Tooth Pain

How to Stop a Toothache and Get Out of Pain Fast

This is my best method for getting out of tooth or gum pain, what to do while you wait to see the dentist, and the common mistakes people make that actually make the pain worse.

by Dr. Burhenne

You don’t have to suffer through tooth pain while waiting for a dentist appointment. Here’s a few techniques to try! | AskTheDentist.com

Of course, the answer to a toothache is always “see your dentist.” But this advice isn’t all that helpful when you can’t see your dentist right away and the pain is unbearable.

In this article, I’m sharing my best method for getting out of pain from toothaches or gum pain, techniques to reduce the pain while you wait for your dentist appointment, and the common mistakes people make that actually make the pain worse.

The 3-3-3 Method for Tooth Pain

When getting out of tooth pain, it’s all about controlling the swelling. Reduce the swelling and you reduce the pain. Short-term, the best way to reduce this inflammation is with the 3-3-3 method: three Advil (600 mg total), three times a day, for three days.

What not to do: Don’t take the Advil and then stop once you start to get pain relief. The trick with Advil is to keep the levels up, because if you back off, it takes a while for the Advil kick in again and reduce inflammation.

Keep in mind that this method can’t do anything to address the root cause of your tooth pain. You also have to check with your doctor that you can take ibuprofen. Tooth pain almost never goes away by itself—so don’t use this method for anything else except for getting out of pain enough to tide you over until your dentist appointment.

Natural Toothache Relief

If you can’t take Advil (and many people can’t, so check with your doctor), there are several natural methods you can use to reduce the pain.

Salt Rinse: Rinse with my super-saturated salt rinse. Here’s how you make it: Pour a glass of warm to hot water (boiling temperature not necessary) and slowly stir in either Himalayan or dead sea salt (here’s the one I use – I find it dissolves best if you get extra-fine grain) until you see salt crystals at the bottom that are no longer dissolving. Rinse with this solution 4-5 times daily to reduce inflammation and contract the tissues. This rinse is especially effective with gum pain and foreign body response to something like a poppy seed stuck in between the gums.

Add in warm to hot water
Image alt

Sherpa Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

Rich in Calcium and other minerals that help boost the remineralization process of the body and especially the teeth.

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Clove Oil: Clove is an essential oil that may provide pain relief as strong as benzocaine (The Journal of Dentistry, 2006). The active ingredient is eugenol, which, although occurring in nature, has safety concerns according to the EWG. Most health food stores have clove oil for a few dollars a bottle. The brand I like to use is the Now brand. To use it, apply a very small amount to a cotton swab or piece of tissue and apply gently to the affected area. This works well if there is an exposed nerve due to a deep cavity. Specific placement of the clove oil is crucial for success—it will only work if you place the oil near the pulpal tissue (the inner substance of the tooth).

A drop on a cotton swab
Image alt

Now Clove Oil

For digestive, skin needs and dental health.

Dilute in carrier oil prior to use.

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Grab a Pillow: Keep your head elevated at all times. For sleep, stay elevated with a wedge-shaped pillow like this one or by stacking several pillows. When you drop your head to the level of your heart by lying down, blood supply gradients to your head change making swelling and pain worse.

Keep your head elevated
Image alt

FitPlus Wedge Pillow

1.5 inches of memory foam to support your neck and shoulders for a comfortable sleep.

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Keep the Area Cold: Frozen peas or a plastic Ziploc bag with half water and half ice works great as well. A wrap like this one lets you apply ice consistently to the area without having to hold it up to your face.

Hot or Cold Pack
Image alt

LotFancy Reusable Pack

4-pc gel pack with stretch wrap for pain relief. Chill or heat up then apply at the right temperature.

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What Causes Tooth Pain?

Inside each of your teeth, you have living tissue with an artery, vein, and nerve. These parts of the tooth give the tooth sensation to pressure, hot, and cold, but also can get infected. Certain bacteria in your mouth excrete acids and bore their way through tooth enamel (the hard, white outer coating of teeth). Once bacteria get through enamel, they gain access to the inside structure, dentin—which is like a sponge with tubules, and the inside of the tooth responds to these invaders with inflammation.

When you cut your hand, there’s room to expand and swell up—but inside the hard enamel walls of a tooth, the swelling can’t expand—and that should give you a good sense of why tooth pain is excruciating. It’s rather unique, as there’s nowhere else in the body that this happens. This is why the 3-3-3 method works—it reduces the swelling.

