Dr. Sinkin's Blog: The Dental And The Incidental

5 Ways to Get Relief for a Toothache

July 7th, 2011 by

There’s nothing more painful than a toothache (except maybe childbirth!). It can come on without warning and knock you right off your feet. If you’ve ever had one, you know what I mean. While the best thing to do is get to a dentist immediately, I understand that’s not always possible.

So, instead of trying “home remedies” here are some tried and true temporary toothache pain relief solutions that have worked really well for many of my patients through the years. You can find most of them right in your local pharmacy.

5 Ways to Relieve a Toothache

1. Warm Salt Water: Rinse your mouth with warm salt water for soothing relief.

2. Dent’s Toothache Gum: This nifty remedy has been around for decades, (and no, you don’t chew it!) You simply press a piece on the affected tooth and it can relieve your pain.

3. Ambesol: Their motto is “Dentist Strong so the Pain is Gone!” Apply to your gums for temporary relief.

4. Sensodyne Toothpaste: Rub continually on the affected tooth.

5. Advil, Motrin, Aleve, or Tylenol (as long as you aren’t allergic) will help with the pain. (I have discovered that taking 2-3 Advils and 1 Extra-Strength Tylenol together can be very effective in providing pain relief for toothaches.)

Remember, a toothache is a sign of a problem that won’t go away by itself. It can be caused by tooth decay (a cavity), an infection, or even a cracked tooth. Please see a dentist as soon as you can.

Feel Better!

Dr. Michael Sinkin is a general dentist in New York City. He loves being a dentist and is known throughout the city for taking wonderful care of his patients and for his wicked sense of humor. For more about Dr. Sinkin, click here

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DISCLAIMER: The advice I offer in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, I am in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. My intent is solely educational and my responses to your actual questions serve as springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.

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32 Comments on “5 Ways to Get Relief for a Toothache”

  • 7 Home Remedies for Toothache: A Dentist’s Opinion | Dr. Michael Sinkin, D.D.S September 12th, 2011 10:51 am

    […] 5 Ways to Get Relief for a Toothache […]

  • Jamie February 5th, 2013 5:55 pm

    Hi I’m Jamie Guthrie! I went to the Dentist to get my cavity fixed and the Dentist fixed it but it started hurting so I went back to him. He told me it was just a nerve! He gave me medicine for it! Then after all that it started hurting again! This is my 5 toothache this year idk what it could be! Please help me with things I can do for it! Thanks

  • Michael Sinkin February 7th, 2013 1:13 pm

    Hi Jamie,

    Thanks so much for reading my blog.
    I’m sorry for your dental woes. 5 toothaches in a year?! Something sounds amiss. Have you had a thorough exam by your dentist and have been under treatment or have you been dealing with emergencies as they develop? If it’s the latter situation, you need to have a complete evaluation and treatment plan. It’s easier and more economical to prevent a crisis before it happens. If you have multiple problems and limited finances, there are ways to stabilize your teeth and stage your treatment over time to ma age costs. If you have been going for regular dental care and are having these problems, maybe a second opinion is a good idea. A tooth that hurts before and after treatment sounds like a situation that warrants further care-most likely root canal. Just the nerve? That’s what brought you to the dentist in the first place. It sounds to me that a change is in order.
    Hope this was of some help. -Dr. Sinkin

  • Jamie February 7th, 2013 9:57 pm

    Thanks! I called the Dentist again to tell him my tooth was hurting he just said ohh its a nerve just come to my office. The last time I went my tooth was hurting he tapped on it 6 times and told me it was a nerve. He didn’t take a X-ray. He just gave me medicine for it. The next day it was swollen. It looked like a baseball was in my jaw. I called him and asked him why it was swollen he just told me to start taking 2 doses of my medicine. So I’m just thinking about going to another Dentist

  • angel wright March 29th, 2013 1:14 am

    Hi my name is ángel and ur blog helped me out alot. My problem is that my insurance dosnt Pau for dental visite and I have 4 wisdom Terry and 2 ole Root Canals that Ness to b pulled. Its been hurting now for over 2months and im getting to the point Where I just want to pull it my self. Ive tired everything from pills evn mixing them, jells,salt water that Sesma to hurt jus to swish around my mouth and nothing is working. The pills take affect for only 1hr. I cant sleep or nothing. Is there any other Medicine i can try? One that Sesma to work great? Ive found out that 100% Vanilla extract works but I got used to it.please help me.thanks alot.

