Toothache

See a dentist if you have toothache that lasts more than 2 days. There are things you can do to ease it while you wait for an appointment.

See a dentist if you have toothache:

  • that last more than 2 days
  • that doesn't go away when you take painkillers
  • with a high temperature, pain when you bite, red gums, or a bad taste in your mouth
  • and your cheek or jaw are swollen

Don't go to your GP as they won't be able to give you dental treatment.

Go to A&E if you have toothache and:

  • the area around your eye or your neck is swollen
  • swelling in your mouth or neck is making it difficult for you to breathe, swallow or speak

How to ease toothache while waiting for an appointment

Do

  • take painkillers, like ibuprofen or paracetamol (children under 16 shouldn't take aspirin) – a pharmacist can advise you
  • try rinsing your mouth with salt water (children shouldn't try this)
  • use a pain-relieving gel for your mouth – this can be bought from pharmacies or supermarkets
  • eat soft foods, like yoghurt or scrambled eggs, and try to avoid chewing with the sore tooth

Don't

  • eat foods that are sweet, very hot or very cold
  • smoke – it can make some dental problems worse
How to rinse with salt water
  1. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water – warm water helps salt dissolve
  2. Rinse your mouth with the solution, then spit it out – don't swallow it
  3. Repeat as often as you like

Causes of toothache

Toothache can be caused by:

  • tooth decay
  • a dental abscess
  • a cracked or damaged tooth
  • a loose or broken filling
  • an infection – this often happens when a tooth (such as a wisdom tooth) has broken the skin, but doesn't have enough room to fully come through
  • problems with your braces

How to prevent toothache

The best way to prevent toothache is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

To do this:

  • have regular dental check-ups
  • cut down on sugary foods and drinks – only have them as an occasional treat at mealtimes
  • brush your teeth twice a day for about 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste
  • clean between your teeth using floss or an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque

Read more information about:

Page last reviewed: 17/04/2018
Next review due: 17/04/2021

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If you can't speak to your GP and don't know what to do next.