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What to do when your child gets a toothache

28 September 2016

If your child develops a toothache, it's easy to feel helpless when faced with their discomfort.

However hopeless it might seem, there's no need to fret or panic, as our gentle approach to dealing with children's toothache will help you to ease their pain and banish your anxiety.

We've all felt the pain of toothache at some point in our lives and so we know what our little ones are going through. However, despite their pain they're often reluctant to let anyone help them, especially if it requires opening their mouths where the pain is.

This means that you have to find a way to help your child, without upsetting them or making them even more scared than they already are. Before we talk about how to deal with toothache in children, let's look at the main cause of tooth decay.

The number one cause of tooth decay is eating too much sugar. If your child eats lots of sweets, cakes and sugary drinks, the bacteria that live in the mouth will break this sugar down into an acid which combines with the calcium in the enamel to cause erosion and decay, and ultimately pain.

Tooth pain can come in several guises. It can be a sharp pain or just a general soreness around a particular tooth or teeth. Some children may not even tell that they're having trouble, while others may exaggerate the level of pain they're feeling.

It may be that the pain is not due to tooth decay at all, but is down to a mouth ulcer or swollen gums. Start by asking your child to point to where they're feeling the pain. As they open their mouth, check for red spots or any signs of swelling.

If you can't see anything untoward, then it is likely to be some kind of toothache, and you should make an appointment for your child to see your dentist. In the meantime while you are waiting for the appointment, you may want to try a simple home remedy for toothache.

  • Rubbing garlic or clove oil onto the tooth is a long established natural toothache remedy. If your child refuses to let you do this, try putting the oil on their finger and ask them to do it themselves. Remind them to do it gently.
  • Cut small pieces of potato and refrigerate. Once they're cold ask your child to place one against the painful tooth. The coldness will soothe the pain and reduce any associated swelling.
  • Mint is also a natural toothache remedy. Make a poultice of dried mint or peppermint leaves and place it against the affected tooth for a few minutes (as long as your child is old enough to understand that they shouldn't eat or swallow this). Repeat this several times.
  • If your child still refuses to open their mouth, put a warm, damp towel on the outside of his cheek to provide some relief.
  • You can also use over-the-counter pain medication that's appropriate for the age of your little one.

When it comes to appointment time, make sure that you attend, even if your child says that the toothache has disappeared. Let the dentist check their teeth as there may be an underlying problem that you can't see.

If your child is anxious about their visit to the dentist, make it part of a trip to the park or some other place that your child enjoys going. Just make sure that you visit the dentist first. Also, see our kids braces page for information on how we straighten children's teeth. 

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