The obvious solution to any type of dental pain is to see a dentist as soon as possible. When you can’t get to your dentist right away, however, you may have to endure some amount of discomfort in the meantime. The following tips can help you minimize or stop a toothache while you wait for your dental appointment.
When to See a Dentist
While your number one goal might be centered on eliminating tooth pain as quickly as possible, you need to consider the potential cause first. When our bodies experience pain, they are sending warning signals to our brains, telling them that something isn’t right. If you have oral pain, it’s generally a sign you have a problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Oral pain can be caused by a variety of serious issues, including tooth decay, a damaged filling, a tooth fracture, infected gums or an abscessed tooth. If the latter has occurred, you could suffer serious complications without rapid treatment. These complications could include the loss of the tooth and supporting bone. In some cases, bacterial infections can also spread to other parts of the body, leading to hospitalization or worse. For these reasons, it’s important to seek emergency treatment if you show any of the following signs of an abscessed tooth:
- Red, swollen gums
- A fever
- A swollen, red bump in the mouth
- Blood or puss
- Throbbing pain
- Unpleasant or salty taste in the mouth
- Swollen face or jaw
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, STOP reading and call one of our experienced dentists.
Whatever the cause of your dental pain, it’s important to visit your local dentist for an evaluation. That said, if you suspect your dental pain is caused by a cavity or fracture, you can use the following strategies to minimize pain until you are able to see a professional.
Ways to Stop a Toothache
If your toothache isn’t caused by a serious underlying issue or you are waiting for an upcoming dental appointment, you can reduce pain using the following strategies:
- Apply a cold compress. In general, there are two ways to stop or blunt toothache pain. The first involves reducing inflammation, while the second centers on interrupting the signals from the injury to the brain. You can accomplish the first goal by applying a cold pack or bag of frozen vegetables to the side of your face for 20 minutes at a time. Just be sure to use a piece of cloth as a buffer, so you don’t accidentally damage your skin. This can help alleviate discomfort by blunting pain and reducing swelling.
- Take an anti-inflammatory. You can also reduce swelling and blunt pain signals by taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. If you do take ibuprofen, try to continue taking the medication every few hours, according to the product label. Avoid taking the medication once and then stopping when you feel relief, or the pain and inflammation is likely to return. If you don’t have ibuprofen, you can take acetaminophen instead; however, while this will help with the pain, it isn’t an anti-inflammatory medication.
- Rinse with salt water. In addition to cold packs and over-the-counter medications, there are some natural ways to stop a toothache. You can clean infections and promote temporary pain relief by rinsing your mouth with warm salt water. Treating a toothache with salt water can also help heal any oral wounds and reduce inflammation. Just make sure not to swallow any of the salt water while you rinse.
- Use a hot pack. You can reduce discomfort by applying a hot pack to the side of your jaw. If you don’t have a hot pack, you can make one by filling a clean sock with rice and tying one end. Then, place the rice-filled sock in the microwave and heat it for a couple of minutes. The heat from the pack will help interrupt pain signals from your mouth to your brain.
- Try acupressure. Some research suggests that acupressure may be able to reduce toothache pain by causing the body to release endorphins. There are specific key points on the body that are believed to be associated with oral discomfort. If you’d like to try acupressure, consider researching reputable internet resources for more information about these areas.
- Use peppermint tea bags. Generally considered safe, peppermint tea bags have mild numbing properties that can ease oral pain for a short time. Most people prefer to cool their tea bags in the freezer for a couple of minutes before use. You can also apply the tea bag while it’s still warm and then wait for it to cool. This can create a pleasing sensation that can help take your mind off your toothache.
- Try garlic. For thousands of years, garlic has been used for its medicinal properties. In addition to killing potentially harmful bacteria, it can also act as a pain reliever. To use garlic for toothaches, crush a clove to create a sticky paste and apply it to the affected area. Alternatively, you can chew a clove of fresh garlic and spit it out afterword.
- Rinse with a guava mouthwash. Known for their anti-inflammatory properties, guava leaves also have antimicrobial traits that can blunt pain and sterilize oral wounds. You can either chew on fresh guava leaves or boil crushed leaves in water to make a mouthwash.
- Use clove oil. Used to treat dental pain throughout human history, clove oil can reduce inflammation and numb oral pain. It also contains eugenol, a natural antiseptic that can sterilize oral wounds. To treat a toothache, apply a small amount of the oil onto a clean cotton ball and dab it to the affected area. You can dilute the clove oil with a few drops of water or add carrier oil if it seems too potent.
- Try a homemade thyme mouthwash. Thyme has powerful antioxidant and antibacterial properties. To alleviate toothache symptoms, you can add a few drops of thyme essential oil to water and make a mouthwash. You can also dilute thyme essential oil with a few drops of clean water and add it to a cotton ball. Then apply it to the affected area.
What to Expect at the Dentist
To treat your tooth pain, a dentist will first review your medical history and conduct an exam. He or she will ask specific questions about your toothache, including when it started, where it is located, how severe it is, what makes it feel worse and what makes it feel better. The dentist will then examine your gums, teeth and any other relevant areas. X-rays and/or other tests may be needed to determine the exact cause of the problem.
Once the dentist determines the cause, he or she will outline available treatment options. For cavities, you may need a filling. If the tooth’s nerve is infected, you may require root canal therapy. If the area has become infected, the dentist may prescribe antibiotic medication to kill bacteria. Occasionally, dentists will use phototherapy with a cold laser, along with other treatments to reduce inflammation and pain.
Depending on the seriousness of the issue, you may receive treatment immediately or a few days after your exam. If the latter occurs, your dentist may choose to prescribe pain medication to help you cope with discomfort while you wait.
Preventing Tooth Pain
The best way to deal with a toothache is to avoid it in the first place. You can reduce the risk of oral health issues by thoroughly brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once. You should also eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugary or sticky foods and beverages. You should also be careful not to chew ice or hard items that might cause a fracture in your tooth. Finally, be sure to schedule regular dental cleanings and checkups, so you can get treatment for minor dental issues before they become painful problems that demand expensive treatments.