What Causes Toothache?

Toothache is caused when the soft pulp (containing the artery, vein and nerve) in the centre of your tooth becomes infected, or traumatised by an injury. The resultant swelling has nowhere to go, unlike in other parts of your body, as it’s encased in extremely hard enamel. The result is excruciating toothache.



The resultant swelling of the gums and heat are indications that your body’s immune system has kicked into high gear. The obvious thing to do would be to make a dentist appointment immediately. If the pain is severe, you might consider calling in all favours, and getting an emergency appointment.

Until you see the dentist, however, you need to alleviate the pain as much as possible. There are a number of temporary measures that you can take to help you deal with the pain.


OTC Painkillers and Anaesthetic Gels:

Any over the counter medication that contains aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen should help to alleviate the pain temporarily. Don’t let the painkiller come into contact with your gums as this can cause severe irritation. Be careful to use only as directed by the packaging. There are good anaesthetic gels available which, when rubbed over the gums of the infected area, will ease the pain for a few hours.

Salt Water and Hydrogen Peroxide

Half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water or a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide, swilled in the mouth for a few minutes will help you deal with toothache. Both are effective cleansers and germ fighters. Don’t swallow the solution but make sure to spit it out. The pain might be caused by a piece of food stuck under your gum line. Carefully and gently try and floss around the sore tooth to dislodge any debris. Rinse again with the solution.


The inflammation and swelling associated with toothache will respond favourably to a cold compress. Use a bag of ice or frozen vegetables, wrap the bag in a towel, and apply it to your cheek over the painful area. Don’t let the ice directly touch the tooth as infected teeth are very sensitive to heat and cold.

Clove Oil

A time-honoured remedy used for many thousands of years is clove oil. Studies published in the Journal of Dentistry in 2006 found that clove oil was as effective in alleviating pain as benzocaine which is found in most commercially produced anaesthetic gels. The clove oil contains eugenol, which has the same properties as the gels, and helps to deaden the pain.

Elevate your Head

If you have to go through the night before you see your dentist, make sure to keep your head elevated. If your head is at the same level as your heart, gravity will increase the blood supply to the affected area, and will thereby increase the swelling and pain.

Excruciating toothache is never pleasant and if you happen to be in a situation where you are not able to see a dentist immediately, the tips suggested above will help you deal with the toothache until you can get emergency help from your dentist.

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