How to Care for a Toothache


A toothache ranks high on the list of the most bothersome conditions. It is characterized by an unceasing, dull ache that may worsen from high temperatures, sweets and even by the simple act of biting or chewing on food. No one should have to suffer from the pain of a toothache and to be informed about this condition is your first step to healing.

So, let’s find out as much as we can about it, shall we?

The cause of a toothache

Some of the possible diagnoses of an aching tooth include: acute apical periodontitis, reversible and irreversible pulpitis, or other types of abscess.

Some of the other underlying causes may also include: a crack in your tooth or tooth decay (caries). Sometimes, non-dental conditions also contribute to a toothache such as: heart pain (angina)—which may spread out to the jaws, sinus infections and on rare occasion, lymphoma, as well as other kinds of tumors/ cysts of the jaws.

Tooth decay is the most common culprit of a toothache but it can also be caused by something else. It is vital for you to visit your dentist for a complete examination of your dental area to determine its real cause. For your reference, here are some other underlying factors of an aching tooth:

  • Gum disease
  • Tooth trauma
  • Infection
  • Grinding teeth (bruxism)
  • Tooth eruption (for babies and children)
  • An abnormal bite

TMJ or TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder), ear or sinus infections and facial muscles tension may cause a discomfort that feels like a toothache but this is usually accompanied by a pain in the head area.

The aching of the teeth and jaws may also be an indication of a heart disease such as angina, for example. Your dentist may refer you to a doctor should she suspect that an underlying illness is the cause of your pain.

Other possible reasons for a toothache may be advanced gum disease or a cavity. One of the first signs of tooth decay is a painful sensation whenever you eat something that is either very cold or very hot, or something sweet. This is because the inside portion of our teeth contains tissue and nerves which, when irritated, can cause discomfort and pain.


The symptoms of a toothache

A toothache’s symptoms are very close to those of other dental problems or medical conditions. It is therefore challenging to diagnose the real cause of a toothache without a proper examination by a dentist.

There are, however, things that you can look out for such as pus around the source of your tooth pain, which could indicate an abscess of your tooth. This causes the infection of the surrounding bone. The pus may also be a sign of gum disease, which is marked by the inflammation of soft tissue, abnormal bone loss and bleeding gums surrounding your teeth.

When to contact your dentist

Here are some of the symptoms that you should not ignore. In fact, if you experience any of these, you must call see dentist right away:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Pain when biting
  • Fever
  • Continuous pain
  • Swelling
  • A foul-tasting discharge

How to administer self-care

It is important to schedule a dental appointment at the first signs of a toothache in order to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. After all, an untreated toothache may give way to worse conditions.

If for some reason, you are unable to see your dentist right away, you may resort to the following self-care steps to help you alleviate the inflammation and pain caused by a toothache:

  • Rinse the area with warm water and salt.
  • Floss your teeth gently to help dislodge any trapped food particles.
  • Try an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help alleviate the pain.
  • Dab some over-the-counter antiseptic, which contains benzocaine, on the irritated areas to help relieve the pain albeit temporarily. You can also try the oil from cloves (eugenol) to numb your gums. Rub the oil directly to the aching tooth and gums or soak a piece of cotton with the oil before applying to the area.
  • Warning: Do not try applying painkillers such as aspirin directly on the gums or your tooth. This may burn the sensitive tissue of your gums.

What to expect from a visit to your dentist

Your dentist will perform a complete dental examination on you in order to find the exact coordinates and cause of your toothache. She will look for swelling, tooth damage and redness in the process. She may also conduct an x-ray to find any signs of tooth decay in between your teeth, an impacted or cracked tooth, or a disorder in your underlying bone structure.

She will give you a prescription for antibiotics or pain medication in order to speed up the healing of and provide relief from your toothache. If your tooth has become infected by the time you see your dentist, the possible treatment may include a root canal procedure, which will remove the damaged nerve tissue from the middle of your tooth, or the removal of the infected tooth.

How to prevent toothache

The best way to prevent toothaches from occurring is through an established and consistent oral care routine. If you fail to brush and floss regularly, especially after meals, you are increasing your risk to develop cavities, which in turn, may cause toothaches.

Here are some tips to help you reduce your chances of acquiring a toothache:

  • Brush at least twice a day, best done after meals and snacks.
  • Floss at least once a day, to help keep gum disease away.
  • Visit your dentist at least once every 6 months for regular dental examinations and a professional oral area cleaning.

Santanu Majumdar is a part-time blogger and currently blogs at . He is also a health and fitness lover who loves to share her ideas on health, fitness and beauty. You can check him out on Twitter and Facebook

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3 Comments on "How to Care for a Toothache"

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Dr. Peter Nguyen
2 months 12 days ago
Toothaches occur when the extremely sensitive central portion of the tooth, called the pulp, becomes inflamed. This can happen for a variety of reasons: cavities, a blow to the tooth, or an infection of the gums. You can reduce pain with following methods: Take a painkiller. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen, which provide quick, effective relief for most minor toothaches. Apply a cold compress. Fill a food storage bag with ice, cover it with a thin cloth or paper towel, and apply it directly to the tooth or the cheek area just outside the tooth. Numb… Read more »
2 months 7 days ago


Thanks for the tips

emily bennette
2 months 11 days ago

Toothaches are absolutely awful to deal with. I like that you talked about how rinsing your mouth out with warm salt water. That does seem like a thing anyone could use to relieve a toothache. It seems like it would still be a good idea to go visit you dentist if you are still having issues.