Maine Dentistry > Blog > What To Do For A Toothache For A Child

What To Do For A Toothache For A Child

It’s never easy to see your child in pain. Toothaches can be challenging to handle no matter what the person’s age, but kids may have a particularly hard time dealing with symptoms like throbbing and inflammation.


Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to help alleviate your child’s discomfort. While it’s important to see a dentist for a concrete diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to manage the pain at home in the meantime. 

Causes of Toothaches in Children

There are many culprits that could be to blame for your little one’s tooth pain. Understanding the root cause can help you better help your child if they’re uncomfortable.


Cavities are common amongst kids, affecting the baby teeth of some half of kids between the ages of six and eight. Nearly the same number of kids between 12 and 19 have developed cavities in their permanent teeth. Unfortunately, pain isn’t always an immediate symptom — and months may go by before your child develops any type of discomfort. The longer it’s left untreated, though, the more painful the cavity will become.


Consuming an appropriate diet isn’t just vital for growing up healthy and strong, but also to support the teeth and gums. Unfortunately, many of the foods that kids enjoy the most are also linked to cavity formation. That includes sugary beverages, like juices, milks, and sodas. Equally to blame are desserts, like cake, candy, cookies, and ice cream. Kids may also experience tooth or gum irritation after consuming something hard, like caramel or hard candy.


Brushing is vital to your child’s good oral health, but it’s important to establish good habits early. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time applying gentle pressure, ideally with a soft-bristled brush. Sometimes kids can get a little aggressive in their approach, brushing too forcefully and causing the enamel on the teeth to wear away. Harsh brushing may also injure the gums and make it difficult for them to brush comfortably.


When your little one’s teeth begin to come in, it can cause a bothersome toothache. They may feel more discomfort when they’re chewing or biting down on something, or it might be challenging for them to have anything that is too hot or too cold. This pain should subside once the tooth actually erupts, but until then chewing on the opposite side can be helpful.


Sometimes kids develop a habit of grinding their teeth. Medically known as bruxism, it can occur because of alignment issues, earache, or even stress. In other cases, it’s simply a comforting behavior that they grow accustomed to as part of their day. The longer it goes on, the more likely that the enamel will break down. Teeth may grow more sensitive with time, too, and your child may experience pain when they eat. If they grind their teeth at night, they might experience soreness in the morning.


Even though it’s more likely to affect adults, gum disease can still affect children. Usually, kids develop a mild form known as gingivitis. This leads to symptoms like soreness, red gums, and inflammation. As the condition grows worse, kids may bleed while they brush, experience gum recession, and develop bad breath that is difficult to control. Seeing a dentist regularly is by far the best way to stay on top of progression and manage the condition well.

What to Do if Your Child Has a Toothache

Since the cause of a toothache in a child isn’t always obvious, it’s smart to make an appointment with a pediatric dentist as soon as possible. Bringing them in promptly is the easiest way to help them find quick relief. In the meantime, you can help them at home with these tips.


  1. Use Warm Salt Water

    Rinsing with warm salt water is one of the most effective home remedies for toothaches. Just fill an eight-ounce cup with warm water, add approximately half a teaspoon of table salt, and stir. Then have your child rinse for at least a minute. The salt may help bring down inflammation, which can alleviate the pain.

  2. Try a Cold Compress

    Cold has a numbing effect on pain, so it may bring some quick relief. It also constricts blood vessels in the affected area, helping reduce the swelling that may contribute to pain. Simply use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel and hold it against the area for approximately 20 minutes, using gentle pressure.

  3. Swish Some Peppermint Tea

    Another cooling agent that may be soothing is peppermint tea. You can prepare a cup for your child and wait until it’s lukewarm before they rinse with it. They can swish it around for about a minute, ideally concentrating it on the affected area for cooling and comforting relief. They can also drink the tea, as just the presence of the liquid in the mouth may help with irritation or discomfort.

  4. Chew on a Clove

    Among the most popular natural remedies, cloves are natural pain relievers that can also reduce inflammation. Cloves contain eugenol, an oil that’s been used for centuries to treat toothache. It has a numbing effect on pain, and may also reduce inflammation where it hurts. The easiest way to find relief is by chewing a whole clove and holding it near the affected area. Clove oil can be applied with a cotton swab, but be careful — if it contacts other parts of the mouth, it may burn.

  5. Treat with Pain Medication

    When pain persists, sometimes the only solution is to take an over-the-counter medication. Ask your doctor whether something like ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory) or acetaminophen may be suitable to manage the pain.

Treating Kids’ Toothaches at Maine Dentistry

Great dental habits start early. At Maine Dentistry, children receive the best possible care in a safe and nurturing environment. If your little one has a toothache, make sure to schedule an appointment at the Auburn, Gray, or Portland office. Visit the website to learn more about our children’s dentistry services, or contact us today.

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