Toothache

See a dentist if you have toothache that lasts more than 2 days. There are things you can do to ease it while you wait for an appointment.

See a dentist if you have toothache:

  • that last more than 2 days
  • that doesn't go away when you take painkillers
  • with a high temperature, pain when you bite, red gums, or a bad taste in your mouth
  • and your cheek or jaw are swollen

Don't go to your GP as they won't be able to give you dental treatment.

How to ease toothache while waiting for an appointment

Do

  • take painkillers, like ibuprofen or paracetamol (children under 16 shouldn't take aspirin) – a pharmacist can advise you
  • try rinsing your mouth with salt water (children shouldn't try this)
  • use a pain-relieving gel for your mouth – this can be bought from pharmacies or supermarkets
  • eat soft foods, like yoghurt or scrambled eggs, and try to avoid chewing with the sore tooth

Don't

  • do not eat foods that are sweet, very hot or very cold
  • do not smoke – it can make some dental problems worse
How to rinse with salt water 
  1. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water – warm water helps salt dissolve
  2. Rinse your mouth with the solution, then spit it out – don't swallow it
  3. Repeat as often as you like

Causes of toothache

Toothache can be caused by:

  • tooth decay
  • a dental abscess
  • a cracked or damaged tooth
  • a loose or broken filling
  • an infection – this often happens when a tooth (such as a wisdom tooth) has broken the skin, but doesn't have enough room to fully come through
  • problems with your braces

How to prevent toothache

The best way to prevent toothache is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

To do this:

  • have regular dental check-ups
  • cut down on sugary foods and drinks – only have them as an occasional treat at mealtimes
  • brush your teeth twice a day for about 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste
  • clean between your teeth using floss or an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque

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[Last reviewed 2018-04-17]