Other causes of tooth pain:

  • Food getting stuck between your teeth, especially if your teeth have spaces in between them
  • Trauma to the tooth, including injury or grinding your teeth
  • A sinus infection that can be felt as pain in the teeth

Once You’re at the Dentist

When you make your appointment, ask the office if there’s anything they recommend to deal with pain in the meantime. Record your pain—when did it start? How frequent is it? Is it radiating? Record possible root causes of the tooth pain, including new foods, new activities, or anything new in your routine.

Should I Go to the Emergency Room for My Toothache?

Don’t hesitate to go straight to the ER if you have:

  • Pain that persists for more than a day or two
  • A fever
  • Signs and symptoms of infection such as swelling
  • Your eyes are swelling shut
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

If you’re in pain right now, I hope this helps you get out of pain while you wait to see your dentist and I wish you a speedy recovery!

Dr. Mark Burhenne

read next: Reversing Tooth Decay and Healing Cavities Naturally: Top Questions Answered

Tired of cavities?

In 3 super easy steps, I'll show you how to hardly ever get another cavity without drastically changing your diet.

Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS

56 Comments

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  1. I had no idea that having big gaps in your teeth where food can get stuck can be what is causing your toothaches. That is a good thing to know if you are getting them frequently, that way you can try to clean your teeth better. It might also be smart to visit your dentist if you are still getting them.

    • Hey, I agree with you about the clove oil, it automatically reduced the inflammation.
      I usually brush my teeth twice a day with a normal grocery brush, but it isn’t enough to make my teeth and gums health, white and painless. I use to wear a braces and my experience was terrible.
      After a few months trying different brushes and toothpastes I discover a Water Flosser brush that really makes the difference. I found it on amazon. (Link not shown)
      Thank you for the helpful post
      Amanda

  2. Thanks so much for your informative article and videos! As a Salt Lake City dentist who works in an after hours dental office I have seen my fair share of toothaches and you’re absolutely right they can be excruciating!! I will definitely be referring my dental patients to these clear and concise videos.

    • I have a question. What if u wake up with a tooth ache? Is it because your teeth are just not like….awake? What is it?

  3. Thanks for sharing these amazing tips. We should know about the basic dental tips to deal with these type of dental emergencies.

    Gary, I think we should take liquid only if we have toothache. Solid stuff may cause more problem while chewing.

  4. I had never considered to keep my head elevated to reduce tooth pain. I sometimes experience sharp pain when I eat really sweet things. My dentist has told me that it is probably the result of an exposed root. I wonder if any of these techniques would help resolve that issue as well.

  5. I had a bridge for 30 years and it started to fall apart, so the dentist removed it and the tooth to the right had to have root canal as after the dentist prep it for the new bridge it pained for weeks. Long story short he has just prepped the tooth on the other side and now it aches for the past couple of weeks and the dentist wants to do another root canal before he puts in the new bridge. I am not very impressed to attach a bridge to two teeth that have recent root canals.

    Could the dentist be using me for a make work project?

  6. the only thing that worked for me is taking the pain killers, but unfortunately it takes 20-30 minutes before the pain is stopped, but it doesn’t stop it completely. The pain killers stop the throbbing pulsating pain in my tooth, but the tooth still hurts whenever something touches it. This is what confuses me. I can’t see anything wrong with my teeth. There are no holes or cracks for something to be irritating it so badly and I can’t get to the dentist for a whole months. I have no idea what to do.

    • This is my case exactly! Turns out that there’s a small cavity inside the tooth that is not visible from the outside. So the outside is pretty n pearly, but it’s kinda rot inside. And it’s only a small crack but since the upper part is intact, the gas builded up in the inside and cause all the commotion. Once the pressure is released, the pain subdue. And i’m having root canal treatment for this tooth. Hope u get better soon. And yes, the only thing to kill the pain unfortunately is by having the dentist checking it out

    • When I taking the pain killers, but unfortunately it takes 20-30 minutes the pain is stopped, but it doesn’t stop it completely. The pain killers stop the throbbing pulsating pain in my tooth, but the tooth still hurts whenever something touches it. This is what confuses me. I can’t see anything wrong with my teeth. There are no holes or cracks for something to be irritating it so badly and I can’t get to the dentist for a whole months. I have no idea what to do and how to stop pain permanently. Please advise a medicine for stop pain which is get in pakistan medical store

  7. i tried all of these, none seem to work, im in so much pain right now. how much is a dentist visit without insurance? i need to go bad

  8. Not having clove oil, I put Anbesol on floss and use that.
    Started having pain on upper and lower back teeth 04/15/17–may be referred pain–>sensitive to pressure only on the superior #15 tooth [ADA numbering] and relief with cold (!). I can’t use Advil [CKD patient]. No stress, trauma, new fillings, etc. Will stop drinking the new limeade + cucumber + mint juice I started two weeks ago. (? acidity) I have basic aging gums, but religiously see a distant dentist, and I brush and floss regularly. Since its been five days since this inflammation started, I will call and arrange to see my dentist this weekend….unless you are local to me in California? (& have an opening.) 🙂
    I can’t wait to use the hot saline (I forgot this was something I use rarely for similar oral problems.) Your web writings are wonderfully informing. Thank you for putting out such succinct articles. I appreciate the help. I am normally able to handle things, but not when in pain.

