Help! Painkillers Aren't Working For My Toothache | Bedside Pain Manager (2023)

Toothache can be a nightmare. It can disrupt your daily routine, affect your eating habits, cause sleepless nights, and even lead to anxiety or depression. For these reasons, tackling tooth pain as soon as possible is crucial. Painkillers can be helpful, but they’re not always enough. You must take action if you’re struggling with your tooth pain.What should I do if painkillers aren’t working for my toothache?’ What if your toothache doesn’t go away or worsens despite medication? Here’s what you should do.

Understand the Causes of Toothache

Toothache can have various causes, including:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Infection or abscess
  • Impacted wisdom teeth
  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
  • Sinus or ear infections
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)

Knowing the underlying cause of your toothache is essential to determine the appropriate treatment. Also, remember that some conditions, like an abscess, can be life-threatening if left untreated. Therefore, seeing a dentist if your toothache persists for more than a few days or comes and goes is crucial.

Try Other Pain Management Techniques

Painkillers can be effective for mild to moderate toothache but are not always the best option. Some people may not respond well to pain medication or be allergic to certain types. If this is your case, you can explore other options that may alleviate your toothache, such as the following:

(Video) Painkillers for Toothache, management of tooth pain. North Devon Dentist. Torrs Park Dental Practice

Clove Oil

Clove oil, an active ingredient in many dental products, is the best at-home remedy for tooth pain. It is a natural antiseptic that reduces pain and inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It also acts as a temporary pain reliever. The active ingredient in clove oil can be compared to benzocaine, the numbing ingredient in many dental gels. A dentist may suggest soaking a cotton ball and applying it directly to the toothache area or rinsing your mouth with it to use clove oil.

Willow Bark

There is some evidence that willow bark can aid in reducing inflammation, which will help with pain relief. Willow bark contains salicin, similar to aspirin’s main ingredient. Willow bark tea can be gargled, or a paste of willow bark powder can be applied to the area causing pain.

Cold Compress

Help! Painkillers Aren't Working For My Toothache | Bedside Pain Manager (1)A cold compress can help treat some types of oral pain. “If the origin of the toothache is from trauma, cold compress to the area will reduce swelling and inflammation and give you temporary pain relief. She suggests applying the cold compress or wrapped bag of ice to the affected area for intervals of 20 minutes and repeating every few hours.

Saltwater Rinse

Rinsing your mouth with salt water can also help with toothache. Saltwater will naturally reduce inflammation and improve wound healing. Indeed, a 2016 study inPlosOnefound that short-term rinsing with a saltwater solution promotes cell migration, an important process during wound healing. Dentists suggest mixing one tablespoon of salt with 1/2 cup of warm water. Swish the solution in your mouth for 30 seconds as often as needed throughout the day.

Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse

A mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water may also help with tooth-related pain and inflammation. This is an alternative option to the saltwater rinse. Mix a solution of equal parts over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide and water. Swish it around in your mouth for one minute, but don’t swallow it.


Peppermint Tea Bag or Oil

There is scientific evidence that peppermint can help relieve various types of pain. One in vitro study found that peppermint was one of three oils that worked as an effective intracanal antiseptic solution against oral pathogens—meaning it can effectively prevent the growth of bacteria.

Your dentist suggests applying a cold peppermint tea bag if you have a toothache. Chill it by putting a steeped tea bag in the freezer for a few minutes, and apply it in the area causing pain. Alternatively, add a few drops of peppermint oil to a cotton ball and apply that directly against the affected tooth.


The herb thyme is a powerful antibacterial and antioxidant. A study found that in essential oil form, thyme has “powerful antibacterial and antifungal” properties. Put some thyme oil on a cotton ball and apply it directly to the area to help with pain relief. A few drops of thyme oil can also be added to a glass of water and used as a mouthwash.


There is some evidence that garlic can also help relieve pain. Fresh garlic cloves contain allicin, which has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Crush or chew the garlic clove to receive the necessary benefits of the allicin. Garlic powder will not have the same remedial properties.

