Dental Cavity 

A dental cavity is a pit or crater in the surface of a tooth. This exposes the sensitive inner layer of the tooth and causes pain. If the cavity isn’t treated, it will get bigger. It may enter the pulp and cause an infection or pocket of pus (abscess) in the bone at the root end of the tooth. An infection in the tooth is a much more serious problem than a cavity. If the tooth gets infected, you'll need a root canal or the whole tooth taken out (extraction).

The pain in your tooth may be worse if you eat sweets or have hot or cold drinks. It may spread from the tooth to your ear or the part of your jaw on the same side.

Home care

Follow these tips when caring for yourself at home:

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

  • If your tooth is chipped or cracked, or if there is a large open cavity, put oil of cloves directly on the tooth to ease pain. You can buy oil of cloves at pharmacies. Some pharmacies carry an over-the-counter toothache kit. This contains a paste that you can put on the exposed tooth to make it less sensitive.

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

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

  • 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 diagnose and treat this problem to prevent further tooth damage.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble swallowing or breathing

  • Weakness or fainting

  • Abnormal drowsiness

  • Headache or stiff neck

When to get medical advice

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

  • Red or swollen face

  • Pain gets worse or spreads to your neck

  • Fever of 100.4 °F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Pus drains from the tooth or gum

© 2000-2022 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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