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What to Do When You Have a Toothache?

by Lisa Parris
  • Overview

    Few things are more miserable than a toothache. Whether it be dull or sharp, throbbing or sporadic, it's difficult to live with and impossible to ignore. Most toothaches are the result of cavities. Cavities are formed when the bacteria that live in your mouth multiply, producing excessive acidic compounds that dissolve the outer layer of protective tooth enamel. Cavities should be treated by a dentist, but until you get to your appointment, the following steps can help alleviate the pain.
  • Self-Care

    Begin by rinsing your mouth with warm salt water. Stir 2 tsp. of table salt into 1 cup of warm water until the salt dissolves. Place approximately 1/4-cup in your mouth and swish, being sure to move the water over the surface of the affected tooth. The warmth will help to soothe the nerves, the salt will help to kill the bacteria and the swishing action can dislodge any food particles which may be caught between your teeth. Move the water from one side of your mouth to the other for approximately 30 seconds and then spit the salt solution into the sink. Repeat three more times, using the entire cup of salt water. Rinse your mouth after eating and as often as you like between meals. Follow the rinsing with flossing and then brush your teeth with an American Dental Association-approved fluoride-enhanced toothpaste.
 
  • Over the Counter

    At the pharmacy you can find any number of over-the-counter pain medications. Take whichever one of these seems to work best for you. However, if you are treating a child, do not give them aspirin, as this can set off a condition known as Reye's syndrome. You can also purchase a topical antiseptic toothache remedy containing the compound benzocaine, which will numb your tooth and jaw temporarily. Use these medications as directed on the package to achieve the best results.
  • Home Remedies

    If you prefer the application of something a bit more "natural" or if you find over-the-counter medications to be cost-prohibitive, try an old-fashioned, traditional toothache remedy. For example, you can dip a cotton swab into clove oil and place it directly against the painful area to relieve discomfort and reduce swelling. A similar effect, though not as long lasting, can be achieved by swabbing the affected tooth and surrounding gums with brandy or whiskey. Additionally, you can place a clove of garlic or a slice or raw onion at the cavity site. Their natural antimicrobial properties will kill the excess bacteria, bringing you temporary relief.

    References & Resources