What to do when your child has a toothache

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From not being able to eat or drink to a restless night’s sleep, tooth pain can make your child miserable.

But understanding your child’s symptoms when they have a toothache can help you decide whether you can treat the issue at home, or if you need to go to the dentist.

If your child is experiencing tooth pain, here’s how to treat the issue at home and when you need to see a dentist.

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Sharp pain

If your child is experiencing sharp pain in their tooth, there may be something lodged in-between their teeth, in their gums, or in a cranny of the tooth itself.

What to do:

  • Use a flashlight to peek into your child’s mouth and ask them to point to where their pain is located.

  • If there’s a piece of food or other obstruction between their teeth, try a gentle method to remove it like flossing, brushing, or swishing warm water in their mouth.

  • If you don’t see an obstruction (or a cracked or chipped tooth), and your child’s pain is severe and lasts longer than a day or two, you should go to the dentist as soon as possible.

  • The pain could signify that the pulp tissue inside the tooth is infected and that the decay is close to or entering the nerve — ouch!

Broken or chipped tooth

Your child’s pain could be from a knocked-out, knocked-loose, chipped or cracked tooth.

They may have cracked or chipped a tooth from a hard fall at the playground, or trauma to the mouth or head. Chewing on a hard piece of candy or food could also chip or break your child’s tooth.

Without quick treatment, a broken tooth can become infected. And the infection could spread to other parts of your child’s body, which could lead to serious health issues.

What to do:

  • A chipped, cracked, broken or loose tooth is a dental emergency, so schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately.

Sore or sensitive teeth

If your child is experiencing mild toothache or tooth pain, with no sign of a chipped or broken tooth, it’s probably not an emergency.

A toothache could just signify a cavity or tooth decay.

What to do:

  • To help ease your child’s toothache pain, apply ice or a cold compress to the area.

  • Try using over-the-counter pain medicine or pain-relieving gels for the mouth.

  • Think about your child’s diet — if they’ve been eating a log of candy, drinking soda or consuming other things that are high in sugar, this could be leading to a cavity that’s causing their tooth sensitivity.

  • Schedule an appointment with your dentist soon to check for cavities or tooth decay that may be causing your child’s tooth pain.

Swollen gums

If your child’s gums hurt and they look red and swollen, it could be because of a few different reasons.

They may be brushing too hard, or the bristles on their toothbrush could be too hard. Certain medications could also be causing your child to have red or swollen gums.

Red and swollen gums could also be a sign of poor oral health. Inflamed gums could be a sign of an infection.

What to do:

  • Schedule an appointment with your dentist to get a checkup as soon as you can to look for tooth decay.

  • Make sure your child’s toothbrush has soft bristles, and that they’re not brushing too hard.

  • If your child does take any medications, consult with your doctor about side-effects and how they could affect your child’s oral health.

Cut or injury

Pain in your child’s mouth could be due to an injury.

Direct trauma to your child’s mouth from a sports accident or fall could create a cut or laceration in your child’s cheeks, gum or tongue.

What to do:

  • Schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor immediately.

  • If left untreated, the injury could create an infection that spreads through your child’s blood to other areas of their body.

  • Their mouth injuries may need stitches or antibiotics.

Knowing when your child’s tooth pain needs a gentle icing or a trip to the dentist is just one of the things that make you a super parent.

And making sure your child’s diet helps support their oral health can keep your child’s teeth healthy and pain-free.


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