Toothache is something that most of us will experience at some point in our lives, for one reason or another. There are many oral health factors that can cause tooth pain, but when it happens to you, all you really want to know is how to treat your toothache.
In this article we look at what causes different types of tooth pain, how to get rid of or relieve toothache if you're in pain right now, some toothache medicine, and what treatment you might need to stop it altogether.
We also have some tips for preventing tooth, jaw and gum pain in the future.
Table of contents
- 1 Is toothache an emergency?
- 2 What causes toothache?
- 3 Toothache pain from tooth infection or decay
- 4 Wisdom tooth pain
- 5 Broken/cracked tooth pain
- 6 Toothache after filling or other dental work
- 7 Can Sinus Infection Cause Tooth Pain?
- 8 Toothache in pregnancy
- 9 Toothache at night
- 10 How to get rid of toothache
- 11 How to stop a toothache and toothache relief: summary
- 12 Tooth pain FAQs
- 12.1 What's the best way to get rid of toothache?
- 12.2 What is the best painkiller for toothache?
- 12.3 Can toothache cause a headache?
- 12.4 What does it mean if I have toothache and earache?
- 12.5 What should I do about tooth crown pain?
- 12.6 Where can I get antibiotics for toothache?
- 12.7 How long does pain last after tooth extraction?
Is toothache an emergency?
If you're reading this article because you or someone you know has a toothache right now, check for other symptoms that are a sign of something more serious. You should go to urgent care if you have either of the following as well as toothache symptoms:
- Swelling around your eyes or neck
- Swelling in your mouth or throat that's making it difficult for you to talk, breathe or swallow
Read more here about what constitutes a dental emergency. For less severe toothache, you might still need to see a dentist but there are plenty of tooth pain and toothache relief options you can try in the meantime. More on those later, but first let's understand the various toothache causes that might be at the root of the problem.
What causes toothache?
There are a number of different toothache causes we're going to look at here. Dental pain is often the result of tooth decay, either directly or indirectly. You might also have sinus infection tooth pain, wisdom teeth problems, or tooth damage from an injury. Plus, it's common to experience toothache after a filling, extraction or other dental work.
Below you can read about the different causes of toothache and what you can do to help get rid of tooth pain in each case.
Toothache pain from tooth infection or decay
Teeth consist of three layers. The inner part, called pulp, contains the nerves and blood vessels. This is surrounded by a layer of dentin, and then the outer layer of strong, hard enamel, which protects everything within.
Failure to maintain good oral hygiene allows bacteria and plaque to build up on the tooth surface, leading to decay. Once decay erodes a hole in the enamel and reaches the dentin, the tissue becomes inflamed as your body fights the infection, resulting in a sensitive or painful tooth. Tooth decay will continue to spread unless treated, and if it reaches the nerves in the tooth pulp it can cause inflammation (pulpitis) and more severe toothache.
If you notice some discoloration on your tooth or you can feel a hole, these are signs you have tooth decay. You can read more about tooth decay symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Tooth abscess pain
Untreated decay can eventually lead to a gum or tooth abscess – a pocket of puss that forms because of bacterial infection. The video animation below shows how decay spreads to cause tooth pain and infection:
Abscesses can be extremely painful, usually causing throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes or remains constant.
If you have a dental abscess you might also experience:
- Swelling in your face or gums
- Increased tooth pain when the tooth is tapped or exposed to hot or cold
- Jaw pain
You'll find lots more information about this problem, along with abscessed tooth pain and toothache relief in our article on dental abscesses.
What to take for your toothache caused by decay
If you think your toothache is caused by decay, you should make an appointment to see your dentist. If caught early enough, a simple filling is enough to remove the decay and restore the tooth. Once decay spreads further, it may require root canal treatment or a crown – or extraction if the tooth is very badly damaged – so it's worth getting to a dentist sooner rather than later.
While you await treatment, you can take painkillers or other toothache medicines to keep any pain under control. Check out our separate article featuring home remedies for tooth pain if you want to know how to get rid of toothache pain fast at home.
If you have severe, throbbing tooth pain and you think you have an abscess, you may need to make an urgent appointment to receive emergency toothache relief and perhaps antibiotics. Regular painkillers might not be enough to soothe tooth infection pain.
Note that even if bad toothache pain subsides by itself, it's still a good idea to visit a dentist. You may still have a tooth infection that needs to be treated before it causes an abscess.
Wisdom tooth pain
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are a source of back tooth pain for some people.
These teeth are located right at the back of your mouth and they sometimes don't have enough space, which causes them to become impacted. An impacted tooth can't erupt properly and instead pushes against the neighboring tooth. This in itself can cause toothache or gum pain, but it also increases the risk of infection.
