoms, contact a dentist immediately. If the pain happens outside of office hours, contact the dentist using the emergency phone number.