NHS website

Toothache

Read about the causes of toothache, when to see your dentist, and how toothache can be relieved and prevented.

10 December 2018

Introduction

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 see a dentist in an emergency or out of hours:

  • call your dentist – if they're closed, their answerphone may tell you what to do

If you don't have a dentist or can't get an emergency appointment:

You may have to pay for your appointment. Read more about NHS dental charges ↗.

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

  • do not eat foods that are sweet, very hot or very cold
  • do not smoke – it can make some dental problems worse

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

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