How to Cure a Toothache
Toothaches can often strike without warning, causing varying pain in or about the tooth. Generally, toothaches are caused by gum disease, cavities and broken teeth. While it may be difficult to schedule an emergency appointment for a toothache, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize or treat your pain while you wait to visit the dentist. Learn how to cure toothaches with these simple remedies.
There are many reasons why someone may have a toothache. "The most effective 'cure' depends on the source of the pain, which is oftentimes difficult to determine if you are not a dentist," says Nicole Holland, DDS, practicing dentist and health communication specialist in Wellesley, Mass. Holland recommends taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, which may minimize the pain until you are able to see the dentist. Ibuprofen may also help to reduce painful inflammation.
Also, pay close attention your symptoms. "When and where does it hurt? How long does the pain last? Is the pain sharp or dull? Does it hurt when you chew? Does certain food/drink make the pain worse? It sounds obvious, but once you determine these irritating factors, stay away from them and make sure to tell your dentist," says Dr. Holland.
Notice What Causes Tooth Sensitivity
If your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, you're in luck. According to New Jersey dentist Elaine Swingle, DMD, pain due to sensitivity is the type of pain that you can most frequently cure on your own. "Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Watch to see that you're not clenching your teeth. If you're chewing gum, stop doing so. You're basically banging on the tooth and making it sensitive, similar to clenching," Dr. Swingle says.
Limit Acidic Foods and Drinks
Acidic things can cause toothaches. These types of toothaches can also get better on their own by avoiding acidic agents. "Sodas, especially with citric acid, can cause sensitivity or decay. Avoid having multiple cups of coffee. And if you're going to have candy, brush your teeth immediately after," says Swingle.
Look For a Temporary Fix
If your pain is due to a lost filling, consider purchasing a temporary filling material in the drugstore. "With crowns, you can put a denture adhesive in it. Toothpaste and Vaseline are also helpful tools to put the crown back in place," says Swingle.
Make sure that the area is clean by flossing, brushing and rinsing with warm water. Use an antiseptic rinse regularly to alleviate minor toothaches.
Also, consider which over-the-counter toothache relievers could alleviate your symptoms. "Eugenol can sometimes be helpful. Orajel and Anbesol have a numbing agent in them that can help the area," says Swingle.
Remember that sometimes over-the-counter remedies won't alleviate the entire problem. "If you have an infection, fever or swelling, see the doctor right away. That's not generally going to go away on its own," says Swingle.
Pay attention to warning signs that you can't cure a toothache yourself. Holland recommends seeing a dentist immediately if the pain gets worse, starts to spread or something doesn't look "right" in your mouth.
Finally, be sure to make and keep your dental appointment even if the pain goes away. "The problem that initially caused the pain may still be there even if you can no longer see or feel it," says Holland.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
And remember, the majority of toothaches are preventable. If you've successfully cured toothaches on your own, there are more steps you can take to avoid getting toothaches. Holland recommends practicing good oral hygiene at home on a regular basis and having regular, professional dental check-ups. "Diet is also important. Frequent snacking can increase your risk for getting cavities, and acidic foods and drinks can weaken the enamel," says Holland.