Topical Pain Relievers

Help! Painkillers Aren't Working For My Toothache | Bedside Pain Manager (2)Over-the-counter pain relief gels, creams, liquids, and swabs can also temporarily relieve pain. These treatments typically contain several active ingredients, including benzocaine, which temporarily numbs the area.

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Note that some of these methods may only provide temporary relief or work better in combination with other therapies. Also, be careful not to apply too much pressure or heat to the affected area, which can worsen the pain.

Consider Prescription Medications or Procedures

If painkillers and home remedies don’t work for your toothache, your dentist may prescribe stronger medications or recommend a procedure, such as:

  • Antibiotics to fight infection or prevent its spread
  • Root canal therapy to remove the infected pulp and save the tooth
  • Periodontal treatment to remove tartar and bacteria from under the gums
  • Extraction to remove severely damaged, infected, or impacted teeth
  • Referral to a specialist, such as an endodontist, periodontist, or oral surgeon

Depending on your condition, your dentist may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, improving your diet, or managing stress. Following your dentist’s recommendations and managing your toothache promptly, you can avoid complications and enjoy better oral health.

Painkillers Aren’t Working for my Toothache: When You Should Go to the Dentist

If you’re experiencing a toothache, don’t wait for the pain to go away on its own. Homemade remedies will only provide temporary relief—your dentist needs to identify the source of the toothache and proceed with proper treatment.

There are a variety of treatments for tooth pain, depending on the cause:

(Video) Wisdom Tooth Pain & its Treatment

  • Root canal: If the nerve is dead, the only thing that will work is a root canal treatment on the tooth. A root canal removes the dead nerve, which becomes necrotic and can cause a massive infection if left in. The tooth is then filled with an inert material, so it can be kept for years and will not need to be pulled.
  • Extraction: If a tooth is severely fractured, or there’s so much bone loss that the tooth can’t be saved, it must be extracted.
  • Help! Painkillers Aren't Working For My Toothache | Bedside Pain Manager (3)Antibiotics: In the case of an infection, antibiotics can work temporarily to clear it up, which should effectively remedy tooth pain. In the case of an abscessed tooth, the pain will often return about two weeks after the last dose of antibiotic, which can buy you some time to complete the recommended treatment. However, it won’t solve the problem, and if more than one round is used, it can lead to antibiotic resistance. This can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics for future infections.
  • Teeth splinting: For pain related to mobile teeth (which are loose teeth in the jaws or the alveolar bone), splinting the teeth, a technique that involves attaching weak teeth together, may help.
  • Night guard: For severe pain or soreness related to teeth grinding, a night guard prescribed by a dentist may help protect teeth and prevent grinding.

Don’t Wait to Seek Treatment for Your Toothache

Toothache can be a sign of a severe dental problem that requires professional attention. Don’t ignore your pain or try to tough it out with painkillers alone. Contact your dentist immediately to determine the cause of your toothache and find the best solution for your needs. Remember that good oral hygiene, regular dental checkups, and prompt treatment of dental issues can prevent toothache and other dental problems from occurring in the first place.


(Video) The Role of Antibiotics in Dentistry


Why isn't painkillers helping my toothache? ›

See a dentist if you have toothache:

that does not go away when you take painkillers. with a high temperature, pain when you bite, red gums, or a bad taste in your mouth. and your cheek or jaw is swollen.

What should I do if I have unbearable tooth pain? ›

If you have a severe toothache, you'll need professional dental treatment. Unbearable tooth pain along with fever and chills means you're having a dental emergency. Call a dentist or go to your nearest emergency room right away.

Can the ER do anything for tooth pain? ›

If it's something where the pain is so severe, you just cannot get it under control, you can come to the ER. Just keep in mind we won't be able to do a whole lot more than maybe put you on some antibiotics to cool down that infection in your tooth, get you some pain medication, get you feeling a little better.