Even if your wisdom teeth erupt naturally, you might experience some gum pain at the back of your mouth where the tooth is pushing through.
Read more about wisdom tooth pain and what you can do about it.
What to do about back tooth pain
Visit your dentist. If an impacted wisdom tooth is painful or infected, it might need to be extracted. Your dentist will take x-rays of your mouth to check the position of any problem teeth and will advise you of the best course of action.
To soothe pain from an erupting tooth, use a topical oral anesthetic gel.
You can find out more about wisdom teeth here, including the problems they might cause and what treatment involves.
Broken/cracked tooth pain
Cracked or broken teeth can cause a lot of toothache, especially if the tooth nerves are exposed. Teeth can crack or break for a number of reasons, including:
- Damage from tooth decay
- Old fillings
- Biting down on something hard
- An injury to the face or mouth
You'll be able to see or feel a crack in your tooth, or feel a part of it come away.
How to stop or soothe a toothache resulting from a broken tooth
Painkillers might help with the pain but you can make an emergency dental appointment if you need stronger pain relief. It's important to get the tooth repaired or treated ASAP, even if the pain subsides. Avoid eating on that tooth in the meantime, since this will increase tooth nerve pain and may cause further damage. The deeper a crack goes, the less likely that the tooth can be rescued.
Keep any broken pieces of tooth, if you have them. This will help your dentist match any reconstructions to the original shape. Use chewing gum or orthodontic wax to cover any sharp bits of tooth in your mouth that might cut your tongue or gum. This article has more advice on dealing with a cracked or broken tooth and tooth nerve pain relief.
Toothache after filling or other dental work
It's fairly common to feel some sensitivity or tooth pain after a filling, root canal treatment, or crown or bridge fitting. The dentist has altered the structure of your tooth, and once any anesthetic has worn off it can still take some time for your mouth to recover and for any swelling to subside.
Your dentist may give you some painkillers to take for a few days after your treatment, or you can try one of these home remedies.
Contact your dentist if:
- You're in severe pain following dental work
- The pain continues for several days
- The pain starts getting worse
Otherwise, it should soon feel much better.
Pain after tooth extraction
One potential complication to be aware of is a condition called dry socket, which can occur after tooth extraction.
Following an extraction, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect the bone and nerves while the gum heals over. If the clot becomes dislodged before this healing is complete, the exposed nerves will be extremely painful. This is more likely to happen with molar extractions where the socket is larger.
If you experience strong throbbing pain after a tooth extraction, you might have dry socket. Contact your dentist straight away – they will clean and dress the wound and give you pain medication.
What to do for a toothache after getting dental implants
Another potential cause of toothache may be tooth implant pain. After an implant procedure, you may experience some discomfort and bruising. Read here for more information about dental implants.
Can Sinus Infection Cause Tooth Pain?
Yes. Have you ever noticed that your teeth feel more sensitive when you have nasal congestion? If you get a toothache with a cold, it's probably because your sinuses or nasal cavities are swollen, putting pressure on your upper jaw.
Congested sinuses can also cause pain around your eyes or elsewhere in your head.
How to ease sinus tooth pain
Sinus toothache is usually dull rather than sharp, but it might get worse at night when you lie down. Using an extra pillow to lift your head higher should help ease the pressure. You can also use decongestant medicines to help clear your nose and sinuses.
How long does a sinus toothache last?
A toothache from a sinus infection will start to improve only once the inflammation of your sinus begins to be relieved. This can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
Toothache in pregnancy
Pregnant women are at increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease because of changes to their hormones. To add to this, vomiting from morning sickness coats the teeth in acid which erodes enamel. This can cause overall tooth sensitivity and front tooth pain in particular.
To minimize the chances of toothache during pregnancy, it's important to continue regular dental checkups and pay special attention to your oral hygiene during this time.
Toothache at night
Any of these kinds of toothache can feel worse at night. This is because when you lie down, the blood pressure in your head increases and puts increased pressure on areas that are already inflamed and sensitive.
To help a toothache at night, try elevating your head with one or two extra pillows while you sleep. This is not a toothache cure but it should help relieve your discomfort while you seek appropriate treatment for the source of the pain.
How to get rid of toothache
We can say that in almost every case, the best thing for a toothache is a trip to the dentist. Very few of the underlying causes of toothache can be cured at home, although you can take medicines to relieve the pain.
The toothache treatment you receive at the dentist will depend on what's causing the pain and how serious any tooth damage is. Treatment might involve:
- Strong painkillers (such as tramadol)
- A filling
- Root canal treatment
- A dental crown
- Tooth extraction
When to see a dentist about tooth pain
The general advice from professionals is to visit a dentist if:
- You have pain
- Painkillers don't help
- You have a high temperature
- It's painful when you bite
- You have red gums
- There's a bad taste in your mouth
- Your cheek or jaw are swollen
Perhaps you're putting off visiting a dentist to treat your tooth pain because you're worried about the treatment itself. Be assured that modern dental anesthetics are designed to stop you from feeling any pain during your treatment. If you're particularly anxious, find a dentist who specializes in treating nervous patients and ask about getting IV sedation.
