When something’s wrong with your teeth, it’s common to feel helpless because there are so few home remedy options for serious toothaches. Not only that, many people don’t know what to do for a toothache while waiting for their dental appointment.

But there are things you can do.

And you’re not helpless. You can take control of your toothache pain and make it to your dentist. We’ll show you how.

Different Kinds of Tooth Pain

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Not all toothaches are created equal. And even though the short-term remedy may be similar for all, it’s important to identify the pain.

Toothaches usually fall into one of three categories:

  • Sharp, stabbing pain right in the root of a specific tooth
  • A generalized ache that radiates around the gums or jaw
  • Pain following dental work, such as wisdom teeth removal

Let’s talk a bit more about what to do for a toothache in each of these categories.

Sharp pain in a specific tooth

This kind of pain comes from damage to the nerve in the tooth’s root. An infection in the tooth or gum, a developing cavity, or injury to the tooth can cause it, as well as eating hard food such as nuts or candy.

Those with sensitive teeth may feel a sudden increase in sensitivity on a specific tooth when sipping very hot or cold beverages.

Generalized pain in the gums or jaw

The most common cause of jaw pain is tooth grinding at night.

Many people grind their teeth at night when suffering from anxiety or high pressure at work or home. Other causes of generalized pain in the mouth or jaw include the early stages of gum disease or even an ear or sinus infection.

Pain from dental work

It’s common for your teeth to ache after procedures such as root canals, wisdom tooth removal, and even cavity fillings. After all, your teeth have been drilled or pulled out.

No matter how carefully the dentist or oral surgeon has completed their procedure, the nerves of your teeth and your gums have received a beating!

Your dentist or oral surgeon should have given you a sheet explaining the stages of your recovery. If your teeth are still painful after the typical recovery period, call your dentist to find out what to do for a toothache of this type.

What to Do for a Toothache?

If your toothache continues for more than a week, see a dentist to have the issue explored. In the meantime, there are a variety of methods you can use to tame the pain.

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Reduce inflammation

Inflammation is a sign of the body’s trying to heal your toothache. White blood cells are sent to the injured or painful area, causing swelling that presses on nerves, leading to pain. Try the following common methods for cutting back on inflammation:


Ibuprofen is an inexpensive over-the-counter pain medication that targets inflammation. It works by blocking the enzymes in your body that make the chemicals signaling your pain.

So, if you’re wondering what to do for a toothache, ibuprofen is a good choice. Just be sure to follow the dosage directions on the package.


Heat dials back inflammation. Try applying a warm compress to the jaw or cheek closest to the painful tooth.

Tip: You can make your own heat pack by filling a sock with uncooked rice and tossing it in the microwave for a minute.

Prevent infection

A simple mouth rinse is one of the first steps to take when figuring out what to do for a toothache. The easiest way to prevent your toothache from getting worse is to hold off an infection.

And you probably already have the basic ingredients for these infection-fighting mouth rinses in your kitchen or bathroom.


Mix a cup of hot water with a half teaspoon of salt. When the water cools from hot to warm, gargle with the mixture or swish it around in your mouth before spitting it out.

Hydrogen peroxide

Gargling with hydrogen peroxide is another common way to prevent infection in your teeth and gums.

Mix one part 3-percent hydrogen peroxide with two parts water. Swish the mixture around your mouth for about a minute, then spit it out. After rinsing, look at your open mouth in a mirror. If you see any foam, that’s a spot where the peroxide is fighting bacteria.

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Holistic approaches

Many people prefer natural approaches when it comes to what to do for a toothache. Luckily, several natural treatments for a toothache might be available in your kitchen already.

These easy treatments work best for that needle-sharp type of pain, though they may also help jaw pain.

Note: If you know your tooth pain is related to dental work, then don’t use these treatments unless you have your dentist’s permission.

Tea bags

Peppermint tea bags are one of the most highly recommended natural treatments for tooth pain. Make yourself a soothing cup of peppermint tea, but instead of throwing away the tea bag, gently press it over the painful tooth.