How many painkillers can you take in a day for toothache? ›

Recommended pain relief for dental pain in adults. *For severe or acute conditions, ibuprofen can be prescribed to a maximum of 2.4g daily (600mg, four times a day). If you wish to purchase the product over the counter, then the maximum dose is 1.2g daily (400mg, three times a day).

What position should I sleep in with a toothache? ›

Try sleeping with your head propped up on several pillows. Elevating your head higher than the rest of your body will prevent blood from pooling in your head and mouth. As a result, it improves circulation, decreases swelling, and alleviates some of the pain.

What causes unbearable tooth pain? ›

Toothache occurs when the innermost layer of the tooth (dental pulp) becomes inflamed. The pulp is made up of sensitive nerves and blood vessels. Dental pulp can become inflamed as a result of: tooth decay – this leads to holes (cavities) forming in the hard surface of the tooth.

Why is tooth pain so unbearable? ›

It has the outer layer, which is the enamel, the middle layer, which is called the dentin, and then the inner layer, which is called the nerve. So anytime that nerve is affected, it is really, really, really painful. That throbby pain that you talk about, that you can't do anything.

How do you stop nerve pain in your teeth? ›

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever – Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and other pain relievers can ease the pain. Use a cold compress – An ice pack or cold damp cloth can numb the area and can be especially helpful if you are experiencing swelling. Swish salt water or peroxide – These rinses can relieve inflammation.

How long does extreme toothache last? ›

On average, a tooth nerve pain can last from as little as just a few days to as long as 4-6weeks or, in some instances, even longer. Considering the numbness ad sharp pain that may occur with a tooth nerve, you have to do what you can to get rid of the pain as soon as possible.

Should you go to the ER for severe tooth pain? ›

Do I Need to Go to the Emergency Room for Tooth Pain? The short answer is that you should go based on how you feel. If you have excruciating tooth pain that you can't take for a second longer or prolonged, excessive mouth bleeding that you can't get under control, you may need to head to the emergency room.

Will the ER pull an abscessed tooth? ›

An emergency room is the only facility that has the necessary equipment and personnel to handle the abscessed tooth and contain any widespread infection. Here, a CT scan can be done to establish the spread of the infection in addition to one being taken to the operating room to undergo oral incision and drainage.

What does an abscess tooth look like? ›

An abscess usually looks like a red, swollen bump, boil or pimple. It affects the involved tooth, but the infection can also spread to surrounding bone and neighboring teeth. Abscesses can occur in different places around a tooth for different reasons.

Who can drain a tooth abscess? ›

Dentists will treat a tooth abscess by draining it and getting rid of the infection. They may be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment. But in some cases the tooth may need to be pulled.

How long does it take for 800 mg ibuprofen to kick in for a toothache? ›

You should start to feel better 20 to 30 minutes after taking ibuprofen tablets, capsules, granules or liquid. For some types of long-term pain, you'll need to take ibuprofen regularly for up to 3 weeks for it to work properly.

How long does it take for 600 mg ibuprofen to kick in for a toothache? ›

Ibuprofen works by reducing hormones that cause pain and swelling in the body. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to work if you take it by mouth, and 1 to 2 days to work if you put it on your skin. Ibuprofen is typically used for period pain or toothache.

Will painkiller 800 milligram stop tooth pain? ›

Ibuprofen is most effective in dosages that range from 400 to 800 milligrams per; there is no evidence of higher levels of effectiveness beyond 800 milligrams. Medications of this type, NSAIDs, work powerfully and fast to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Will brushing teeth help toothache? ›

Like we touched on above, a toothache may simply be the result of your lunch lingering between your teeth, in which case brushing and flossing can easily resolve the problem.

Why does holding water in mouth stop toothache? ›

Apply COLD!

You may have gasses trapped in your tooth. If you keep ice cold water in your mouth, the gasses will contract and pain either lessens or ceases.

