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Toothache and Dental Pain

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Many people suffer with toothache at some point in their life. Toothache can be a sharp pain or a dull ache with the tooth being sensitive to pressure, heat or the cold. Toothache can often get worse if left untreated, so it is important to see a dentist if you have toothache that lasts more than 2 days.

Causes of toothache

Toothache can be caused by lots of different things such as:

  • 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

How can I avoid triggers/ suggested lifestyle changes

The best way to prevent toothache is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, to do this ensure you:

  • 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

How do I treat?

There are a variety of products available to treat toothache, many of which can be bought from a supermarket, shop or pharmacy.

  • Rinsing your mouth with salt water (children shouldn’t try this)
  • Pain killers – You can buy painkillers from your local supermarket or pharmacy without the need of a prescription. Choosing a preparation often comes down to personal preferences and needs to take into account other medical conditions you may have, other medicines you may be taking and the risk of potential side effects.
  • Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are the most common drugs used to treat toothache/ dental pain. These can be bought from supermarkets/ shops and pharmacies. Aspirin can also be taken to relieve pain, but shouldn’t be taken by children under 16.
  • Stronger medication can be bought from pharmacies if required. Speak to your pharmacist for advice on the most appropriate option.
  • Pain-relieving gel – for use inside your mouth, this can be bought from pharmacies or supermarkets (age restrictions apply to certain products), your pharmacist will advise.
  • You can also make some other adjustments to reduce the discomfort
    • Eat soft foods, like yoghurt or scrambled eggs, and try to avoid chewing with the sore tooth
    • Avoid eating foods that are sweet, very hot or very cold
    • Avoid smoking – it can make some dental problems worse
  • Speak to your pharmacist – for advice if you’re not sure which type of medicine is best for you and your symptoms

When should I seek advice?

Seek advice from a dentist if your toothache:

  • Lasts more than 2 days
  • Doesn’t go away when you take painkillers
  • You experience a high temperature, pain when you bite, red gums, or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Your cheek or jaw are swollen

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

If you don’t have a dentist or can’t get an emergency appointment:

  • call 111 – they can offer advise as to what to do

Go to A&E if you have toothache and:

  • the area around your eye or your neck is swollen
  • swelling in your mouth or neck is making it difficult for you to breathe, swallow or speak

Where can I get more information?

  • NHS Choices –
  • Your local community pharmacy
Last Updated: Monday 22nd May 2023 - 11:01:am

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