What to Do When Your Child Has a Toothache

Few things are as stressful as helping your child when they are in pain. That’s why having an action plan can make a world of difference. Toothaches are serious business. When a tooth hurts, it can consume your child’s ability to focus and potentially worsen if left unchecked.  If your child comes to you with tooth pain, there are simple steps you can do to help their problem.


Talk with Your Child About What They’re Feeling

Try to get your child to tell you as much as they can about the specifics of where their tooth pain is coming from and what it feels like.  Depending on your child’s age and verbal development, they may be able to specify a precise area and a type of feeling. If your child has trouble showing you the location of their toothache, and you cannot visually spot a problem, gently press on their gums with a clean finger or tongue depressor and ask them to tell you when the pressure is on the toothache.

Be sure to check their tongue and inner cheeks as well. Their “toothache” may be mouth pain from a bitten tongue or a hidden sore they do not know how to communicate to you. Cutting new teeth is another common source of childhood toothaches.


Examine Your Child’s Teeth and Gums

Once you have isolated the general area of the pain, check for swollen or red gums, stuck food particles, and signs of tooth damage. Not all toothaches will have visual signs you can detect, but if you notice injury or irritation, it can help you and your child as you proceed to clean their teeth and ease their pain.

If it seems that food may be painfully stuck or wedged in your child’s teeth, gently floss their teeth for them to dislodge any particles. If flossing does not resolve a child’s toothache, or you spot any problems with your child’s teeth, you’ll want to set up a dental exam to fully diagnose and solve any issues.


Safe and Effective Pain Relief for a Toothache

Once you have assessed as much as you can about your child’s toothache, your next move will be helping your child relieve the pain. It is important to identify triggers that may be causing any discomfort. Often cold liquids or sweets can exacerbate tooth pain and can cause teeth to become more sensitive. If possible, try to avoid any triggers.

If you notice a mouth sore or ulcer (like a canker sore or bit tongue), and your child is old enough to understand rinsing and spitting, make a saltwater rinse for them by dissolving a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. If your child is too young, or you are worried about them swallowing the saltwater, have them rinse their mouth with plain warm water instead. Rinsing with warm water can often be soothing to ulcerated areas.

You can also administer child-safe pain relief medication to help your child. If possible, opt for liquid medication as chewing could trouble the hurting teeth. Be absolutely certain to check the correct dosage for your child’s age and weight.

Never use aspirin to treat a toothache in children.  Aspirin can cause tissue damage in young people under the age of 19. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are better pain relief alternatives to aspirin for young people.


Follow Up With Your Home Dentist’s Office

If your child’s toothache persists, contact us at Fox Kids Dentistry & Orthodontics. Persistent pain in a tooth needs to be looked at by a dentist. Tooth pain has a variety of causes, from irritation or infection in your child’s gums, to painful cavities, to potential orthodontic issues, and these conditions can put your child in continual or worsening pain, if not correctly addressed. Tooth pain can easily distract and aggravate children, so it’s important to see a dentist quickly.

In the long term, regular dental check-ups and a supervised toothcare routine at home are your best prevention against future toothaches developing. Children should be scheduled for dental cleanings and checkups every six months. At home, make sure your child brushes their teeth thoroughly at least twice a day for two minutes, and make sure that they don’t consume food or beverages besides water once they’ve brushed their teeth for the evening.

In the event of a toothache, or to establish routine care, contact at Fox Kids Dentistry & Orthodontics. We specialize in compassionate pediatric dental care and we’re committed to giving kids their best smiles. Contact us today to set up an appointment.


This blog serves to provide general information about dentistry topics to help answer your questions. The above content is for informational purposes but is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice from a licensed pediatrician or pediatric dentist. If you have a dental concern for yourself, your child or another adult, please schedule a consultation with us so you can speak with a dentist.

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