Some people believe that the acid in lemons can reduce bacteria on an infected tooth. Try placing a thin slice of lemon on the tooth for a tangy treatment.

If you don’t mind strong flavors, take a garlic clove, chop it up, smash it into a paste, and apply the paste to your tooth.

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Numb the pain

While waiting to get your dentist’s advice about what to do for a toothache, your focus might just be on numbing the pain so you can forget about your toothache for a while!

The following suggestions are for adults only.


If the pain is on a specific tooth, try using an over-the-counter anesthetic gel such as Anbesol or Orajel. Follow the directions on the package for toothache treatment.

Some of these gels have a minty taste but have powerful numbing qualities. Keep them away from kids.


Use the old-fashioned, tried-and-true method of taking a swig of whiskey or vodka — spitting is not required.

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Do nothing

Our final recommendation about what to do for a toothache is to avoid anything that aggravates your tooth or jaw pain. To this end, we recommend this:

  • Drink only room-temperature beverages
  • Chew on one side of your mouth to avoid biting down on your aching tooth
  • If you’re suffering from jaw pain, give the world the silent treatment by talking less and cutting back on any activities that require you to move your jaw.

When to Seek Medical Help for a Toothache

While the suggestions above provide ideas for what to do for a toothache over the span of a few days, you probably will have to seek a dentist’s help at some point.

On the other hand, if you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you need to call your dentist right away and request an emergency appointment:

  • Pus or discharge from the gums
  • A weird taste in your mouth along with tooth pain
  • Fever and swelling accompanied by tooth or jaw pain

Even if your toothache symptoms don’t match the list above, any pain that lasts more than four or five days should be checked out by a dentist. And if the pain gets progressively worse over the course of a few days, call your dentist ASAP. The longer you wait, the greater the chance of the pain reaching unbearable levels.

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What happens at the dentist’s office

If your toothache is centered in one tooth and features a stabbing pain and sensitivity to heat and cold, then something may have happened to your tooth that left nerves exposed.

Your dentist may diagnose one of the following issues:

  • A cavity
  • A filling that has broken off or a chipped tooth
  • An infection in the tooth or gums

In these cases, the dentist will make an appointment for you to have your teeth repaired and to treat any infections.

Generalized jaw pain might result from the following:

  • Tooth grinding at night
  • A sinus or ear infection
  • Injury to the jaw

Tooth grinding is one of the most common causes of jaw pain. Your dentist will look at your teeth and see if the damage is from grinding. If so, your dentist can prescribe a mouth guard to protect your teeth.

And that’s not all:

If your pain follows a dental procedure, be sure to look at the after-care instructions your dentist or oral surgeon gave you. But if, after the healing period listed on the instruction sheet is passed, your teeth continue to ache or you have sharp pains, call your dentist right away.

Have you had a tooth extracted? Then you may suffer from a complication called dry socket. When the dentist removes a tooth, the hole that remains behind ideally fills with a blood clot to protect the sensitive bone beneath. If this blood clot doesn’t form, then the hole is exposed to bacteria.

Another issue that can cause toothaches after a dental procedure is a cavity filling that doesn’t sit correctly in the tooth. So, if your pain continues after a dental filling, call your dentist to have the filling corrected.

Get Your Mouth Feeling Better

While there are many simple home remedies for treating the pain of toothaches, a toothache that continues for more than a week must be examined by a dentist.

The reason is:

Untreated tooth infections can spread to other parts of the mouth. For those with weakened immune systems or those with heart disease, what begins as a mild toothache can grow into a major health issue.

You can request an appointment easily online to see one of the team members at Your Caring Dentist Group. We can help you end that toothache once and for all.

And to avoid toothaches altogether, brushing and flossing regularly, getting regular dental check-ups, and cutting back on smoking and other tobacco products will go a long way. Pay attention to your teeth; they are a unique part of your body that deserves special care.

Do you have any home remedies for toothaches you would like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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