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What is toothache?

Toothache is pain that you feel inside your mouth around or in your teeth. This pain can be sharp or dull and aching, it tends to occur when the nerve to the tooth is irritated, for example if you have a loose filling.

If you have toothache it's important to see your dentist as soon as possible. If you don't have a dentist ask our pharmacy team for details about local dentists or you can use the NHS tool to find your nearest dentist.

What causes toothache?

Toothache can be caused by a number of things, however one of the main reasons is poor oral hygiene. Not looking after your teeth or regularly visiting the dentist can lead to problems, including:

  • Abscesses
  • Tooth decay
  • Cracked or damaged teeth
  • A loose or broken filling
  • An infection, this can happen when a tooth has broken through the skin
  • Issues with your braces

It’s recommended that everyone brushes their teeth twice a day, and visit their dentist for regular check-ups. This will mean that any issues you have are found early before they cause you pain.

What are the symptoms of a toothache?

The first sign that something is wrong with your tooth is pain; you may feel pain when eating something sweet, cold or very hot. If your tooth pain only happens when you eat sweet, hot or cold food, you may have sensitive teeth. So try brushing your teeth two or three times a day with toothpaste designed specifically for sensitive teeth.

The type of pain you experience can differ, from sharp or throbbing pain, for some this may only occur when you bite down with your teeth or it could be more constant. You may also notice that the gum around your tooth is swollen, red or sore. If your tooth is infected then you could be experiencing a bad taste in your mouth, as well as a fever or headache.

What is the best painkiller for toothache?

If you’re want to know how you can get rid of toothache, then there are a variety of treatments and medications that you can use; from natural drug-free remedies to medication that you can buy over the counter in your local supermarket.

Painkillers – Including ibuprofen and paracetamol offer toothache relief, helping to calm symptoms and alleviate pain. Both of these medicines work to relieve mild to moderate pain, while ibuprofen also eases inflammation and swelling.

Pain relieving gel or pastesGels such as Orajel can be bought over the counter at your local pharmacy. They are formulated to numb the affected area, helping to relieve the symptoms and pain caused by toothache while you wait to see your dentist.

Clove oil - A natural and drug-free alternative, clove oil contains the active ingredient eugenol which is a natural anaesthetic. The spice helps to relieve the pain, swelling and soreness of toothache. Apply a couple of drops of clove oil to a cotton bud and apply to the affected area.

Are there any home remedies for toothache?

When you first notice that you have toothache, or when you are waiting to see your dentist there are pain relief remedies that you can try at home. These remedies combined with medication can help to ease the pain you are feeling and reduce symptoms.

Saltwater can help by cleansing the area. All you need to do is combine a cup of boiled water with a teaspoon of salt. Once the water is cool enough simply rinse the water solution around your mouth for at least 30 seconds. Make sure that you don’t swallow any of the salt water, and children who have toothache should not try this remedy.

If your face is swollen and your gums are sore you could use a cold compress or ice wrapped in a tea towel. Hold this against your face to help bring the swelling down. Please bear in mind that if your toothache is caused by an exposed nerve, your tooth will be extra sensitive and the presence of ice or something cold could make the pain worse.

When should I see a dentist?

Although you can buy medication and use home remedies to treat toothache there are some circumstances where in which you should book an appointment with a dentist, for example if:

  • The toothache lasts for two days or more
  • The pain does not go away or decrease when you take painkillers
  • You have a high temperature
  • You have pain when you bite, your gums are red or you have a bad taste in your mouth
  • Your jaw or cheek are swollen

How can I prevent getting toothache?

If you have had toothache before you know how painful it is, and you probably won’t want to experience it again. The best thing for toothache is to look after your teeth; there are also things that you can do lower your risk of getting painful teeth in the future.

  • Reduce the amount of sweet things you eat and drink, and only have them at meal times
  • Drink fewer fizzy drinks
  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Use dental floss to clean between your teeth - you can also try a mouthwash
  • Don't smoke - ask our pharmacy team about our Stop Smoking Service
  • Visit your dentist at least once a year
  • Can you cure toothache?

    Toothache is curable; however how this happens depends on what is causing your toothache. It may be as simple as you need to take better care of your teeth, or you may need a filling replacing. Your dentist will be able to advise you and help get to the root of the problem.

  • How can I stop toothache?

    Practicing good oral hygiene will help to look after your teeth and prevent any issues that could cause toothache. It’s advised that you should brush your teeth twice a day, as well as floss to help remove food debris from between your teeth. Having regular dentist check-ups will also help prevent toothache and makes it easier to treat any problems.

  • Should I see a doctor or a dentist if I have a toothache?

    If you are experiencing toothache and the pain has lasted for more than two days, you should book an appointment to see a dentist. Your dentist is much better equipped to look after your teeth than your GP. If you see your GP about toothache they will probably refer you to a dentist.

  • Do I need a prescription for toothache pain relief?

    Typically, no, however this will depend on the severity of the pain you’re experiencing. If you have mild to moderate pain, you’ll be able to find pain relief medication in your local pharmacy and online which can help ease toothache before you can visit a dentist.

    Did you know that if you have a repeat NHS prescription you can get your medication delivered to your door for free with Echo by LloydsPharmacy? With simple in-app ordering and reminders to re-order, our prescription delivery service couldn’t be easier.