  • Michael Sinkin April 1st, 2013 9:36 am

    Dear Angel,
    I’m truly sorry to hear of the severity of your dental woes. Home remedies are intended to give relief from pain due to minor dental or oral maladies until they either resolve by themselves (as in the case of an apthous ulcer) or you can get to a dentist for proper evaluation and treatment. The problems you describe sound severe and no self-administered first aid is going to resolve them. YOU MUST SEE A DENTIST ASAP. I fear you are at risk of serious infection which could very well endanger your health. Severe oral infections can be life threatening. Ludwig’s angina is one example of an oral infection gone awry compromising one’s ability to breathe. Bacteria causing infection don’t care about it’s “victim’s ” insurance status. Please seek out professional care.

  • Kristy Pederson April 2nd, 2015 9:05 pm

    Hi, I have a Vitamin D deficency thats causing severe hair loss and alot of my lower back teeth have broken at the gumline. Some split in half, the first tooth to break was a root canal that the dental school didnt cap. The master posts are sticking out. I havent had any serious discomfort until another part of a tooth broke 3 days ago, and the jagged edges have shredded the side of my tongue, salt water burns the broken tooth areas (i didnt have a sore tongue when I used warm salt water) and OTC pain relief last about 3 hours. I already take alot of OTC for migraines, and Im concerned about upping the dose to cope with this horrible pain. No swelling, no drainage, nothing yet. 2 weeks until my insurance kicks in, and I was thinking about going to the dentist to get an exam and xrays and pay cash….just to start….just to make sure no infection and if I need a 800mg motrin or something more, he can prescribe it. What can I do to chill out for this 2 weeks, without going to this cash pay dr…..or do you think I should just go to cash pay Dentist to be safe??

  • Michael Sinkin April 5th, 2015 9:22 pm

    Dear James,

    You have quite a bit of activity going on in your mouth. With a severe Vitamin D deficiency and exfoliating hair, I am concerned about your overall health and its implications on your dental state. Your broken teeth and multiple lost restorations have less to do with your systemic problems as they do with much needed dental care that seems to have been avoided for quite some time. I’m not making any judgments and perhaps there’s more to your story, but teeth don’t normally break at the gum-line because of a vitamin D deficiency. Certainly I am concerned about your periodontal (gum) health because vitamin D is critical for maintaining good bone homeostasis.

    My suggestion is that you make haste to the dentist you plan on seeing when the insurance coverage kicks in. Let him evaluate the most immediate problem (2 weeks is a long time to wait considering the condition of your post baring tooth.) You don’t want to split the tooth or develop an infection. Explain to the dentist that you will be back in two weeks for a complete exam and x-rays but would like the current problem to be addressed in the mean time. Good luck.

    Dr. Sinkin

  • danielle June 16th, 2015 9:21 pm

    I have pain on the bottom left second to the last tooth. I had a filling that fell out about 4 yrs ago. I went to have it fixed and the dentist started the root canal before getting rid of the infection. After drilling my jaw swelled up to the point where i had to be hospitalized for a week. Now its bothering me again. I saw a dentist and he suggested a surgical extraction. What do you think ? I was told a root canal would be pointless because the tooth would just end up getting infected again down the road.

