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Have you got toothache?

Disclaimer: the advice below is made by a British qualified dentist and is no substitute for prompt dental treatment. No liability is accepted for any action taken by the patient on advice from this page which results in a deterioration or otherwise of the patient's condition.

Toothache has to be one of the worst pains imaginable.

Below are some the more common types of toothache and some temporary remedial actions to try to reduce the discomfort.

Prompt dental advice is necessary, but this page could help you if you cannot access emergency dental treatment.

It is important to note that anyone taking painkillers for toothache MUST not exceed the maximum dose stated on the packet. It is also important to check that the painkillers are suitable for you and will not interact with any other medication you are on. Please check with the pharmacist. In cases of severe toothache, paracetamol and ibuprofen can be combined, BUT ENSURE THAT THE MAXIMUM DOSE OF EITHER IS NOT EXCEEDED.

Please do not use clove oil or aspirin directly on the tooth, a nasty burn to the gum can result.

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Pulpitis is caused by the nerve of a tooth becoming inflamed. Sufferers of this will tell you how debilitating this can be. Pulpitis is usually caused by tooth decay but can be triggered by other means. The pain is usually brought on by extremes of temperature and lasts for minutes or longer rather than seconds. It is often poorly localized. Unfortunately, the only real solution is to see the dentist. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetomol can help to alleviate the symptoms, but seeking prompt dental attention, before it progresses to an abscess, is essential.


An abscess occurs when the nerve of a tooth dies and then becomes infected. The nerve in a tooth can die as a result of pulpitis (see above) trauma, gum disease or as a result of a very deep filling. The pain is not made worse with extremes of temperature, but pressure on the abscessed tooth causes extreme pain. The pain is caused by a build-up of pressure at the end of the root because of the infection. Painkillers such as paracetomol and ibuprofen can help to control the pain. To relieve the pain, the infection has to be drained and usually antibiotics are prescribed.

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Gum Infection

A gum infection can start gradually or quite suddenly. It is often poorly localized and nothing makes it worse. You may have noticed an increase in gum bleeding prior to or during the infection. The gum is quite often swollen and red. Try using Corsodyl mouthwash as a palliative treatment, but it is important to seek attention, because large amounts of the bone that holds your teeth in can be lost during one of these infections.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, when they are coming through (erupting) quite often give problems. When they are partially erupted, food can get stuck under the flap of skin that is around the tooth. This leads to an infection. Rinsing with hot salty water can help as it draws the infection out. Often antibiotics are necessary. They do not always need to be removed, unless the bouts of infection become repetitive.

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Dentine Sensitivity

Dentine sensitivity is similar in nature to pulpitis except the pain lasts for a few seconds rather than minutes. A de-sensitizing toothpaste such as Sensodyne helps with this. Also a daily fluoride mouth rinse (Fluorigard) can reduce the symptoms. It is important to get your teeth checked, because the symptoms mimic pulpitis, just to be sure no decay is lurking.

Out of Hours Emergencies

We always try to offer an emergency appointment the same day, but please phone as early as possible. Outside normal hours, please call 111.