If you have a severe toothache, swelling or another dental emergency, it's important to contact a dentist straight away. They can advise you about how to treat your symptoms at home to relieve pain and discomfort and avoid making the problem worse. If you need urgent care, they will recommend booking an emergency appointment at your nearest dental clinic.

If you can't make it to the dentist, or your situation isn't urgent, these general home remedies for toothaches and other dental problems could help to ease your symptoms before your visit. Remember, that this is general advice and is no substitute for professional, personalised advice. Since every situation is unique, your dentist is the best person to give you this.

Toothache

Tooth pain is the most common dental problem. It may be mild or severe, constant or intermittent, and can have many possible causes.

If you have a toothache, these home dental care tips could help to ease the pain before you have the chance to see a dentist:

  • Avoid very hot or very cold food and drinks
  • Avoid food and drink high in sugar and acid
  • Take over-the-counter pain relief medication
  • Apply anaesthetic gel or clove oil to the painful area
  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the outside of your cheek
  • Brush and floss as normal, applying a small amount of toothpaste directly to the painful tooth
  • Gently massage the gum around the painful tooth
  • Elevate your head with pillows when you sleep to reduce blood pressure in the tooth

If these steps don't help or your toothache doesn't go away, you should make an appointment with your dentist.

Pain when biting

If your tooth only hurts when you bite down or chew, this could be avoided or reduced by:

  • Eating with the other side of your mouth
  • Avoiding hard foods, such as nuts and lollies
  • Avoiding chewy foods, such as baguettes or tough meat
  • Following the toothache tips above if the pain continues

Contact a dentist near you and tell them about your symptoms so they can decide if you need an assessment. Pain when biting down may indicate a problem such as tooth decay, a cracked tooth, a lost filling or a tooth infection, and all of these require professional care.

Wisdom tooth pain

If a wisdom tooth is giving you pain, this may be managed at home or you may want to visit a dentist if the pain is severe. Home remedies for wisdom tooth pain include:

  • Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water
  • Using a mouthwash designed for gum problems
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relief
  •  Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the outside of your cheek

If your wisdom tooth is very painful or is causing other problems in your mouth, such as swelling or difficulty swallowing, you should make an emergency appointment with your dentist, as you may need wisdom tooth removal.

Sensitive tooth

If any of your teeth feel extra sensitive to temperature or pressure, this can also cause discomfort and it may be a symptom of an underlying problem.

We recommend talking to a dentist to get a professional diagnosis, but you may also be able to find relief by:

  • Avoiding very hot, cold, sugary or acidic foods and drinks
  • Using a softer toothbrush and brushing more gently
  • Using a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth
  • Leaving toothpaste on your teeth for extra protection, rather than rinsing it off

Sore or bleeding gums

If your gums look red, feel sore or bleed when you brush your teeth, this is usually a sign of gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.

While gum disease can eventually cause damage if it's not treated, you may be able to stop it at home by improving your oral hygiene. Dentists recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing gently between your teeth
  • Cutting down on sugary and acidic food and drink
  • Not smoking

If your gum disease symptoms continue or you think you might have more advanced gum disease, you should arrange a hygiene appointment at your local dental clinic.

Facial swelling

Swelling (inflammation) is always a cause for concern. If you notice swelling in or around your mouth, you should contact your dentist for advice.

If the swelling is only minor or has started recently, dentists may prescribe antibiotics or recommend home remedies such as:

  • Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water
  • Applying a cold compress, ice pack or packet of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel over the swelling

If the swelling is more severe, lasts for more than a few days or you're having trouble opening your mouth or swallowing, book an emergency appointment at your local dental clinic.

Mouth ulcer

Mouth ulcers are fairly common and normally heal on their own within 10 days. If a mouth ulcer is causing pain or discomfort, you can try:

  • Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water
  • Using an antibacterial mouthwash
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relief
  • Using a mouth ulcer gel, available from many pharmacies and supermarkets
  • Applying clove oil to the ulcer

If the ulcer doesn't heal within two weeks or it's causing severe pain, talk to a dentist for advice or to schedule an appointment.

Painful or damaged braces

If your braces break or come loose, you should make an appointment with your dentist rather than trying to fix them yourself, as this could damage the brace or affect the success of your orthodontic treatment.

If a wire comes loose, you can try reattaching it yourself, cutting it to a safe length so it doesn't cause damage, or covering the end with orthodontic wax or a similar substance until you have a chance to see your dentist.

Pain following a dental treatment

If you've recently had a dental procedure such as a tooth extraction, it's normal to feel some pain for the next few days as your mouth recovers. During this recovery period, you can aid the healing process by:

  • Keeping your mouth and the treated area clean
  • Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water
  • Taking over-the-counter painkillers as recommended by your dentist
  • Not smoking for at least 48 hours after the procedure (if at all)

If you still feel pain after several days, or you have other unexpected side effects such as bleeding or swelling, contact your dentist for advice.

Talk to a dentist near you

If you have other dental pain or symptoms that you're worried about, your dentist can give you the best advice for your situation.

Find your nearest Bupa Dental clinic