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Chewing, talking, and even sleeping can be difficult when you get a sudden toothache.

The most likely explanations for sudden tooth pain are cracked, infected, or abscessed teeth. Other causes include:

Most causes of sudden tooth pain are easily treatable by your dentist, so you should make an appointment right away. In the meantime, there are some remedies you can try to find temporary relief from the pain.

There are a few over-the-counter (OTC) products available at your local drugstore to treat a toothache. Consider the following while you wait for your dentist appointment:

NSAIDs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), target inflammation and can give you some respite from the pain.

Keep in mind, however, that taking ibuprofen over a long period of time can irritate or damage your stomach, kidneys, and liver.

Acetaminophen

If you can’t take NSAIDs, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a good option for temporary pain relief from a toothache. Be sure to read the label and follow instructions for the correct dosage. Taking too much acetaminophen could also damage your liver.

Toothache drops and gels

Medicated gels or drops can also help reduce toothache pain. These products typically contain ingredients like benzocaine, which help numb the area when applied topically.

Temporary fillings

Temporary tooth fillings, available OTC at pharmacies, and include repair kits for softening the edge of a lost filling or loose cap.

These repair kits aren’t meant to last long, so you’ll need to contact a dentist to have the temporary filling replaced with a permanent one.

Home remedies can also be used to help with a toothache until you can visit a dentist.

Clove oil

Clove oil is a popular home remedy for toothaches. In fact, cloves have been used for centuries for tooth pain. A 2016 research review showed that cloves contain an active ingredient called eugenol, which numbs the skin it touches. You may be able to find clove oil at the medicinal section of your supermarket.

Squeeze a few drops of clove oil into 1 teaspoon of olive oil (or another carrier oil) in a small dish. Then soak a cotton swab into the mixture. Place the soaked cotton ball over the painful tooth and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Clove oil is considered safe in general, but is not recommended for use in children.

Saltwater rinse

Try gargling with a saltwater rinse to help with tooth pain.

Salt is an antiseptic that can also reduce inflammation. A 2016 study showed that rinsing your mouth with saltwater promotes healthy gums and improves healing of sores or ulcers.

To make a saltwater rinse, combine 1 teaspoon of salt with an 8-ounce glass of lukewarm water and mix well. Swish the solution in your mouth for up to 30 seconds, then spit it out.

Hydrogen peroxide rinse

For temporary relief, consider rinsing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide diluted in water. Start with a 3-percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide (this is what you’ll find in a brown bottle sold at most drugstores). Mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 2 parts water.

After swishing in your mouth for about 60 seconds, spit out the solution. Do not swallow it. Afterward, rinse with water.

A 2011 research review showed that a hydrogen peroxide rinse may help reduce gum inflammation.

Garlic

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. A 2015 research review showed that it may help kill some of the bacteria associated with toothaches.

A 2018 research review showed that allicin is created when garlic cloves are crushed, chewed, or chopped. The compound is only present for a small amount of time, so you’ll need fresh garlic cloves for this remedy.

You can either gently chew on a peeled clove of garlic to release allicin or crush the garlic using a mortar or the back of a spoon and apply it directly to the affected tooth with a cotton swab or your fingers.

Peppermint tea

Peppermint tea may help to numb the painful area of your mouth. A 2013 study showed that peppermint tea also has antimicrobial properties, so it can fight against the oral bacteria that lead to tooth decay.

First, make a cup of tea by boiling water and adding a teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves or a teabag of peppermint tea. Remove the tea bag or strain the tea leaves and allow it to cool. Rinse your mouth with the cooled tea. You can repeat as needed for relief.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a plant that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Aloe vera can help ease some of the inflammation related to gum disease or other irritation in your mouth.

A 2015 research review showed that aloe vera gel could improve symptoms of periodontitis, a serious gum disease that destroys the bone supporting your teeth. One 2016 study even found aloe vera mouth rinse to be just as effective in reducing periodontal disease as chlorhexidine, a commonly used germicidal mouthwash.

You can find aloe vera mouthwash at grocery stores. Swish in your mouth for 30 seconds or so, twice per day, and spit out.

Elevate your head

Try sleeping with your head elevated on a pillow or several pillows. This will prevent pressure caused by blood flow into your head and mouth and may reduce swelling.

Ice packs

Ice can be helpful for facial swelling or an injury to your mouth. Ice constricts blood vessels, which can reduce pain. You can apply an ice pack or a bag of ice wrapped in a towel to your jaw or face in 15-minute intervals. Don’t eat or chew the ice cubes. The hard ice can damage your teeth even more.

Try to avoid the following activities as they may make a toothache worse.

  • Don’t smoke, since it can lead to tooth decay and is generally bad for the health of your teeth.
  • Avoid chewing tobacco, as it can rot your teeth.
  • Don’t brush or floss too hard. This can wear out the enamel of your teeth and damage your teeth and gums.
  • Don’t eat crunchy or sticky foods, which can further damage your teeth.
  • Avoid hot or cold drinks and foods since your teeth may be more sensitive, especially if any nerves are exposed.

If you have a toothache, it’s a good idea to call a dentist as soon as possible.

You should make an appointment if you have any of the following symptoms:

Medical emergency

Call your dentist immediately if you have any of these symptoms along with a toothache:

  • sudden and severe tooth pain
  • fever
  • foul-tasting discharge
  • sudden facial swelling
  • trouble breathing or swallowing

If you don’t have insurance to help pay for dental care, your state or local health department may have a list of programs that offer free or low-cost dental care. Contact the health department in your area to find out about available financial assistance programs.

Here are a few other options to consider for free or reduced-cost dental care:

  • Medicaid, a state-run program, sometimes offers dental insurance for people and families who meet certain income and other eligibility requirements.
  • The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may offer dental coverage if you’re a veteran.
  • Dental schools and dental hygiene schools in your area may offer low-cost services. All services are supervised by licensed dentists, but you’ll have to call ahead to see if they offer emergency services.
  • Community health clinics may provide reduced-cost or free dental services. These clinics may be managed by the National Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).

If you have a toothache, schedule an appointment with a dentist right away. In the meantime, you can try OTC medications, like ibuprofen or a topical analgesic, or home remedies, like gloves and garlic.

While you can’t always prevent a toothache, staying on top of your dental health habits can help keep your teeth in better shape. Brushing and flossing twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste could make a toothache less likely to happen.