First Aid: Simple Tips To Manage Toothache

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Our oral cavity is a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria can increase the production of acid within the mouth, causing damage to the teeth and tooth decay. Tooth decay is a common cause of tooth ache.

Tooth ache usually starts slowly and can get worse over time. Patients describe it as a ‘throbbing’ or ‘aching’ pain or discomfort that is often worse at night. It may be a constant pain or one that comes and goes. The teeth become sensitive to hot and cold, meaning that eating or drinking hot or cold foods and fluids can make the pain worse.

Simple Tips To Manage Toothache

  1. Rinse the mouth with clean warm water. This can get rid of any large food particles that are stuck in between the teeth.
  2. Clean the teeth and gums with dental floss to remove any small pieces of food stuck in the teeth.
  3. Apply a numbing gel that contains a local anaesthetic to the area that is painful. Always seek medical advice before using any medication. Some local anaesthetic agents are harmful for children below the ages of 2 years.
  4. Take painkillers if required. Simple paracetamol and ibuprofen can be sufficient.

Despite the above, tooth ache can continue sometimes. This could indicate more severe tooth damage than you thought or could be due to an underlying infection. In such situations, seeing a dentist as soon as possible is advised.

  • Persistent pain despite painkillers.
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing food.
  • A high fever accompanies the toothache (could indicate a dental abscess).
  • The gums are swollen and red and there is pus formation.
  • If the patient develops difficulty breathing.


Once treated, make sure you maintain proper dental hygiene by flossing the teeth before brushing. Brush teeth twice a day with a good quality fluoridated toothpaste. Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.

A word of caution

In older patients who have risk factors for heart disease, a toothache can sometimes be an indication of angina or a heart attack. Often patients have accompanying symptoms such as chest pain as well, and the pain is no worse on chewing and swallowing. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.

Recommended purchase

This book by St Johns Ambulance, UK is a comprehensive review for the general public on how to manage simple problems at home. It is definitely worth having on your bookshelf for quick reference. We strongly recommend this.

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