  9. I’ve also had good luck by rubbing some Vick’s on the outside of my cheek, along the jawline where I’m having the tooth pain–the menthol kicks in as a sort of numbing agent and helps reduce the pain for a while! It’s especially effective if I lay down with that side of my face against the pillow.

  10. I have 3 damage teeth … my problem is i have a phobia with doctors and i have a nervous problem im fainted or my body is shaking everytine i go to a hospital or clinics..all doctors including the dentist is my worst or should i say my enemy in my entire whole life.. my tooth is aching right now and i dont know what to do.. i have a medicine for my phobia or nervous problem for months the doctor give me mentumir and rivotril.. because the last time i go to the dentist i just fainted before and after the injection and i feel the anesthesia is in my head its hard to believe but it really affects me that i think i might go crazy or something because of the anesthesia and mix with phobia aand nervous… what shall i do? I cannot talk or have a big smile because of this i cannot eat properly or even sleep .. can you pls tell or help me .. or can you suggest some different ways to deal with this. Thank you so much

    • You might want to look into dentist that specialise in helping people who have a phobia for the dentist. There are a couple of things they can do to help you through the procedure, like giving you gas to help you relax or even knocking you out completely if you prefer to be asleep for the whole thing! The first steps will be the scariest but you just have to think, these people see this all the time and have helped a lot of people like you.
      The first consultation will just be about discussing your options, so that’s a nice way to ease into coming into the office.

  11. Im in super bad pain with my teeth its gone up to my ear now cant sleep or eat and im waiting for my oparation date to come though

  12. My tooth definitely needs to be looked at but at night I seem to be grinding them causing the gums to swell. The salt rinse really worked! Within minutes. Hours of pain even tried Advil had gone away! I’m gonna go to the dentist tomorrow tho and have this tooth looked at.

  13. I am 12 years old, I have extremely bad toothache to the point where im crying and taking days off school, the pain consists throughout the day and I cant have fun because this tooth is ruining everything. I don’t know what I can do as nothing works.

    • go to the school office and ask them for an appointment you should be under a school dental programme it is supposed to be free tell your mum to get you a dental appointment straight away hope you sort it out honey

  14. You may think this sounds weird but it honestly helps – look up “oil pulling” I have two very infected teeth on my bottom, even effecting my jaw. And I did also rinse with salt water after the oil pulling and lay night i also put an ice pack on my jaw for a while. Seriously you should try it if you’re in pain.

  15. Black pepper and salt made into a paste with little water took all the pain away…Best home remedy I have ever tried…I applied paste several times at first and works like a charm…after pain was gone I also put ice in rag and held it to my cheek over the affected area to help with swelling also..Had to share my experience after reading how bad people was hurting..Hope this info will help…toothaches are a nightmare..

  16. None of these worked for me and I have tried for the past two days after going back to the dentist today. And I am laying here crying as I try to fall asleep but fail as to how horrible the pain is. I have a dentist appointment for a root canal in TWO WEEKS and I just want this pain to end already. I even put a gel on my gums to numb it but that does nothing whatsoever. The worst pain I have ever felt, I would rather have a migraine than this

  17. I’m in the worst pain I have ever had I made some poor choices five years ago and I brush and floss my teeth every day but I’m guessing because of the choices I made a long time ago are just now catching up to me my teeth and breaking and starting to get black holes in them only the ones in the back of my mouth there hurting so bad my whole face is swelling up and it’s making my ears and eyes and body hurt bad I’ve tried every type of medicine i can for them pain pills are not even helping me i don’t have insurance or anything like that so it’s hard for me to go see a doctor

    • I don’t know where you live, but here you can get low cost or even free treatment if you go get it at a university where dentists are still in training. You don’t have to worry about them messing up, because they’re supervised and the teacher will take over if it isn’t going right.

