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How to Treat Your Child’s Toothache

Updated on April 20, 2015
A toothache is an unfortunately common childhood malady.
A toothache is an unfortunately common childhood malady. | Source

A toothache is a miserable experience for any child. Of course, it can also miserable for you as a parent when you are not sure what to do to ease your little one’s pain. Fortunately, you do have options. You will find these principles invaluable the next time one of your children comes down with a toothache.

Finding the Cause

Keep in mind that particularly young children may say their tooth hurts when they actually are suffering from a different oral malady. For example, in some cases what they think is a toothache may actually be caused by accidentally biting their tongue or the inside of their mouth, by gingivitis or a similar gum disorder, by a cold sore or by a mouth ulcer. If it is genuinely one or more of your child’s teeth that are in pain, several different factors could be responsible. Cavities and similar tooth decay issues are one possibility; although they are less common in young children, they are still a possibility do to the fact that young children frequently have not yet developed good dental hygiene habits.

A less serious toothache cause could simply be a piece of food that has become lodged between the teeth. This can be surprisingly painful, but can be corrected simply by carefully removing the food with a piece of dental floss. When you inspect your child’s teeth, you should also look for any chips, cracks or other damage that could also be the cause of tooth pain. Of course, you should also remember that sometimes tooth pain can be caused by baby teeth that are getting ready to fall out and be replaced by adult teeth, which is a completely normal part of growing up.

Teaching your children how to care for their teeth from a young age will help minimize their risk of getting a toothache.
Teaching your children how to care for their teeth from a young age will help minimize their risk of getting a toothache. | Source

What to Do

The proper treatment for a child’s toothache will vary somewhat depending on the toothache’s exact cause. For example, having your child rinse their mouth out with warm water will often soothe the pain, especially if it is caused by a crack in the enamel. However, cool water may be more comfortable in other cases. You can also use a hot pack or a cold pack wrapped in a cloth and applied to the outside of the jaw, instead of using a rinse.

If the toothache is caused by some type of irritation to the gum, adding about a teaspoon of ordinary salt to the warm water before your child rinses can be more soothing than the water alone. You can also use over the counter pain medication like Tylenol or Advil to relieve your child’s discomfort, but make sure you only use a medication that is intended for children and that you follow all listed dosage restrictions.

Of course, if the toothache is caused by a serious issue like a crack or cavity, all of these remedies are only designed to temporarily relieve the pain until you can get your child to the dentist. When your child has a cavity, but for whatever reason it is not possible to see a dentist immediately, applying a few drops of oil of cloves to the tooth can help temporarily relieve the pain.

If none of these remedies relieve the pain within 12 hours to one day, you should visit the dentist, even if you cannot see any visible problem. If your child’s symptoms become worse, or if you begin to notice a fever or swelling, you should seek medical care immediately.

If home remedies do not relieve your child's toothache symptoms within a day, you should have them checked by a dentist.
If home remedies do not relieve your child's toothache symptoms within a day, you should have them checked by a dentist. | Source

What to Avoid

While your child is suffering, do not allow them to eat food that is very hot or very cold, since they can irritate a toothache. Salty foods may also worsen the pain. If the toothache is caused by a cavity, sugary foods and even chewing too hard can aggravate the issue as well. You should also not apply aspirin or any other pain reliever topically to the site of the pain; since these products are acidic, rather than relieving the pain they could severely aggravate it when touched directly to the affected area.

Did you suffer from toothaches when you were a child?

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Children’s Health Network: “Toothache”

Seattle Children’s Hospital: “Toothache”

Pediatric Dentistry of Glens Falls: “What to Do When Your Child Has a Toothache”

Dear Doctor: “What Should I Do If My Child Has a Toothache?”

Kidtastic Dental: “My Child Has a Toothache. What Should I Do?”

Dentistry for Children: “What Should I Do If My Child Has a Toothache?”

India Parenting: “Easing the Pain: Dealing With Toothaches in Children”

What have you found to be the best way to treat a toothache?

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great tips on what to do what your child has a toothache and how to treat it in the meantime. Useful and voted up!


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