Medicines to relieve tooth pain: Which one is better?

Your tooth hurts but you can’t get in to see the dentist right away. What can you do? One of the ways to find temporary relief is to use an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever.

There are a few options that dentists recommend which are the most effective. However, there are also precautions that you need to take into account before you head to the drug store.

What is Toothache?

As the name implies, a toothache is pain felt anywhere in or around your teeth. Some toothaches may only be mildly uncomfortable, but pain levels can also be severe. Experiencing toothache is often a sign that there may be an issue with your tooth or gums, but it can also be caused by other issues within the body. You may experience constant pain, intermittent pain, or sharp pain when clenching your teeth or eating. Oftentimes toothaches are accompanied by swelling gums and tooth sensitivity, which suggests that the two issues are related.  Pain and/or swelling should not be ignored, as toothaches are often caused by tooth decay which will need to be treated by your dentist.

Common Symptoms of Toothache

The experience of a toothache can vary from individual to individual. If you have a mild toothache with no swelling, you may wish to monitor the situation for about 2 days. If pain persists, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist so that they can inspect your teeth, determine the cause of your pain and provide appropriate treatment.

If you experience swelling, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately as this indicates the possibility of infection and will require immediate treatment.

Symptoms of toothache and swelling to be aware of include:

  • Throbbing sensation around your teeth or gums
  • Fever
  • Pain which worsens during eating, brushing, or clenching of teeth
  • Consistent toothache pain
  • Tender teeth or gums
  • Tooth sensitivity

What Causes Toothaches?

Most toothaches are caused by tooth decay, which occurs when acids eat away at the protective layer of enamel on your teeth, leaving you at risk of experiencing cavities or holes in the teeth. The best way to minimise your risk of cavities is to avoid snacking outside of set meal hours, avoid sugary snacks and drinks and ensure you brush your teeth twice daily. Practicing good oral hygiene and attending regular dental appointments will help to prevent toothache and ensure optimal dental health.

Other common causes of toothaches include:

  • Gum Disease
  • Chipped/cracked teeth
  • Impacted wisdom teeth
  • Dental abscess
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Root canal infections
  • Tooth grinding (bruxism)

Pain relief options

If you’re suffering from a toothache, help alleviate discomfort with toothache pain relief options that include topical analgesics, pain relief caplets, and more. Try a toothache gel in a strength that meets your needs, whether your pain is severe or minor. There are also convenient toothache swabs that are tidy and easy to use.

If you prefer the relief that pain medication can offer, choose between ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen and use one that works best for you. Consult with your doctor or dentist to help decide which toothache treatment can be safest and most effective. And if your tooth, crown, or filling is damaged or cracked, you can protect it from pain and debris with a temporary filling or dental cap repair.

Choosing the Right OTC Pain Reliever

Selecting an over-the-counter pain medication that is right for you involves understanding how each type manages pain. More importantly, you need to know whether or not they are safe for you

Taking certain pain medications with some medical conditions can cause serious problems. Also, if you are taking any prescription medications, you need to be aware of possible drug interactions.

It’s best that you speak with your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist before taking any OTC pain relievers. Of equal importance is to follow the dosage recommendations on the label. Even though these medications are available without a prescription, they can cause serious side effects and it is possible to overdose.

Also, they should not be taken for an extended period of time. It’s best to call your dentist about tooth pain as soon as possible.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relief Medication for Dental Use

There are several types of medications that are used to manage a variety of diseases involving the oral cavity (mouth) that are part of good dental care. The medications discussed in this article have pharmacological properties that are used to treat conditions such as pain, anxiety, and infections, amongst others.

It is important to always communicate all dental signs and symptoms to your dentist, so that appropriate management and choice of medications can be made. One of the most commonly reported dental complications involves various levels of pain. Due to this fact, pain management is an important goal for all dentists and patients.


The most popular over-the-counter pain relief medication used in dentistry is ibuprofen. Popular brand names include Motrin and Advil and it is available in tablets, liquid gel capsules, and oral suspension formulations.

Ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), works very well for dental pain because it reduces inflammation, which is common in most dental-related aches and pains.

People taking certain medications should not use ibuprofen. This includes aspirin, ACE inhibitors, blood thinners, Lasix (furosemide), corticosteroids, lithium, and methotrexate.

With prolonged use of ibuprofen, you can irritate or damage your stomach, kidneys, and liver. There is a cardiovascular risk associated with it as well.


Tylenol is the most common brand of acetaminophen. This is another popular OTC medication used to manage dental pain, especially for people that are unable to take ibuprofen. Acetaminophen is available in tablets, liquid gel capsules, and oral suspension formulations.

Acetaminophen is an analgesic and does not have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also found in a number of other medications. Be sure to discuss taking it with your doctor or pharmacist so you do not exceed the recommended daily dose or experience drug interactions.

In large doses, acetaminophen may lead to liver damage. You also should not drink alcohol while taking this pain reliever as the combination can cause liver damage.

