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Excruciating Toothache? A Dentist Discusses the Best Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

December 11, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — smile_fitness @ 3:12 pm
Man holding his cheek in pain

Without a doubt, a toothache can be one of the most painful experiences you’ll ever go through. When you’re in the midst of one, all you want to do is feel better fast! The first step is calling an emergency dentist to have it treated as soon as possible. From there, you can take over-the-counter pain medication until your visit. But which one is best? And if your pain goes away, do you still need to see a dentist, or has the problem taken care of itself? In this blog, you’ll get the answers to these questions and more.

Which Over-the-Counter Pain Medication Is Best for a Toothache? 

The symptoms of a toothache can range from mild to severe and may include dull, sharp, or throbbing pain, swelling in the face, a pimple-like bump on the gums, or fever. Generally speaking, you can take your preferred over-the-counter pain reliever as directed until you can be seen. 

With that said, ibuprofen is often particularly effective for dental pain. However, it’s in a category of medications called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), along with aspirin and naproxen, which thin the blood. If any of the following apply to you, talk to your doctor about whether you should take NSAIDs or an alternative like acetaminophen instead: 

  • You’re on a prescription blood-thinner like Warfarin
  • You have a high risk of stomach bleeding or gastrointestinal problems like heartburn  
  • You take a prescription medication that’s acts as a diuretic
  • You have high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, or kidney disease 

Also, there’s an old “wives tale” that says to apply aspirin directly to your tooth or gums for pain relief. It’s not only ineffective but can also burn your gum tissue, so it’s best avoided.  

Do You Need To See a Dentist If Your Toothache Goes Away?

Unfortunately, dental problems don’t disappear on their own and only get worse with time. So why would a toothache go away? Oftentimes, a severe toothache is caused by an infection in the nerve of a tooth (which can result from a deep cavity, fracture, or other type of trauma). Sometimes this causes the nerve to die, which explains why the pain goes away. But the infection is still there. If left untreated, it can spread to other areas of the body such as the brain and become dangerous or even fatal. 

In another scenario, you may have a mild toothache that seems to come and go. But the longer you wait without having it looked at, the more damage occurs to the tooth. The sooner an emergency dentist can diagnose the problem, the more likely it can be treated with a simple, inexpensive procedure like a dental filling instead of a root canal or crown.

The bottom line? You should always have a dentist evaluate a toothache, even if it goes away. In the meantime, you’ll know which over-the-counter-pain-medication to take to stay comfortable until your appointment. 

About the Author 

Dr. Douglas Gordon is a family dentist with nearly 5 decades of experience and a graduate of the New York University College of Dentistry. He’s committed to seeing patients for toothaches and other emergencies as soon as possible, so his practice is open 6 days a week. If you’re experiencing a toothache or have any questions, he can be reached via his website.

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