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When to See the Dentist for Your Child’s Toothache

If your child has a toothache, you might wonder when to see a dentist. The answer is almost always unless the cause of the toothache is very obvious. Sometimes a toothache indicates pain in the tooth or gums, but toothaches can also be referred pain from a different problem.
Only your dentist can diagnose the cause of toothaches.

What to do When Your Child Has a Toothache

Before you see the dentist for a toothache, check for obvious causes. First, floss your child’s teeth. Then, check for loose teeth or gum inflammation. If the toothache goes away, you might not need to see the dentist. If it remains, however, call your dentist for an appointment.

If you cannot find the cause of the toothache, a dentist appointment is necessary. Your child may need dental treatment or antibiotics if a tooth or gum infection is present.

What are the Causes of Toothaches in Children?

As mentioned earlier, toothache pain can be direct or referred. Your dentist can tell you what the toothache is.

Direct pain can be caused by cavities, gum inflammation, or a gum or mouth infection. If your child’s tooth is sensitive to hot, cold, or sweets, this may be a sign they have a cavity.

Boy with cold sensitivity, indicating a need to see the dentist for a toothache

This sensitivity means the decay may have spread from the outer enamel into the pulp, the soft part of the tooth. Your child will need a filling or if the decay has spread widely, a root canal.

If your child has a mouth infection, there may be a pocket of pus under the gum. We will drain the infection and most likely prescribe antibiotics.

Referred pain can come from sinus infections, migraines, tooth grinding, or, more rarely, problems with the heart or lungs. This is why it is essential to see your dentist for toothaches.


What Can I Do While Waiting for a Toothache Dentist Appointment?

Woman with a cold compress for toothache, before seeing the dentist

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends a warm saltwater rinse. Mix one teaspoon of salt in a small glass of warm water. Have your child swish the mix around their mouth and then spit it out.

You can also use a cold compress on the outside of the jaw where the toothache is. A cold compress constricts the blood vessels in the mouth and may help to lessen pain and inflammation.

If the pain is severe, give Children’s Tylenol or Motrin. Don’t crush an aspirin and put it on the tooth.

Many people dab clove oil on the tooth with a cotton swab. Adults may use this, but clove oil is not recommended for smaller children or infants.

Clove oil can cause pain in the gums, abdominal pain, and even bleeding, because the active ingredient, eugenol, thins the blood. For these reasons, it is best to avoid clove oil for your child’s toothache before your dentist appointment.

If you have a question about when to see the dentist for your child’s toothache, contact Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental via our online form, or call us at 1-775-800-4117. Our empathetic and compassionate staff will advise you on appropriate home treatment before you can get to the dentist.