  18. You need
    To get to a dentist fast !!! I feel your pain right now I need root canal I’m just going to show up today at my Dentist office I’m surpose to be leaving for New Orleans at 1 today but pain is bad. I can tell you take 4 Advil it will help with pain and swelling. Take every 5 to 6 hour it will help a lot. I have taken pain pill does not touch it. The root of the tooth is damaged and swelling so advail will decrease the swelling and help with the pain.. I feel your pain I’m so sorry

  19. Janet, your kind advice is well-meaning but possibly dangerous.
    #1-You don’t know if she is a full-sized adult or not. Doses of ibuprofen (Advil) over 400 mg is dangerous for a full-sized adult, much less a smaller person. Advil can come in 100 and 200 mg doses. Four 200s= 800 mg.
    #2–With her history, taking this OTC could throw her into heart, kidney or liver failure.
    #3–Is she pregnant? Ibuprofen can increase miscarriage by 2.4 times.
    #4–Does she have asthma? This can worsen asthma.
    To everyone out there:
    Ibuprofen interferes with prostaglandin production, which is why it works so well. If someone did get relief with the Advil, they might put off finding a dentist, and keep taking the med–because it’s cheaper?…they have fear? Longer use can increase your blood pressure (hypertension). It’s been found associated with myocardial infarctions (MI’s=heart attacks), especially if someone is taking big doses. I took NSAIDs (the category this drug falls into) for 20 years, before anyone knew of the long term effects. I was suspicious of the long term effects because I’m a health professional, so I rotated the types. It didn’t work. Before I knew it, I was developing kidney failure (Stage 3) because, being a part-time worker, I had no health insurance until I met my spouse and was finally able to get a check up. I felt fine. *Surprise*) Yes, I’m on dialysis now, and I still feel fine (Stage 5).
    Note: Just because you “feel fine” doesn’t mean you are. And delaying going to a dentist IS putting your LIFE at risk. Get the right abscess and it can go into your brain. Go to a dental school and get your treatment on a payment plan. They will work with you.
    I’m so sympathetic. I’m trying to time my extraction till the end of the year so that I can get insurance to pay for most of what I need done. I’m SOOO lucky because I have insurance, but I remember what it was like not to have it. But let FEAR run your life? Fear has ruined my life. Listening to ill-meaning strangers also helped. Fear will increase or drag out your pain.
    Go to your local dental school! They are all great. Ask for their help. People are wired (except for sociopaths) to want to help if you ask them. Say, as you hold your jaw, standing at the dental school reception desk, look the person in the eyes, and say, “Please, help me!” …just like that. The schools always have cancellations, the instructors have a vested interest to be there, and I know for a fact that some of the kids NEED the extractions or whatever for their “books,” and that they will PAY street folks sometimes to get what they need, depending on where they are in their curriculum. They (the students) must have a certain number of extractions, root canals, etc. for graduation. It’s not advertised or talked of except among the students, in hushed whispers. So, don’t go asking at the desk…or the instructors…or in front of the instructors. Our local school does $11 visits.
    You’re wasting time on a website, if it delays you seeing a dentist. You’re wasting time. Think, dentist=rock star. who wouldn’t want to see a rock star? Your tooth will always hurt worse in the quiet times. Set your fancy phone’s alarm to 0900 and program in the school’s number. When it goes off, call. Tell them you’re in agony. Remember, “Please help me! I’m in terrible pain.” (Don’t lie.) “Put me on your cancellation list.” is another good one (someone cancels, the school calls you to come in for care), depending on where you are in your area or life.
    Peace, love, and painlessness to us all

  20. My fiance is in extreme pain with a toothache. Here’s the problem … he has 2 artificial heart valves, one is a mechanical valve and has a difficult time for a dentist to see him because of this …they won’t risk it. What can he do to get the help that he needs so badly?

  21. My daughter has been getting toothaches off and on for a few weeks now, and I think that being able to have some things to try would be helpful! I’m glad that you talked about being able to give a salt rinse a try for toothaches, which is something that we hadn’t tried out yet. I’m going to have to see if we can get some good relief for her toothaches before we have to take her in! Thanks for the help!

  22. Hi. I had a tooth ache a while ago. I just brushed my teeth with colgate , and put listerine mouthwash in a cotton ball and place it on a aching teeth.

  23. I have a small swelling in my upper hard palate close to my right molars ….It hurts sooooo bad and whenever I press on it with my tongue……It affects the teeth in that area……Pls what can I do….This pain is too much.

  24. I am pregnant and my wisdom teeth is pushing all my teeth on the same side, i am in serious pain and my dentist refused to remove it for me, my whole face and gum are swollen and this pain is that too much, i am 28 weeks pregnant, please help me, what I should do?