Do Not Place Aspirin on Your Tooth

Call it an old wive’s tale or folk remedy, but there’s a common myth that placing aspirin on a tooth relieves pain. This is not true and can further damage your teeth. Swallow the pill as directed and the pain will subside soon.

Medications used to treat dental infection

Dental infections include infections that develop after dental surgery, for example:


  • periodontal infections,
  • dental abscesses,
  • infections around wisdom teeth, and
  • other conditions.


Antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin (Amoxil) are used for a variety of infections that may result after dental procedures. Erythromycin (Benzamycin, Emgel, Ery, Ilotycin, Staticin) is usually prescribed when patients have allergies to penicillin or amoxicillin (Amoxil).

Clindamycin (Cleocin HCL) often is used in the treatment of serious infections caused by susceptible anaerobic bacteria and hence is effective for dental abscesses in bone and soft tissue that doesn’t respond adequately to penicillin or erythromycin.

Chlorhexidine (marketed as Peridex, PerioChip, and PerioGard amongst others) is an antibiotic used to control plaque and gingivitis in the mouth, or in periodontal pockets (the space between your gum and tooth). Chlorhexidine comes as a chip, which is used as an adjunct to scaling and root planing procedures for reducing the depth of pockets around the teeth in patients with adult periodontitis or as a rinse, which provides antimicrobial activity between dental visits.

Tetracyclines, such as doxycycline (marketed as Atridox) are used to help treat periodontal disease.

Another use of antibiotics in dentistry is for preventing bacteria that are always present on the surface of tissues around teeth from spreading into the blood. This is especially important in patients with some types of defective or artificial heart valves since blood-born bacteria have a tendency to settle on the valves and cause serious infections. The antibiotics may be given orally, intramuscularly, or even intravenously. They usually are begun immediately before the dental surgery and are continued for no more than a few doses, for example, less than a day or so.

Note: Chlorhexidine may cause staining of the tooth, tooth filling, and dentures or other mouth appliances. Tetracycline use during tooth development phases (from the last half of pregnancy through eight years of age) may cause permanent discoloration (yellow, gray, brown) of teeth.


Antifungals are used for the treatment of candidiasis in the oral cavity. Certain antifungal such as nystatin (Mycostatin) is used to treat Candida albicans infection in the mouth, including thrush, and denture stomatitis. Nystatin (Mycostatin) comes in lozenges/troches and oral suspension. When taking the oral suspension, patients are instructed to take one half of the dose on each side of the mouth, retaining the suspension as long as possible by swishing it around, before swallowing.

Other dental medications


Fluoride which is available in most over-the-counter kinds of toothpaste is used to prevent tooth decay. Prescription-strength fluoride (Acidul) is also available if prescribed by a physician.


Antiseptics are available as over-the-counter mouth rinses that are used to reduce plaque and gingivitis and kill germs that cause bad breath.


Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) are used for the management of anxiety disorders or for the short-term relief of the symptoms of anxiety. It works by relaxing the patient during dental procedures such as temporomandibular joint disorders.

Saliva substitutes

Saliva substitutes such as Moi-Stir, Mouth Kote, Optimoist, Saliva Substitute, Salivar, Salix, and Xero-Lube are used for treating dry mouth, an occasional complication of autoimmune diseases or occasionally unassociated with other diseases. They usually come as sprays and are used as needed.

Toothache Home Remedies

You can also try home remedies for toothache relief too:

Avoidance– Do not chew on the side where the pain is located. Avoid extremely hot or cold beverages and don’t chew ice. When you brush, be very gentle.

  • Saltwater– Mix a few teaspoons of table salt in a glass of warm water and swish it around in your mouth as long as you can stand it (but don’t swallow it). The salt and heat together may provide some pain relief.
  • Flossing– This might help remove any food particles that are stuck between teeth.
  • Clove Oil– You can soak a cotton ball in this natural pain reliever and bite down with the painful tooth. cloves are also a fairly strong spice and may result in burns to the gum.

Certain foods are also known home remedies for toothaches. These include:

  • Garlic – Chewing on a clove of garlic is a time-honored remedy.
  • Onions – Chop a fresh onion and hold it inside the mouth.
  • Lime/Lemon Juice – Take a fresh lime or lemon and cut it into small slices. Bite into the slice if it’s not too painful.

See a dentist to get rid of toothache pain fast

Home remedies may help to temporarily relieve pain. The only way to really understand the root of your pain is to see a dentist.

Diseases that cause toothaches can turn into something more serious and higher risk if you leave it. Seeing a dentist is the best way to cure a toothache, prevent them, and prevent your toothache from turning into something more dangerous.

During your visit, X-Rays may be taken, alongside a physical examination of your teeth. If tooth decay or other dental issues are observed, you will be provided with a detailed treatment plan which usually involves the removal of decay followed by fillings or dental crowns, and/or a prescription for pain medication and antibiotics.

Not all toothaches are caused by tooth decay, but you should always play it safe and visit your dentist rather than hope the problem goes away on its own. Even if the pain subsides after a few days, there may be an underlying issue in need of addressing.