Family brushing their teeth to avoid a toothache

A toothache can happen to anyone at any time. When you wake up one morning or bite into your meal, you might think to yourself, “I have a toothache and this tooth hurts what should I do?” First and foremost, it is important to not panic. Your dentist is here to help you with a full spectrum of oral health concerns, including toothaches. When the issue of, “I have a toothache and this tooth hurts what should I do?” comes up, it is good to have a plan ready. These tips will give you a plan of action to take in order to address your concerns and eliminate your pain.

Call the Dentist

The first action to take when your tooth hurts is to call the dentist’s office. If your toothache develops during the evening, overnight, or on a weekend, the dentist and office staff check messages first thing in the morning or even more frequently. You will be seen as quickly as possible to evaluate your symptoms. Whether you leave an after-hours message or you call during the day, it is important to fully describe your toothache symptoms. Try to tell the person on the phone these details about your toothache:

  • Type of pain, such as burning, stabbing, radiating or throbbing
  • Whether the toothache is constant or it comes and goes
  • What makes the toothache worse, such as cold drinks or biting into food
  • Whether something happened at the time your toothache started, such as a hit to your mouth or a cracking sound
  • When your pain started
  • What, if anything, makes the tooth feel better

Caring for Your Symptoms At Home

When your tooth hurts, it can be difficult to concentrate on anything else. If you are waiting for a call back from the dentist’s office or your appointment is in a few hours, there are a few things that you can do at home in order to care for your tooth and manage the pain from your toothache.

  • Mix 1/2 teaspoon of table salt into eight ounces of warm water. Rinse your mouth and spit out the salt water.
  • Try an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).
  • Try a pain-relieving gel with lidocaine applied to the affected tooth.
  • Hold a cold compress onto your cheek.
  • Soak a cotton swab or ball in clove oil and rub the cotton onto your tooth.

If the Toothache Gets Worse

Rarely, a person could wake up with a sudden and severe toothache. This is an emergency situation, and you should be seen the same day by your dentist. The cause is often an infection or an abscess. Emergency dental treatment for a severe toothache might include draining the abscess, cleaning any decay from the area and prescribing a course of antibiotics to clear your system of the infection. After the infection is gone, you may need a filling.

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