Tooth decay is the leading cause of toothache for both adults and children, according to the Mayo Clinic. The pain of a toothache may be constant or it may increase after eating or brushing, causing such severe pain that sleeping, working and other activities are disrupted. Home treatment can minimize severe toothache pain while you are waiting for a dental appointment to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your pain.
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Home treatment can help to ease even severe toothache pain. To reduce pain and swelling, apply an ice pack against your cheek on the affected side of your head. Avoid using heat, as this can make toothache pain worse, and stay away from very hot and cold foods. Brush and floss after every meal or gargle with mouthwash to dislodge trapped food that may be contributing to pain. Gargling with warm saltwater also is beneficial.
In many cases, over-the-counter pain relievers are strong enough to reduce tooth pain and inflammation. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen, when taken continuously per the manufacturer's directions, can help to control toothache pain. When the source of the pain is obvious, applying an antiseptic with benzocaine directly to the sore tooth or gum will provide temporary relief from pain. Avoid using too much benzocaine, as this numbing agent may interfere with eating and swallowing when used excessively.
For rapid, but temporary, relief of severe toothache pain, soak a cotton ball in oil of cloves and place it against the affected tooth. When taken internally, willow bark can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with a toothache. Willow bark contains salicin and works in the same manner as aspirin, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that capsaicin, or red pepper, is also effective at relieving toothache pain when applied topically to the affected tooth.
Severe or persistent toothaches always require evaluation and treatment by a dentist. Depending on the underlying cause of your toothache, you may require a tooth extraction, root canal or filling. Oral antibiotics are usually necessary when an infection is present. Merck says that penicillin is the preferred antibiotic for most dental infections, with clindamycin used as an alternative when penicillin is contraindicated.
The Mayo Clinic recommends calling for an emergency appointment if you experience signs and symptoms of an infection, such as very red gums, a foul-tasting discharge, swelling or pain upon biting down, if you develop a fever or if you have trouble swallowing or breathing. Treating the cause of a toothache should permanently get rid of pain and other symptoms.