  • Michael Sinkin June 17th, 2015 6:33 am

    Dear Danielle,
    How terrible! I don’t hear of many people ending up in a hospital for what would be considered routine dental care (and yes, root canal is considered routine.) I really can’t offer you much in the way of advice. I can’t help but wonder if you have some medical condition that would lead to such a dramatic infection requiring hospitalization. Also, if the tooth was the source of that infection, why wasn’t the treatment completed 4 years ago? There seems to be more to this than meets the eye.That said, I can’t imagine a tooth with a lost filling and an incomplete root canal from 4 years ago having a very good prognosis. Needing a surgical extraction suggests alot of lost and compromised tooth structure. I suggest you see an oral surgeon for an evaluation and probable extraction. I wouldn’t want you to end up in the hospital again. You may be able to have a dental implant to replace the tooth, once you have healed. Good luck.
    Dr. Sinkin

  • Qbert November 18th, 2015 4:08 am

    Last week my last bottom wisdom tooth starting hurting (it had a filling from 15 years ago). At one point at night time my tooth and my right jaw hurt so much I had trouble sleeping. Now one week later the pain has subsided but I am noticing muscle tension and stiffness around my ear and lower jaw and neck area, is this a sign of infection spreading down my neck? The toothache is barely bothering me but now but the neck pain is more of an issue . I can’t see a dentist until later this week but in the meantime I am taking Advil to relieve some pain. What’s your advice? Thanks in advance.

  • Michael Sinkin November 19th, 2015 7:51 am

    Dear Mr. Wung,

    I believe that it is entirely possible that the pain in your neck and ear is “referred pain” from your tooth. Please try to see your dentist immediately. Hope you feel better soon.

    Dr. Sinkin

  • Rebecca January 23rd, 2016 2:52 am

    I’ve been using sensodyne toothpaste on a broken tooth that has been causing excruciating pain for two days. It has helped so much, my concern is the fluoride in it and acute fluoride poisoning. Is using the toothpaste safe or should I be concerned. (I can’t go to the dentist till monday.)

  • Michael Sinkin January 23rd, 2016 11:14 am

    Dear Rebecca,

    Do not worry! As long as you apply the Sensodyne topically in small pea-sized increments and do not consume cases of toothpaste at a time (or use it as a sandwich spread) you won’t ingest enough in four days to warrant concern about fluoride toxicity. In fact, toothpaste contains miniscule quantities of fluoride. Continue to use it to feel better. I’m glad to know you will see your dentist on Monday.

    Best of luck!

    Dr. Sinkin

  • Rebecca January 23rd, 2016 12:41 pm

    Thank you so much. When I came across your blog and you suggested the toothpaste I immediately went and bought a tube. It is a complete life saver. I couldn’t sleep and did nothing but cry. I highly suggest it. It burns for a second but the relief is worth it. I cannot wait to see my dentist Monday. Too bad you’re not closer, I’d definitely give you my business.
    Looking forward to reading more of your blog post and once again, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
    You rock!

  • Michael Sinkin January 23rd, 2016 6:59 pm

    Dear Rebecca,
    I’m so glad you discovered my blog AND that I was able to help you in your time of need. Your feedback is much appreciated and motivates me to continue in kind.Be well.
    Dr. Sinkin

  • Adrienne February 11th, 2016 4:53 pm

    Hello Dr. Sinkin,

    I have an INTENSE fear of the dentist, but recently put my big girl pants on and started routine visits to correct years of neglect. I have three children and my childrens’ needs came first — common story!! We have taken baby steps to correct some of the simpler problems and get me used to the chair and drills. I have one more small filling to go before deciding whether two of my teeth will be pulled or received root canals/crowns. Just yesterday, I started to experience some pain in/around one of those teeth AND on an upper tooth on the same side. This would be a wisdom tooth that he also has recommended I have pulled. The pain seems to happen when I breathe in so I suspect it is a result of cold/hot air hitting them. I would not say the pain is severe, but it did keep me up last night (or I allowed my anxiety to do that). I have sinus tachycardia and I am also breastfeeding a 7-month old. I want to keep up the momentum and take care of all of this, but I am now terrified!! I see the dentist tomorrow at noon to evaluate, but in the meantime, I’m so scared something could happen overnight and one of those horror stories about people waiting too long and losing their minds will happen to me. Is it safe to have teeth extracted/receive Novocaine (up until this point, I have received no Novocaine for any of my visits, at my request), and undergo these procedures while breastfeeding? And will I be alright waiting until tomorrow?? Thanks … wish you were in the area!

