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How to Cope with Toothache Until You Can See Your Dentist

A woman holds the side of her face and grimaces due to tooth pain.

Anyone who has ever experienced a toothache knows how debilitating it can be. From sharp, stabbing pains to a dull, constant ache, toothache can make it difficult to eat, sleep, or even concentrate. At Smile Science Dental Spa in Glendale, AZ, we understand how challenging it can be to manage toothache until you’re able to see a dentist. In this article, our experienced dentists, Dr. Richard Dawson and Dr. John Turke, will guide you through steps you can take to alleviate toothache at home, and explain when it’s crucial to seek professional dental care.

Understanding Toothache

A man holds the side of his face due to tooth pain.

Toothache is pain in or around a tooth that’s often caused by dental issues such as cavities, gum disease, an exposed tooth root, a cracked tooth, or a dental abscess. The pain can vary greatly, from a mild discomfort to an excruciating pain that can be felt in almost any part of the mouth, including the jaw and face.

There are different types of tooth pain, and they might indicate different problems:

  • Sharp, intermittent pain: This can occur when biting down or consuming hot or cold foods or drinks. It could be a sign of tooth decay, a loose filling, or a cracked tooth.
  • Constant, severe pain and pressure, swelling of the gums, and sensitivity to touch: These symptoms may indicate an infection or abscess.
  • Dull ache or feeling of pressure above the upper teeth: Sometimes, this isn’t related to dental issues at all but could be sinus-related.

Understanding the type and intensity of your tooth pain can provide important clues about its cause and how to manage it, but it is essential to seek professional dental care for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Common Causes of Toothache

Toothaches can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which include:

  • Tooth Decay: This is the most common cause of toothache. When bacteria in the mouth form plaque, this can eat away at the tooth enamel, forming cavities that can cause pain.
  • Gum Disease: Inflamed or infected gums can often cause discomfort and pain.
  • Tooth Abscess: An abscess occurs when bacteria infect the pulp chamber (the innermost part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels), leading to pus accumulation at the root tip. This can cause severe and persistent toothache.
  • Cracked Tooth: A crack or fracture in a tooth can cause pain when chewing as pressure is applied.
  • Impacted Teeth: This is most common with wisdom teeth, which often don’t have enough space to emerge or grow properly.
  • Teeth Grinding or Clenching: Also known as bruxism, this can lead to toothache, jaw pain, and other issues.

Home Remedies for Temporary Toothache Relief

While nothing can replace professional dental care, several at-home treatments can provide temporary relief until your dentist appointment:

  • Cold Compress or Ice Pack: Apply to the affected area for 15 minutes every hour.
  • Salt Water Rinse: Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, and rinse your mouth thoroughly.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Non-prescription pain relievers can help alleviate the pain. Always follow the package instructions.
  • Topical Numbing Gels: These can be found in most drugstores and can provide temporary relief.

However, remember that these remedies are temporary solutions and not substitutes for professional treatment. They can help manage the pain, but they don’t address the underlying causes of toothache. Therefore, it’s essential to schedule an appointment with your dentist, such as Dr. Dawson or Dr. Turke at Smile Science Dental Spa, to diagnose and treat the underlying issue causing the pain.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers for Toothache

Various pills scattered on a table surrounding a glass of water

While waiting for your dentist appointment, you might find relief from various over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Often recommended for temporary relief of toothache, follow the package instructions for dosage.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin) can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  • Oral gels and ointments: Products such as Orajel or Anbesol can numb the area, providing temporary relief.
  • Medicated mouthwashes: Mouthwashes with an analgesic can help numb your mouth and reduce the pain.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using OTC medications.

Differentiating Tooth Sensitivity from Toothache

While toothache and tooth sensitivity can both cause discomfort, it’s important to understand the difference between the two as they often indicate different dental issues and require different treatments.

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, is typically a sharp, sudden pain that you feel in response to certain triggers like cold drinks, hot food, sweet or acidic substances, or even cold air. The pain usually subsides once the trigger is removed. It’s often caused by worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots and is more of an annoyance than an emergency. However, persistent sensitivity can sometimes indicate a more serious condition, like a cavity or a fractured tooth, that requires professional treatment.

