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Updated on December 26, 2022
6 min read

Emergency Toothache Relief

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Toothaches are a common dental condition. Depending on the underlying cause, you will likely experience minor to severe pain from the affected tooth.

Your dentist can easily treat your toothache. However, you should continue brushing and flossing normally until your appointment. 

A toothache usually develops suddenly and can be caused by: 

8 Temporary Home Remedies

You should visit your dentist if you have a toothache that worsens over a few days or is related to an existing dental condition. However, there are a few home remedies you can try to relieve pain while you wait for your appointment.

All of these remedies are temporary solutions. They should never replace professional dental treatment.

1. Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers for Toothaches

The best OTC pain relievers for a toothache include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Aspirin (Bayer)

You can buy all of these medications without a prescription. They all provide short-term pain relief. Make sure you follow the instructions on the label and do not take more than the recommended daily dose. 

2. OTC Toothache Medications (Gels or Drops)

There are a few over-the-counter ointments available that are designed specifically to relieve toothaches.

Orajel™ Severe Toothache & Gum Relief Plus Triple Medicated Gel is the most commonly used ointment for oral pain. Keep in mind that these products only provide temporary relief. Persistent, worsening, or frequent tooth pain requires a dentist visit. 

3. Salt Water Rinse

Salt water is an all-natural antibacterial agent.

Rinsing the mouth with salt water can help reduce pain and inflammation and prevent oral infections. To make the rinse, combine 8 ounces of warm water with half a teaspoon of salt. Swish the mixture in your mouth for at least 30 seconds, then spit it out. 

4. Baking Soda Paste

Bacteria are not able to live in the same environment as baking soda.

It also neutralizes acidic conditions. You can make a baking soda paste by mixing the powder with a small amount of water. Then gently rub the paste on your teeth around the affected area. 

5. Garlic

Sliced, crushed, chopped, or chewed garlic releases an antimicrobial and antibacterial compound (allicin) that temporarily reduces toothache pain.

At-home garlic treatment should never replace a trip to the dentist.

6. Apply a Cold Compress

An ice pack can help reduce the swelling if you have a swollen face and jaw.

Wrap the ice pack in a cloth and then apply it to the affected area for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. You can do this a few times daily, especially right before bed. 

7. Clove Oil

Eugenol, an active compound in cloves, has anti-inflammatory and numbing properties.

According to research, applying eugenol to the gums can reduce pain, discomfort, and swelling. To make this treatment, soak ground cloves in water and make a paste. Then apply the oil to the affected tooth.

8. Peppermint Tea Bags

Like cloves, peppermint tea can also help reduce toothache discomfort because it has numbing properties.

Soak a tea bag, then put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once it is cold enough, hold it directly next to the throbbing tooth for at least 20 minutes.

What Avoid When You Have a Toothache

Here's what you should not do when you have a toothache:

  • Take prescription medication unless directed by a doctor
  • Consume acidic food or drinks, such as citrus fruits 
  • Smoke or use tobacco products
  • Drink alcohol
  • Attempt to pull out your own teeth
  • Delay going to the dentist, especially if you think it might be serious
      

When to See a Dentist

A toothache is considered a dental emergency if:

  • It lasts longer than a few days
  • It becomes more severe over time 
  • There is inflammation, swelling, or bleeding around the tooth that is causing pain in the jaw, ear, or cheek
  • You also have a fever or earache

Professional Treatments

Depending on the toothache’s cause, your dentist may recommend one of the following treatments:

Cavity Filling

If the toothache is caused by untreated tooth decay, you’ll likely need a cavity filling to prevent the cavity from progressing further. 

Other Dental Restorations

If the toothache is caused by a large cavity, gum disease, an infection, or trauma, your dentist will take an X-ray. A dental crown, implant, or inlay may be the only way to save the tooth if the damage is severe.

Tooth Extraction 

A tooth requires surgical extraction if the cavity is severe and has spread to its root. An artificial dental implant will be placed afterward.  

Abscess Draining 

Toothaches caused by dental abscesses require immediate drainage (if the abscess is treated early and hasn’t progressed). 

Root Canal Treatment 

This procedure is typically necessary when a tooth is heavily decayed and the bacteria has spread to the dental pulp and tooth root. A root canal is also necessary if there is an abscess at the tooth’s root (periapical abscess). This treatment removes the infected dental pulp in the tooth’s root and relieves the pain. The tooth is then restored with a dental crown.

Mouthguard 

Toothaches and sensitivity can develop if your teeth are worn down due to excessive teeth grinding (bruxism). If this is the case, your doctor will recommend an occlusal splint. These mouthguards are worn while you sleep to prevent enamel wear. 

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) Treatment 

If you have TMJD symptoms, you may need a night guard or other remedies like physical therapy, medication, or Botox to help relieve symptoms.

Importance of Treating a Toothache

Untreated toothaches can lead to a more serious infection. For example, if a dental abscess causes a toothache, not receiving immediate treatment could result in the infection spreading somewhere else in your body.

Risks of an Untreated Dental Abscess

An abscess is a localized infection that results in a collection of pus and forms due to a bacterial infection.

The primary causes of a dental abscess are plaque buildup and neglected dental care.

A dental abscess will not go away on its own without treatment. Your dentist must drain it and/or extract the tooth causing the infection. Without the extraction of an infected tooth, your infection cannot resolve.

Other risk factors of untreated abscesses include:

  • Tooth loss
  • Bone infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Blood infections
  • Brain abscess (rare)

Can I Go to the Emergency Room for a Toothache?

It is best to visit an emergency dentist for a severe toothache rather than an emergency room.

ER doctors do not have the right equipment to treat and diagnose dental conditions.

They also do not have dental X-rays to assess the damage. The only thing an ER doctor can do for a toothache is prescribe pain medications. They will tell you to visit a dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible.

Summary

Toothaches are common, but you should never ignore them. While home remedies are available for toothaches, it's best to receive professional treatment from a dentist. Delaying treatment can cause further complications, such as an abscess.

Last updated on December 26, 2022
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 26, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. GuardianDirect.com. “7 Tips to Get Emergency Toothache Relief: Guardian Direct.” 
  2. American Association of Endodontists. “Abscessed Teeth.”
  3. NHS Choices. “Dental Abscess.” NHS. 
  4. Hupp, James R., and Elie M. Ferneini. “Head, Neck, and Orofacial Infections: an Interdisciplinary Approach.” Elsevier, 2016.
  5. Jesudasan, James Solomon, et al. “Effectiveness of 0.2% chlorhexidine gel and a eugenol-based paste on postoperative alveolar osteitis in patients having third molars extracted: a randomised controlled clinical trial.” The British journal of oral & maxillofacial surgery, 2015.
  6. Delta Dental. “The Truth Behind a Toothache.”
  7. MedlinePlus. “Toothaches: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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