What is the tooth that hurts the most? ›

Molars tend to be very painful because they're much bigger than other teeth. More often than not, it's the first tooth or teeth that come in which are very painful for a child. This is because it's the first one causing this new and unfamiliar feeling for the child.

Does hydrogen peroxide help tooth pain? ›

Hydrogen peroxide and water mixed together make an antibacterial mouthwash that reduces inflammation and relieves pain from a toothache. Mix a 50/50 solution of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in a glass of warm water and use as you would a regular mouthwash, swishing it over your teeth and spit it out.

How can I numb my tooth nerve at home? ›

Applying ice to the area of the painful tooth can help to numb the pain. You can try different versions of this technique. Wrap some ice in a towel and apply it to the affected area. Keep the compress in place for 15 minutes at a time.

How do you sleep with nerve pain in your teeth? ›

Sleep with your head elevated – Prop up a few pillows to prevent your blood flow from rushing to your head, making your tooth pain worse. Use a cold compress – A cold compress (or towel-wrapped ice pack) can reduce inflammation and numb the area.

How long can a dead tooth stay in your mouth? ›

A dead tooth can stay in your mouth for up to several days or months; however, keeping a dead tooth may lead to problems with your jaw and also result in the spreading of decay and bacteria to other teeth. Most dentists will recommend having the dead tooth extracted and replaced with a denture, bridge, or implant.

What does a dying tooth nerve feel like? ›

Tooth Sensitivity or Pain – As the nerves that lead to a dying tooth begin to die away, they may become extra sensitive, causing you a tooth ache or sensitivity to hot or cold foods. You may experience pain while chewing at or around the site of the dead tooth.

What is the best painkiller for toothache? ›

“Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin or naproxen work well with dental pain because they reduce inflammation,” says Huang. Recent data has shown the combination of Advil (ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen) is as effective as prescription opioids for tooth pain.

How much tooth pain is an emergency? ›

If you are experiencing severe, throbbing pain for over 12 hours if your teeth are bleeding, or have fever/chills, visit your dentist immediately. If you're not sure what to do in an emergency, get in touch with your dentist's office right away!

When does dental pain become an emergency? ›

When Is a Toothache a Dental Emergency? If you have a toothache that lasts more than 1-2 days and is causing you a lot of pain or discomfort, you're having a dental emergency. This usually indicates an advanced cavity or an infected tooth. Without proper care, your condition will only get worse.

How do you know if you have sepsis from tooth infection? ›

Signs of bacteremia could be slight fever, nausea and distal infection. Rarely, bacteremia may resolve on its own. It also may progress into septicemia, a more serious blood infection that is always accompanied by symptoms such as chills, high fever, rapid heartbeat, severe nausea, vomiting and confusion.

What happens if an abscess bursts in your mouth and you swallow it? ›

Ever wonder what happens if an abscess bursts in your mouth and you swallow it? That bacteria travels to new bodily systems and could very seriously sicken you. Sepsis is also a possibility. The infection may cause swelling that could interfere with your airway.

Why can't you pull a tooth with an abscess? ›

A periodontal infection caused by an abscessed tooth can necessitate major oral reconstructive surgery. In some cases, to remove a tooth safely the patient will have to take antibiotics beforehand. That will clear up the infection to the point where an extraction is safe.

What happens if tooth infection spreads to jaw? ›

Tooth infections that have traveled to the jawbone can lead to severe dental abscesses and jawbone infections. Osteomyelitis in the jaw causes persistent pain, jaw stiffness, swelling, and tenderness. Additionally, bacterial infections of the teeth can also spread to the bloodstream and cause sepsis.

Is Listerine good for a tooth infection? ›

Yes, applying a cotton ball soaked in regular Listerine on an infected tooth will relieve tooth pain. Listerine is about 27% alcohol, and alcohol numbs nerve endings.

How painful is an infected tooth abscess? ›

Symptoms of an abscess in your tooth or gum may include: an intense, throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum that may come on suddenly and gets gradually worse. pain that spreads to your ear, jaw and neck on the same side as the affected tooth or gum. pain that's worse when lying down, which may disturb your sleep.

