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Toothache is the pain experienced in and around the teeth, jaws or the surrounding tissues. It can be present continuously or may come and go. The intensity of the pain can range from mild to severe. Toothache can sometimes be severe enough to affect day to day function. Therefore, proper intervention is necessary.


Some of the symptoms which are commonly associated with toothache include:

  • Worsening of the toothache while eating or drinking
  • Worsening of pain during night times, especially after lying down
  • Tenderness and swelling of the jaw adjoining the infected tooth
  • Bleeding or discharge from the teeth or the gums


There are multiple causes for toothache out of which tooth decay is the leading cause in both adults and children. The bacteria in the mouth interact with the food remnants and release acids. These acids attack the enamel coating on the teeth and cause them to decay producing a cavity or hole. Tooth decay causes pain when sweets or very hot or very cold foods are consumed. The other causes of toothache include:

  • Infection of the root of the tooth or the gums
  • Trauma or injury of the tooth
  • Acid erosion of the tooth
  • Loose or broken filling
  • Formation of splits in the tooth
  • Sudden fracture of the tooth or its root
  • Sensitivity to temperature, i.e. hot and cold foods or drinks
  • Use of braces
  • Receding gums
  • Impacted wisdom teeth

Sinus infections can also produce pain that radiates to the tooth.

Risk factors

Toothache can occur in people of any age group. The following factors increase the likelihood of a person to develop a toothache:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking

When to consult the doctor?

If the toothache is persistent for more than one or two days or if it is very severe, then consult a dentist. Seek immediate help if the following symptoms are present along with toothache:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty to breathe or swallow
  • Symptoms of infection such as foul-tasting discharge, red gums, pain during biting on food


The dentist will perform a physical examination of the oral cavity and may order for x-rays to determine the exact cause of toothache.


Usually, pain medications are sufficient to relieve toothache. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers such as aspirin can be taken by adults to reduce the pain. Benzocaine containing OTC gels and liquids should be used cautiously. In some cases, special treatment is required which include:

  • Tooth decay is treated by clearing off the decayed area and filling it with a special filling material.
  • If the pulp of tooth is infected, then root canal may be performed which involves removing the infected pulp and replacing it with a special filling material.
  • In case of impacted wisdom tooth, the dentist will suggest for extraction of the tooth or cutting a portion of the gum above the tooth.


The following home remedies can help to manage a toothache:

  • Rinse the oral cavity regularly with salt water. This acts as a natural disinfectant to remove the debris and food particles stuck to the teeth. It also reduces the inflammation and heals the oral wounds.
  • Apply a cold compress such as ice-cube wrapped in a cloth for nearly 20 minutes to the affected area. Repeat this after every few hours. It helps to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Wet a cotton ball with clove oil and place it inside the mouth on the affected area. It causes numbness of the area and also acts as a natural antiseptic.
  • Place chopped pieces of garlic on the tooth or chew a piece of it to get relief.

However, pregnant women should check with the dentist before using some of the above home remedies.


Toothache can be prevented to a large extent by the following measures:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Brushing the teeth twice daily with fluoride containing toothpaste
  • Flossing between the teeth once daily
  • Cutting down on sugary foods and drinks
  • Getting regular dental check up




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