  25. I am having an on and off toothache and the painkillers seem to not work very well hurts really bad having root canal done but not until months cause I can’t take it so I have to get anesthetics to make me sleep what should I do to help this pain?

  26. My upper front teeth was cracked couple years ago and I got it bonded but now its starting to pain really bad and my face is a bit swollen. What can I do to ease the Pain? Im in a foreign country at the moment and have no insurance and dentist are really expensive.

  27. Im in agony now I cant sleep I googled quick pain relief for tooth while shaking from the pain, came across this website I saw the temporary reliefs I ran downstairs to get ice and I cracked a ice cube and placed it in my mouth where the pain is took a few seconds but now I feel much better.

  28. I’ ve been suffering from excruciating pain due to this toothache for three days but suddenly i woke up without feeling any pain, my tooth felt a little pain when I touch it with my tongue though but I am now happy that I can work/ The dentist asked me to buy antibacterial and pain killers and it worked but I still continue medication.My tooth extraction is scheduled after 3 days.

  29. These were really helpful suggestions. My husband and I are out of town and his tooth recently started bothering him. He said that it’s not too, so we should wait until we go back home before going to a dentist. However, I’m sure he’d appreciate some of these suggestions, especially the one about keeping up levels of Advil.

  30. Hi I have a terrible toothache amoxicillian isn’t helping, what can I do? And instead of doing and expensive implant what other options do I have to keep my toothe?

  31. Your article may have saved my life from this terrible pain that is a toothache! I won’t be having my dentists appointment until tomorrow so I’m looking for ideas to relieve me of this migraine-inducing pain that I have. I’ll be sure to try out the 3-3-3 method as well as the salt rinse and only resort to the clove oil if nothing else works and if there’s any that’s available.

  32. I have had a toothache for bout a month now I have tried everything and still isn’t working. But my pain only comes at night when I get ready to go to bed . I’m in so much pain rite now I can’t even sleep at night anymore… Wat can I do bout this pain to make it stop???

  33. I would like to share another remedy here. Take few guava leaves and add them to one bowl of water and boil it until guava leaves gets mixed with water. When the water becomes as viscous as boiled milk, switch-off the burner. Gargle this water to get relief from pain. This ayurvedic medicine for tooth pain also removes the tooth worms.
    Somya

  34. If you are really desperate and it hurts like hell, it may work to keep cold water in your mouth. Though it’s annoying and as soon as you spit out the water it will hurt again…Just keep refilling

  35. Personally, when I deal with tooth pain I use warm water rinses of salt, and another on eof oregano oil. The warmth keeps blood flowing to the area, nourishing the tissue, etc. This allows for better absorption of salt and oils into the blood stream. Depending on how severe the infection is, or pain, the relief can be an hour, and up to 3hrs.

    Constant rinsing helps to keep bad bacteria from harming the tooth anymore than it has, or at least for a while. As a result of this kind of treatment, swelling subsided, and minor aches occurred in the gums, and jaw. This is all just a temporary fix until you see a dentist, which is the overall plan.

  36. I sympathize with everyone having toothache pain. I know what it’s like as I am going through it myself. I’ve also had to miss work due to the throbbing pain and nothing hardly works. I’ve gone to the ER and they’ve prescribed tylenol 3 codeine and antibiotics, that didn’t help. These are some things I’ve tried that did work temporarily. Brushing the teeth then using mouthwash.Using peroxide. Using orajel. I even tried a mixture of orajel and mouthwash. WHat worked for me was using salt and water with a warm towel pressed against my ear and jawbone. My tooth is infected and spread to my ear. Different combinations work for different people. The best is finding a dentist that will work with you or quality care or care credit to pay a bit at a time. Thanks so much for all the tips and for the vapor rub against the cheek, I’m actually trying that one now and it does work! I hope everyone’s pain goes away and you’re able to see a dentist.

  37. We good home remedy for gum problem – Take some mustard oil and mix little salt, turmeric and black pepper. Massage your gums morning and evening 4-5 minutes and then rinse with warm water.

  38. Hi there
    My name is liz
    I have had a broken tooth and I came out
    But now I have the root and nerve lefted by the tooth
    Went too the hospital and they could not remove it because I had a small problem with the teeth and gum I had an infection so I was sent home with no antibiotics
    But they made me a new appointment for the 3rd of March but we had bad weather and I missed the appointment
    I have been too my dentist and they gave me same antibiotics for the pain
    But nothing is working now
    So please help because this is painful and uncomfortable

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