Toothache trouble – how to make the wait less painful

Toothache Trouble? How to Make the Wait Less Painful

It can happen to anyone: the sudden onset of a throbbing toothache at the most inconvenient of times. Perhaps it arrives in the middle of the night, or worse, at the start of your weekend–when a whole lot of time and agony seem to stand between you and the next available dentist appointment.

You’ll live, of course, but there is no need to suffer so badly! With a little observation and resourcefulness, the wait for professional care can be a lot less excruciating.

Conduct a Self-Exam

Understanding what is causing your tooth to ache can help you identify the best solution for interim relief. While a cavity is the more probable culprit, other common reasons include:

  • A damaged filling that has left a sensitive nerve exposed
  • An abscessed tooth, which tends to feel more painful due to an infection of the root
  • A jaw complication (“TMD”” or “TMJ”) resulting from excessive chewing or grinding
  • Sinusitis, an inflammation of the nasal area often confused with tooth pain

You won’t know for sure what’s truly to blame until you see your dentist, but a quick assessment of your symptoms and the location of your discomfort may prove telling. For instance, extremely sharp, shooting pain and fever suggest an abscessed tooth is likely, whereas tenderness in the jaw area and a clicking sound is usually due to TMD.

How to Ease the Pain at Home

Countless tips are touted to zap your toothache as quickly as it started, but aside from visiting your dentist, there is no long lasting cure. For temporary relief however, here are a few tried-and-true measures you can take:

  • Take a dose of store-bought pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Soak the problem tooth in clove oil to help dull the throbbing
  • Avoid yawning or chewing, especially if you suspect your toothache is jaw-related
  • Pass on extremely cold or hot foods that may cause acute pain in your tooth
  • Wear a mouth guard while sleeping to prevent grinding down on the tooth
  • Use an ice pack or cold compress near your problem tooth to minimize any swelling

Rinsing your mouth with water and salt, and stepping up your normal dental routine in general can also keep the problem from getting worse.

(Please note that these suggestions are for adults only. If your child suffers a toothache, consult with his or her pediatrician for safe treatment options.)

Long Term Preventative Care

Once your appointment is under way, use the time you have with your dentist to its fullest. He or she will be able to determine the cause and treat the toothache accordingly. After the problem has been treated, be sure to ask for a detailed explanation and recommendations to help you avoid a similar experience in the future.

Brushing, flossing and regular check-ups continue to play central roles in the world of preventative care, but based on your unique dental situation, additional procedures may be recommended as part of your treatment plan.


Dental Health and Toothaches. (2013, March 24). Retrieved June 1, 2015 from

Toothache: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention. (2013, December 17). Retrieved June 1, 2015 from

Toothache Treatment. (2014, January 10). Retrieve June 1, 2015 from



About the Author:

Since 1972, Salem Pediatric Dental & Orthodontic Associates has provided comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence including those with special health care needs. We proudly serve the communities of Salem, Lynn, Peabody, Danvers, Marblehead, Swampscott, Beverly, and many more.
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