What do I do if my child has a toothache?

September 1, 2021

No parent wants to see their child in pain. When a child complains of mouth pain, the cause is sometimes unrelated to their teeth, like in the case of a sinus infection. Oftentimes, however, teeth are indeed the culprit. A quick look inside the mouth can sometimes help identify the cause, such as a new tooth sprouting or a stuck piece of food. As Seattle Children’s Hospital explains, however, the problem occasionally warrants further evaluation by a dentist. So how do you know for sure whether the issue is serious enough for a visit to the dentist? We’ve provided a few tips to help you identify the problem, ease your child’s pain, and help them get the care they need. 

Try to locate the site of the toothache.

If your child is old enough, ask them to point to the location of the pain. Look inside for red or swollen gums, tooth discoloration, broken teeth. If you see swelling or a “pimple” around the tooth, this could be a sign of a dental abscess and warrants seeing a dentist as soon as possible. If the child has pain only when they bite down with a specific tooth, this could indicate a cavity.

Rinse and floss your child’s teeth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rinsing your child’s mouth with warm water and flossing to remove any food particles trapped between their teeth. If you haven’t identified a clear cause after looking around, it’s possible that removing a stuck food particle will resolve the problem. Remember to be gentle while flossing because your child’s gums might be sensitive. Colgate.com also suggests rinsing with salt water because of its abilities to inhibit harmful bacteria and ease discomfort.

Apply a cold compress for pain.

A cold compress slows blood flow to the affected area and may help ease discomfort and swelling. If you do not have a store-bought compress, you can make one by wrapping ice in a small towel or cloth. Try icing for 15 minutes and taking another 15 minutes off.

Use pain medication. 

If the pain persists, you can try giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen while you are waiting to be seen by a provider. Remember to make sure that any medicine is safe: carefully read the instructions to find the correct dosage for your child’s age. 

Make an appointment.

While the cause of your child’s toothaches may be as simple as a new tooth sprouting or a food particle that is easily removed with flossing, sometimes the problem is more serious. If your child has swelling, redness or a suspected cavity, it’s important to see a pediatric dental specialist as soon as possible. When in doubt, always contact us, particularly if the toothache persists for over 24 hours. We’ll get your child smiling again!

KidzSmile Dentistry is a part of Mortenson Dental Partners.

Will my child need braces?

Did you know the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children get their first orthodontic check-up no later than age 7? That may seem early, but taking care of orthodontic needs from a young age can help your child build and maintain a healthy and confident smile for many years to come. Keep reading to […]

Read More