You can manage tooth sensitivity at home by using desensitizing toothpaste, avoiding highly acidic foods, or using a soft-bristled toothbrush. However, if the sensitivity persists, it’s important to schedule a visit with Dr. Dawson or Dr. Turke at Smile Science Dental Spa to investigate the root cause.


On the other hand, toothache is a constant, throbbing pain in or around a tooth that doesn’t go away after the trigger is removed. It may be accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, a bad taste in your mouth, or even fever. Unlike tooth sensitivity, toothache often indicates a more serious dental issue such as a cavity, an abscess, or an infection, and it requires immediate attention from a dental professional.

In essence, while tooth sensitivity and toothache can both cause discomfort, toothache is generally more serious and warrants a visit to the dentist. However, if you have any concerns about your dental health, whether it’s tooth sensitivity or toothache, it’s always a good idea to consult with Dr. Dawson or Dr. Turke at Smile Science Dental Spa for professional advice and treatment.

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your oral health. Don’t ignore persistent pain or discomfort – reach out to Smile Science Dental Spa and let us help you maintain your dental health.

When to Call Your Dentist

Knowing when to seek professional help is crucial. You should make an appointment with your dentist immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Toothache that lasts longer than 1-2 days
  • Fever, earache, or pain when opening your mouth wide
  • Severe pain or discomfort that interferes with daily activities
  • Swelling around the tooth or in your face
  • Signs of infection, such as pus or discharge, foul taste in the mouth

At Smile Science Dental Spa, Dr. Richard Dawson and Dr. John Turke prioritize patients with severe toothaches, so don’t hesitate to reach out when you’re in pain. It’s important to remember that home remedies and over-the-counter medications can help with the symptoms, but professional dental care is necessary to treat the underlying cause of your toothache.

How Smile Science Dental Spa Handles Tooth Pain

An elderly male patient giving a thumbs up to the camera while the dentist smiles beside him

At Smile Science Dental Spa, we pride ourselves on our compassionate, patient-centered approach to dentistry. Dr. Richard Dawson and Dr. John Turke understand that toothache isn’t just a physical pain – it can also be a source of anxiety and stress. That’s why they use cutting-edge diagnostic tools to identify the cause of your pain quickly and accurately, followed by a detailed discussion of the most effective and suitable treatment options for you.

Depending on the diagnosis, treatment may involve a simple procedure like a filling, root canal therapy, gum disease treatment, or in rare cases, tooth extraction. Rest assured that our team prioritizes your comfort, using modern pain management techniques to ensure a virtually painless experience.

Preventive Measures Against Toothache

A young woman smiling while flossing her teeth

Preventing toothache is often easier – and less costly – than treating one. Here’s how you can help avoid toothache:

  • Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily to prevent plaque build-up, which is the leading cause of toothache.
  • Regular Check-ups: Regular dental check-ups with Dr. Dawson or Dr. Turke allow for early detection and treatment of potential dental problems before they turn into a painful toothache.
  • Eat Healthily: Limit sugary drinks and snacks, which can contribute to tooth decay.

Smile Science Dental Spa believes in a preventive approach to dental care, helping you maintain healthy teeth and gums and avoid the discomfort of a toothache.


While toothache can be extremely uncomfortable, knowing how to manage the pain at home and when to seek professional help can make it more manageable. Always remember, the team at Smile Science Dental Spa, including Dr. Dawson and Dr. Turke, are here to help you handle dental emergencies and maintain your dental health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’re experiencing a toothache – we’re here to help restore your comfort and well-being.

Citations and Further Reading

  1. Supportive Home Remedies for Orofacial Pain during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic: Their Value and Limitations
  2. Home remedies for toothache – believe it or not
  3. Dental pain and self-care: a cross-sectional study of people with low socio-economic status residing in rural India
author avatar
Richard Dawson, DMD General Dentist
Dr. Richard Dawson, DMD, is a prominent dentist in Glendale, AZ, focused on cosmetic, implant, and emergency dentistry. A graduate of Midwestern University, he co-founded Smile Science Dental Spa with Dr. John Turke in February 2023. Passionate about helping patients achieve beautiful and healthy smiles, Dr. Dawson brings a blend of expertise and compassion to his practice. He regularly shares insights and tips on dental health on his blog, providing valuable information for both new and existing patients alike.


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