  • Michael Sinkin February 14th, 2016 10:33 am

    Dear Adrienne,

    I’m sorry I wasn’t able to answer your questions until now.

    I so empathize with your anxiety and salute you for your resolve. In as much as you have been seeing a dentist, he/she must be aware of your dental needs and would not let things get to a crisis situation. Since you are breastfeeding, Tylenol would be your safest choice for pain relief tonight (assuming you aren’t allergic to it).
    Most dentists believe that local anesthetics can and should be used when you are being treated without concern about breastfeeding. If antibiotics or stronger pain medication is needed, consult your pediatrician if you are worried about which ones are least likely to pass into your breast milk.
    Your sinus tachycardia may require some precautions in terms of which anesthetics to use, but your dentist should factor it in when delivering care to you. Anxiety and pain can trigger tachycardia, so your comfort is a must. Extracting a wisdom tooth doesn’t have to be a white knuckle experience.
    I know you are scared but 21st century dentistry, including extractions and root canal, are not the horror show you envision. Your dentist will help you make the right choice.
    Good luck and feel better.

    Dr, Sinkin

  • JenniferLopez April 9th, 2016 11:16 pm

    I have an abscesses tooth and have to decide if I want to pull it or have a root canal. Which one is better?

  • Michael Sinkin April 11th, 2016 9:08 am

    Dear Jennifer,

    Your question is an excellent one that is asked nearly every day by both patients and dentist’s alike. The answer in 2 words – it depends. Clearly, it is best (at least in principle) to save and keep one’s natural tooth as opposed to removing and replacing it. In the case of a tooth that is abcessed and in need of root canal, the real questions are: what is the prognosis of the health of the tooth after treatment (what is the likelihood of success)? How extensive is the infection/ how sound is the tooth (is the tooth badly broken down, is there extensive decay, does the tooth have healthy gums and supporting bone…)? After the root canal is complete, will the tooth need a post/core and crown?

    The greatest cause of failure for a tooth treated with root canal is not properly restoring it which leada to fracture and extraction.

    If you are unable to properly restore the tooth because of limited finances, for example, extraction might be the proper course of treatment. Here are the questions in this case: if the tooth is extracted, will it need to be replaced? If so, how will that be accomplished (permanent bridge, implant, etc.)? Has the tooth been previously treated with root canal? And if so, why did the first go around fail?

    Bottom line is: you need to ask your dentist. All treatment options, likely outcomes and costs must be fully explained to you before proceeding with any treatment. Saving teeth is what dentists aspire to do, but preserving the patient’s dentiton (the arrangement of your teeth in your mouth). I hope you found this answer helpful.

    Good luck!

    Dr. Sinkin

  • Lucette Bailey June 18th, 2016 12:09 pm

    Dr. Sinkin,

    I am 66yrs old and got a impacted wisdom tooth removed 11 days ago. The surgeon told me that the tooth was easy to remove and that everything went well. It was very painful for the first few days but the pain diminished towards the end of the first week than it flared up pretty badly a week after the surgery. The surgeon told me to go back and see him. He got rid of the infection, put in a bandage that tasted strongly like clove and the pain subsidized quite a bit. I went back yesterday ; he removed the bandage and the leftover stitches and told me there were no more infection and that it was healing great and to continue rinsing with salt water, he has also given me a serynge to rinse the hole after eating and twice a day and to take Advil for the pain. I have followed all the instructions to a T.

    Last night I didn’t sleep at all. Once again it was very painful. The pain goes all the way from my gum to my ear and in the back of my neck. Which medication would be better to take for the pain Aleve or Advil ? How long should I expect it to hurt ? How long before it is all healed ? Some people have told me that a nerve might have been touched and this is what’s causing me the pain. If that is the case, I am worried the pain might not go away.

