A toothache can be one of the worst forms of pain anyone can have. Whether it’s dull and persistent or sharp and acute, the pain can make it difficult to speak, eat, and drink. It can even be difficult to lay down and rest or sleep if you are dealing with a toothache.
If you’re a parent of a child with a toothache, all you want to do is make it better for your little one. With children, it can be notoriously difficult to get them to describe where the toothache is coming from, or how bad the pain is. You don’t want to overreact, but you don’t want to underreact either.
By learning more about the potential causes of toothaches, as well as practical remedies and treatment steps, you can take the best course of action for your child. Read on for our practical guide to toothaches and toothache remedies for children.
What causes toothaches in children?
According to the American Dental Association, the term toothache can encompass a wide range of symptoms, including persistent throbbing pain, a dull ache, and sharp stabbing pain. A toothache can be worse when eating or chewing, especially hot, cold, or acidic foods, and it may be triggered at certain times of day, such as bedtime.
In most cases, a dentist will need to perform a thorough examination to positively identify the source of the toothache. Common causes can include:
- Bacterial infection and/or related tooth abscess, which is a buildup of pus in the tooth
- Tooth decay and cavities
- Gum disease
- Impacted molar or wisdom tooth
- Cracked tooth or other dental trauma
Toothaches can be so painful because of the high density of very sensitive nerve tissue present inside the pulp of the tooth. Underneath the enamel and primary bone layer of the tooth, called the dentin, is a core of soft tissue, blood vessels, and nerves, called the pulp. If the pulp becomes exposed, or something puts pressure on it like pus or inflamed gum tissue, it can cause any of the painful symptoms related to toothache.
It is important to practice good dental hygiene, including flossing and rinsing, as well as limiting sugary foods and drinks as much as possible. To limit the spread of bacteria, do not reuse cups and bowls and discourage sharing of cups, bottles, and foods between people.
For any severe or persistent toothache in your child, you should schedule an examination with a pediatric dentist as soon as possible.
Try These Five Practical Toothache Remedies for Children
While a toothache can be very painful for your child, the good news is there are effective remedies that can ease symptoms in the period before you’re able to see a dentist. Here are five commonly recommended at-home remedies for a toothache you can use to help your little one feel better.
- Warm Salt Water Rinse: This is a time-honored toothache remedy. The warm water helps promote healthy blood flow and relaxation, while the salt can help neutralize bacteria. Dissolve a half teaspoon of salt in eight to 12 ounces of warm water, and have your child gently rinse and spit.
- Cold Compress: An ice pack or other cold compress applied as close to the aching tooth as possible can help reduce inflammation and temporarily numb the area. Use the compress for about 15-20 minutes at a time, approximately every two to three hours.
- Over-the-counter Medication: An anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or a pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help lessen the severity of an ache. Use only as directed and do not combine medications.
- Peppermint: Peppermint can be a surprisingly helpful natural pain reliever. Place either a slightly cool and damp peppermint tea bag between the cheek and gum of the aching tooth for five to 10 minutes. Gently massaging in peppermint oil with a cotton swab can also help.
- Aloe Vera: Another great remedy is aloe vera which is a natural anti-inflammatory that can also help with infection. Gently massage aloe vera gel directly into the gums around your child’s problem tooth.
If the pain becomes severe, worsens, or spreads, do not hesitate to reach out to your dentist.
What to Expect When You See a Pediatric Dentist for a Toothache
At AC Pediatric Dentistry, our caring and experienced team has a multi-step process to determine the underlying cause of your child’s toothache. Diagnostic steps will include:
- Asking about symptoms, including times of day and triggers
- Checking the painful tooth and the surrounding gum’s condition
- Examining the nerves and tissues of the tooth and the surrounding area by applying hot and cold substances to it, and tapping on the tooth tenderly
- Bite-down testing to determine if the tooth is sensitive to touch or pressure
- Taking X-rays of the tooth and the bone around the tooth to identify cavities, abscesses, or cracks
- Using electronic pulp testing that sends a little measure of electric current through the tooth to determine if the pulp is still alive
Once the source of the toothache has been identified, you and your dentist can discuss a treatment plan. We will take every possible step to ensure the solution for your child’s toothache is as comfortable and stress-free as possible, whether it is a root canal, filling, or other early dental care treatment.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!