See a dentist if you have toothache that lasts more than 2 days. There are things you can do to ease it while you wait for an appointment.
Non-urgent advice: See a dentist if you have toothache:
- that lasts more than 2 days
- 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
Do not go to your GP as they will not be able to give you dental treatment.
Immediate action required: Go to A&E if you have toothache and:
- the area around your eye or your neck is swollen
- swelling in your mouth or neck is making it difficult for you to breathe, swallow or speak
To see a dentist in an emergency or out of hours:
- call your dentist – if they're closed, their answerphone may tell you what to do
If you do not have a dentist or cannot get an emergency appointment:
- call 111 – they can advise you what to do
- find a dentist near you – ask if you can have an emergency appointment
You may have to pay for your appointment.
Read more about NHS dental charges.
How to ease toothache while waiting for an appointment
take painkillers, like ibuprofen or paracetamol (children under 16 should not take aspirin) – a pharmacist can advise you
try rinsing your mouth with salt water (children should not try this)
use a pain-relieving gel for your mouth – this can be bought from pharmacies or supermarkets
eat soft foods, like yoghurt or scrambled eggs, and try to avoid chewing with the sore tooth
do not eat foods that are sweet, very hot or very cold
do not smoke – it can make some dental problems worse
How to rinse with salt water
- Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water – warm water helps salt dissolve.
- Rinse your mouth with the solution, then spit it out – do not swallow it.
- Repeat as often as you like.
Causes of toothache
Toothache can be caused by:
- tooth decay
- a dental abscess
- a cracked or damaged tooth
- a loose or broken filling
- an infection – this often happens when a tooth (such as a wisdom tooth) has broken the skin, but does not have enough room to fully come through
- problems with your braces
How to prevent toothache
The best way to prevent toothache is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.
To do this:
- have regular dental check-ups
- cut down on sugary foods and drinks – only have them as an occasional treat at mealtimes
- brush your teeth twice a day for about 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste
- clean between your teeth using floss or an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque
Page last reviewed: 4 May 2021
Next review due: 4 May 2024