The important thing is that you receive the treatment you need to stop your toothache and treat the problem before it gets worse.
Emergency toothache relief
If you have a bad toothache which needs urgent treatment, make an emergency appointment (out of hours, if necessary). Our emergency dentist article has more information on how to do this.
The dentist may treat your tooth right away, or they may give you medicine to relieve the pain until you can receive proper treatment. Dentists can administer strong painkillers for emergency toothache relief when you're experiencing severe tooth pain. If you have a tooth infection, you may get antibiotics too.
Learn about if you can get retroactive Medicaid for emergency dental care within the last three months in our Medicaid article here.
Tooth pain relief and toothache medicine at home
Although your dentist will be able to tell you what the best medicine is for your toothache, it's not always possible to get a dental appointment straight away. You might need to treat your toothache at home with a toothache pain reliever for a while. Over-the-counter painkillers should provide some relief from tooth pain, and you can also buy special gels and ointments with anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
How to stop tooth pain fast?
If you can't get to the dentist and you need quick pain relief, Red Cross toothache medication drops is one of the top-selling toothache relief brands in the US. You simply soak one of the included cotton pellets in the drop liquid and place it on the affected tooth for 1 minute to get rid of tooth and gum pain fast.
Another popular tooth pain medicine is Iodent Oral Analgesic Gel. You just apply it directly to the painful tooth and gum area every few hours for quick pain relief.
There are various natural remedies that offer tooth pain relief, too. You can apply clove oil to the sore area or rinse your mouth with salt water periodically.
Meanwhile, you can stop toothache getting any worse by avoiding the following things which can aggravate sore teeth:
- Hot and cold foods and drinks
- Anything very sugary, acidic or spicy
- Hard, crunchy or chewy foods
- Chewing on or near the painful tooth
To read more about what's good for a toothache and how to get rid of a toothache fast at home, read our article about home remedies for toothache.
How to stop a toothache and toothache relief: summary
The table below shows a summary of all the tooth pain problems we've mentioned, as well as how to get rid of, how to help, and how to stop a toothache, no matter its cause.
To stop toothache from becoming a recurring problem, you should take good care of your teeth with a proper oral hygiene routine. This includes:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste (more on how to brush your teeth correctly here)
- Flossing daily
- Limiting sugary foods and drinks, especially snacks between meals
- Having regular dental checkups
Tooth pain FAQs
What's the best way to get rid of toothache?
Except in the case of sinus tooth pain caused by a cold, the best pain relief for toothache is a trip to the dentist.
What is the best painkiller for toothache?
Ibuprofen, other toothache medicines, and natural remedies offer toothache relief at home, but they won't treat whatever is causing your tooth to hurt.
Can toothache cause a headache?
Yes, toothache pain can feel like it's spreading to your head, face, eyes or ears – especially when it's caused by infection or sinus congestion.
You might be grinding your teeth without realizing – either as a result of toothache or because of a condition called bruxism. Continued tooth grinding can cause toothache headaches and jaw pain.
What does it mean if I have toothache and earache?
Experiencing a tooth and ear pain together might mean you have a problem with one of your upper back teeth. It could be an impacted wisdom tooth, or decay or infection in a molar, for example. It could also be nasal congestion causing the pain, but if you don't have any signs of a cold, you should visit a dentist to have the problem checked out.
What should I do about tooth crown pain?
It's normal to experience some discomfort after having a dental crown fitted, just while the swelling around your tooth and gum subsides. If your crown is still causing you toothache after a couple of days, especially when you bite down, mention it to your dentist. It might need a slight adjustment for a better fit.
Pain from an old tooth crown is a sign that the tooth below could be decaying further, so your dentist will need to check this.
Where can I get antibiotics for toothache?
Only a dentist or doctor can prescribe antibiotics, whether for a dental abscess or any other kind of infection. Untreated infections can quickly spread to other parts of the body, so don't delay in making an urgent dental appointment.
How long does pain last after tooth extraction?
Pain after tooth extraction shouldn't last for more than a day or two, depending on how complicated the extraction was. Some people don't experience any toothache once the anesthetic has worn off. Your dentist might give you painkillers to control any tooth extraction pain, or you can take ibuprofen or paracetamol to help.
If you start experiencing severe, throbbing tooth pain 1-5 days after an extraction, speak to your dentist straight away. This is a sign of dry socket, a condition that will require extra treatment.