The pain of teeth in children can be as distressing to parents as to the child. A persistent toothache in a child usually indicates a problem that requires professional attention. The most common causes are cavities and gum disease. Short-term toothache can also occur with a blow to the teeth, a small scratch in the mouth or food trapped between the teeth. Problems of the sinuses, ears, and jaw can also cause pain that feels like a toothache. Home remedies can help relieve toothache in children, but see your dentist for a toothache that lasts for more than 24 hours.
Brush and silk
Gently brush your teeth and floss to either side of the sore tooth to remove any food that may be tucked between your teeth. If your child is old enough to brush and floss on his own, let him do it while you supervise to make sure he does it properly.
Salt water rinse
If your child is old enough to “swish and spit” a salt water rinse, this can help relieve toothache and reduce swelling around the aching tooth. Rinse by adding about a half teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water. Stir to dissolve the salt. Make sure the rinse is not too hot. Give your child a sip of rinsing, tell him to make swabs with it in his mouth, especially near the toothache. Ask him to swish for about 30 seconds and then spit the rinse in the sink. You can use the salt water rinse every few hours if the pain continues. Just make sure your child spits the mixture instead of swallowing it.
Wrap an ice pack or small bag of frozen vegetables in a towel. Hold the ice pack in the pain area for about 15 or 20 minutes. Depending on the problem, an ice pack can increase instead of relieving your child’s pain. If you complain, remove the ice pack. If the ice provides relief, it can be used every few hours. Just make sure the skin completely reheats between applications. Do not place the ice directly on the skin or the painful tooth.
Over the counter drugs
Medications can temporarily relieve your child’s toothache. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can be given under the direction of your child’s doctor. Do not give aspirin to your child unless specifically directed by the doctor. Benzocaine (a local anesthetic) can be applied directly to the affected tooth following the instructions on the container.
Seek medical attention right away if your child has a toothache, notice a bulge near the toothache, the pain is severe, or a severe blow to the mouth. Follow up with your child’s dentist for any toothache that does not go away 24 hours or reappears.