    Thank you in advance for your input.

  • Lucette Bailey June 20th, 2016 5:08 pm

    Dr. Sinkin,

    I am 66yrs old and got a impacted wisdom tooth removed 11 days ago. The surgeon told me that the tooth was easy to remove and that everything went well. It was very painful for the first few days but the pain diminished towards the end of the first week than it flared up pretty badly a week after the surgery. The surgeon told me to go back and see him. He got rid of the infection, put in a bandage that tasted strongly like clove and the pain subsidized quite a bit. I went back yesterday ; he removed the bandage and the leftover stitches and told me there were no more infection and that it was healing great and to continue rinsing with salt water, he has also given me a serynge to rinse the hole after eating and twice a day and to take Advil for the pain. I have followed all the instructions to a T.

    Last night I didn’t sleep at all. Once again it was very painful. The pain goes all the way from my gum to my ear and in the back of my neck. Which medication would be better to take for the pain Aleve or Advil ? How long should I expect it to hurt ? It has been two weeks now. How long before it is all healed ? Some people have told me that a nerve might have been touched and this is what’s causing me the pain. If that is the case, I am worried the pain might not go away.

    Thank you in advance for your input.

  • Michael Sinkin June 20th, 2016 8:26 pm

    Dear Lucette,

    Sorry for your troubles, but what you describe could possibly be what is commonly described as a “dry socket” (localized osteitis). You make no mention of antibiotics, so I think perhaps the surgeon’s use of the word infection may have been more generic than diagnostic. A dry socket is not an infection. It’s causes are poorly understood and it’s occurrence does not mean that something was done wrong. Simply put, a dry socket is when the blood clot in the extraction sight does not form properly leaving exposed nerve endings which are exquisitely painful.

    If this is what you have, then take comfort in knowing that this will pass but you need to talk to your surgeon to make sure. He or she will tell you what to take for the pain. Feel better.

    Dr. Sinkin

  • Marina Solonenko July 30th, 2016 5:43 am


    I’m on vacation right now, and all my teeth on the upper jaw in the back started hurting. This happened pretty suddenly last night and was painful to the point I woke up. I looked in to this on the web and found that it could be due to sinuses (I do have a stuffed nose which I’ve been blowing a lot) or this problem could stem from something more serious, like an infection. Which is it? Should i bother to spend a lot of money to see a dentist, or should I wait a week and see if it disappears? I haven’t had any tooth pain befote this. Since I have no sure access to a dentist for at least 2weeks (I’m in Spain) how do I deal with the pain until I get home?

  • Michael Sinkin July 30th, 2016 11:52 am

    Dear Marina,

    Very unfortunate timing. I can’t make a diagnosis based on your description. However, anatomically the roots of one’s upper molars can often be situated within or closely adjoining the maxillary sinuses. In such cases a sinus infection can refer pain to the upper teeth and biting pressure placed on the teeth (clenching or eating) can illicit pain. Whether this is what’s going on in your situation, I cannot say. If no abatement of symptoms occurs, you will need to seek professional help so you can enjoy the rest of your vacation.
    Good luck.
    Dr. Sinkin

  • Marina Solonenko July 31st, 2016 3:39 am

    Dr. Sinkin,
    Thank you for answering. Today, in addition to aching, my upper jaw has grown swollen. Probably infection?? This doesn’t seem like somethingi can wait out. Should I trust a doctor abroad, or just cut my vacation tion short and come home? Spain isn’t a third world country, but im not confident about their healthcare, doc training, ect.
    Thank-you so much again,

  • Chasityb November 17th, 2016 8:24 pm

    Dr. Sinkin after having 2 teeth extracted when I was pregnant for my now 5 year old I have been terrified of the dentist. That dentist did not give me antibiotics before pulling my infected teeth and it was excruciating. Being pregnant 5 out of 7 years and not taking the best care of my teeth, they need to come out. I went and had all my top teeth except 3 pulled. It is now 5 days later and I still have a pounding headache that just won’t stop, ear ache, and slightly sore gums. Ibuprofen even in small doses make my heart feel as if it is working overtime and I am 16 weeks pregnant so I refuse to take opioids. Is it common to have such a severe headache 5 days after extraction? Or should I be worried. TIA

