Dental Pain 

Cross-section image two teeth, the gum and the jaw, showing the enamel, dentin, nerve, artery, vein, pulp, root, and bone.

A crack or cavity in a tooth can cause tooth pain. This is because the crack or cavity exposes the sensitive inner area of the tooth. An infection in the gum or the tooth's root can cause pain and swelling. The pain is often made worse when you have a hot or cold drink. It can also be worse when you bite on hard foods. Pain may spread from the tooth to your ear, or to the part of the jaw on the same side.

Home care

Follow these tips when caring for yourself at home:

  • Don't have hot and cold foods and drinks. Your tooth may be sensitive to changes in temperature.

  • Use toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Brush gently up and down instead of sideways. Brushing sideways can wear away root surfaces if they are exposed.

  • If your tooth is chipped or cracked, see a dentist right away. For short-term pain relief, put clove oil right on the tooth. You can buy clove oil at pharmacies. Some pharmacies carry an over-the-counter toothache kit. This has a paste you can put on the exposed tooth to make it less sensitive.

  • Use a cold pack. Put a cold pack on your jaw over the sore area to help reduce pain.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about using over-the-counter medicine for pain. You may use this unless your provider prescribed another medicine. If you have long-term (chronic) liver or kidney disease, talk with your provider before using acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI (gastrointestinal) bleeding.

  • Be aware of infection. If you have signs of an infection, you will be given an antibiotic. Take it as directed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your dentist, or as advised. Your pain may go away with the treatment given today. But only a dentist can fully check and treat the cause of your pain. This will keep the pain from coming back.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Abnormal drowsiness

  • Headache or stiff neck

  • Weakness or fainting

  • Trouble swallowing or breathing

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Your face gets swollen or red

  • Pain gets worse or spreads to your neck

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38.0ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Pus drains from the tooth

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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