What will the dentist do to my abscess? ›

Dental abscesses are usually treated by a dentist. The dentist will drain away the pus. If a problem with your tooth has caused the abscess, you may need root canal treatment, or the tooth may be removed. You'll be given a local anaesthetic, so you do not feel any pain.

How long does it take for a tooth abscess to drain on its own? ›

A dental abscess can form in a matter of a few days. This infection does not go away on its own. Without treatment, an abscess can continue for several months, possibly even years. Most abscesses cause intense tooth pain, indicating to a patient that prompt treatment is needed.

Why did my severe toothache go away? ›

A disappearing toothache usually means that the nerve inside the tooth has died. The infection that caused the problem in the first place may still be present and continue to attack the surrounding tissues. Without treatment, the infection could seriously damage the jawbone and even cause systemic illness.

Why does an infected tooth stop hurting? ›

Pain may stop if an infection causes the pulp inside your tooth to die. The pain stops because the nerve isn't functioning anymore, so you may not be able to feel it. However, the bacteria will continue to spread and destroy surrounding tissue.

What is the 3 3 3 method for toothache? ›

Try using the 3-3-3 method: taking 3 ibuprofen, 3 times a day, for 3 days. Make sure to keep taking it even if you start to feel better, as the goal is to reduce inflammation in addition to the pain. In addition, you may ice the area, keep your head elevated, and rinse with salt water three-to-five times a day.

How long will toothache last before nerve dies? ›

How Long Does Nerve Pain Last in A Tooth? On average, a tooth nerve pain can last from as little as just a few days to as long as 4-6weeks or, in some instances, even longer.

What happens if nerve in tooth dies? ›

A dead nerve in a tooth is sometimes referred to as a necrotic pulp or a pulpless tooth. Once this happens, the tooth will eventually fall out by itself. However, it can be dangerous to wait for this to occur, as the tooth can become infected and affect the jaw and other teeth.

Will tooth nerve pain go away? ›

In some cases, nerve pain in the tooth can go away on its own if the cause of it is temporary. For example, nerve pain from a cracked tooth may go away if the crack does not deepen and the nerve is left undamaged. However, nerve pain from decay, trauma, or infection will likely not go away on its own.

How long is too long for a tooth infection? ›

In conclusion, the maximum period that an untreated tooth abscess can sustain is 12 months or more. But, such longevity is associated with dangerous complications such as sepsis or even death. Schedule your appointment with a dentist today and get the treatment on time!

What liquid stops toothache? ›

Anbesol liquid contains 0.9%w/w of lidocaine hydrochloride, 0.1%w/w of chlorocresol and 0.02%w/w of cetylpyridinium chloride which together work in two ways to stop the painful sensation and kill bacteria to prevent infections.

Why does milk help toothache? ›

Cheese, yogurt, and milk stimulate the body to produce more saliva that protects your teeth.

Does brushing teeth help toothache? ›

Like we touched on above, a toothache may simply be the result of your lunch lingering between your teeth, in which case brushing and flossing can easily resolve the problem.

What type of toothache is most painful? ›

Level 4: Throbbing Tooth Pain

A throbbing toothache is very painful and frustrating to deal with. This type of pain can come on suddenly or gradually worsen from a sharp pain to throbbing pain. The throbbing sensation may seem limited to one or more teeth, or it may spread to your jaw or even the side of your face.


1. Tooth Pain Won't Go Away With Antibiotics? Here's Why & What To Do
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2. 2022 Primary Care Update “Updates in Acute and Chronic Pain Management”
(Norton Healthcare)
3. Pain Management Tips
(Kati Kleber, MSN RN)
4. Practical guide to opioids and ketamine for pain management
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5. Pain Management Task Force (PMTF) | May 2019 | Day 1, Pt. 5: Task Force Progress & Vote on Report
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
6. 5 Natural Pain Relief Options To Replace Pain Killers


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