  • Michael Sinkin November 18th, 2016 9:12 am

    Dear Chasityb,
    OH my!
    You have had a rough go of it and I am,sorry to hear of your suffering. IMy,first concern is for your health and the health of your baby.Have you seen your physician/obstetrician because the first thing that comes to mind is your blood pressure. You have been under a great deal of stress i.e., the oral surgery itself and the physical and emotional toll of losing so many teeth, being pregnant and having so many small children to care for, I can’t help but think that possibly high blood pressure might be the cause of your persistent headache.
    Please see your physician ASAP and rule out this as a possible cause. I also wonder about possible infection and sinus involvement. Are you wearing a new denture? If not, the lack of teeth may be contributing to muscular pain (especially in the area of the temples) as can a new denture that needs to be refined and adjusted.
    Were you advised to take TYLENOL? Were you given Antibiotics? So many possibilities. See your medical doctor first…check your blood pressure and find out what medications you can take for pain and possible infection. Then see your dentist and make sure your doctor and dentist speak to each other about you.

    Please let me know what happens. Feel better.

    Dr. Sinkin

  • Shasha December 27th, 2016 2:49 am

    I have a tooth that is very sore I look and I don’t see no cavity the only relief I get is when I brush my teeth with crest three d white I’ve tried red Cross and all it did was burn my insurance doesn’t cover dental I will so spaz out if I have to have my tooth removed especially since it is my front tooth. And every time I try to eat it’s completely unbearable I’ve looked for a drs appointment where they do payment plans but I need relief until I can get an appointment. Please any advice will be a blessing

  • Michael Sinkin December 27th, 2016 10:18 am

    Dear Shasta,
    I am so sorry for your troubles. From your brief description I am unable to “diagnose” likely causes for your pain. Temperature sensitivity? Pain on biting? Sweets? When you say Red Cross, are you referring to warm salt water rinsing? (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 8oz water). I’m not clear on why you are getting relief from Crest 3D, but it may suggest a cavity. I would suggest trying a desensitizing toothpaste like Sensodyne which may over more lasting comfort. There are many possible causes for your pain, but it is premature to think your tooth needs to be removed. Get to a dentist before the pain intensifies and before you are unable to get the temporary relief you have managed to get. Good luck. Wishing you a pain-free 2017 and a brighter dental future.
    Dr. Sinkin

  • Gwen Bonilla January 24th, 2017 1:56 pm

    I have been nursing a toothache for about a week now. It feels like several of my teeth on one side hurt and theres a pulsating sensation. I am unemployed and have limited finances to stay on top of my dental care, even worse, i have a very very deep fear of dentists due to a couple of bad experiences growing up. I know this is something i cannot fix myself , its hurts badly, but i am having alot of anxiety about my dental visit, is there any advice you have for nervous and scared patients? I cry cuz my teeth hurt but cry even harder at the thought of going to see a dentist.

  • Michael Sinkin January 27th, 2017 11:55 am

    Dear Gwen,
    I am so sorry for your suffering. You are clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place, but you clearly need address both your dental needs and your dental fear. I empathize with your suffering and anguish and your financial difficulties only exacerbate the situation. There is no home remedy that I can think that can address the severity of your symptoms. I ‘m sure you’ve tried a number of them. I am truly aware how dental phobia can be paralyzing, even when you rationally know that you need to see a dentist. Please check out my blog on Dental Phobia (http://www.michaelsinkindds.com/blog/tag/dental-phobia/) a good read found in my previous posts. It may provide you with some helpful insights. I wish you better days. There is help to be found.

    Dr. Sinkin

© 2008 Dr. Michael Sinkin, D.D.S.