The dos and don’ts when experiencing a toothache

A toothache can strike at any time and often, the cause is not known.

Sometimes, the cause might be more obvious like a chipped tooth from biting something hard, however, in most cases, it’s hard to self-diagnose the cause of a toothache.

There are, of course, some signs to look out for which may point to the cause of the toothache. Red and swollen gums, bleeding gums when brushing, and sensitivity when eating something hot or cold could all be signals of the issues that are causing a toothache, however, it is still unlikely that you can diagnose the issue yourself.

Even though you might not be able to identify the cause of the toothache, there are some things that you should do and some that you should avoid. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of tackling a toothache:

What to do if you have a toothache

When you start to feel pain in and around your tooth or teeth, there are some things you should try to reduce the pain and potentially help to remove the cause of the pain and prevent it from getting worse.

Home remedies

People often ask us about home remedies for tackling a toothache and we have written a post about the best home remedies to treat a toothache. Here are some of the best suggestions that can help to relieve the pain of a toothache and potentially prevent the issues from getting worse:

  • Saltwater rinse
  • Cold compress
  • Tea bags
  • Guava leaves
  • Thyme

There is no guarantee that these remedies will help, however, they may help to reduce any pain and swelling until you can get an appointment with your dentist.


A common cause of toothache is actually food and other debris getting stuck between your teeth. This can lead to swollen gums which in turn put pressure on your tooth or teeth, causing pain.

Using mouthwash should be part of your daily oral hygiene routine and should be done between brushing or after food. Try not to use mouthwash immediately after brushing as this can rinse off the fluoride from your toothpaste.


Just as mouthwash can help to dislodge any food particles and debris from between your teeth, regular flossing can also help with this, as well as helping to remove and prevent the build-up of plaque between your teeth.

When plaque is not removed from between your teeth, it accumulates and hardens into tartar which is much more difficult to remove. Tartar build up over time can lead to swollen gums and pressure being placed on the surrounding teeth which can be painful.

Flossing at least once a day can help to prevent the build up of plaque and prevent tartar from forming between your teeth – a common cause of toothache.

Take some over-the-counter pain relief

If you are experiencing severe toothache, you should look to take some over-the-counter pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Of course, you should always make sure that there are no issues with you taking such medication, however, these can provide temporary relief from the pain of toothache.

You should take them as directed and try to take them regularly to help combat the pain of toothache.

Book to see your dentist

If you have been experiencing toothache for more than a day or two, you should book in to see your dentist. Whilst some of the remedies above can be effective at reducing pain and swelling, they might not actually tackle the cause of the problem and it could get worse if left untreated.

Toothache is no joke and getting it looked at if the pain has not subsided within a couple of days is important.

Your dentist will be able to identify the exact cause of the toothache and either treat the issue or recommend a course of action to clear up the issue and prevent it from happening in the future.

What not to do if you have a toothache

Whilst there are things you can do to help relieve the pain of toothache, there are some things you should avoid including:

Don’t place an aspirin directly on the affected area

When you Google “how to treat a toothache” many recommendations include placing an aspirin directly on the affected tooth or gum. This is not, however, a good idea. An aspirin can be caustic to your gums and harm the tissue, resulting in further issues.

Instead, do as directed and take your preferred over-the-counter pain relief orally by swallowing the tablets with water.

Avoid acidic food and drinks

There are many foods and drinks that are naturally acidic, and these might aggravate your sore tooth or gums. Acidic foods include plums, grapes, grapefruits, blueberries, lemons and limes, oranges, pineapples, peaches, and tomatoes.

Fizzy drinks are also typically very acidic so any sodas, pops and carbonated drinks tend to be high in acidity. Even flavoured fizzy water can cause issues if consumed in large quantities or if you have a toothache.

It might also be sensible to ease off the alcohol when you have a toothache. Alcoholic drinks including beer, cider, prosecco, white wine and RTDs are all examples of drinks that have high acidity content.

Avoid extreme temperatures

Whilst a cold compress or a heat pack can help to relieve toothache, consuming foods that are either really hot or really cold can affect your sore tooth or gums. This includes hot and cold food and drinks, so it is a good idea to skip your morning coffee and avoid desserts such as ice cream.

When you have a toothache, the area can often be extremely sensitive so avoiding extremes should help you to manage the pain. It also makes sense to eat soft foods when you have a toothache and avoid anything too crunchy.


Toothache can be debilitating and can really interfere with your day-to-day life if left untreated. Whilst home remedies can be effective, seeing your dentist really is the best way to tackle a toothache to ensure there are no underlying issues with your teeth or gums.

If left untreated, a simple issue can quickly develop into something much worse, including a serious infection. Don’t let a toothache get in the way of your day-to-day life and make sure you get it looked at as soon as possible.

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