What To Do for Unbearable Tooth Pain: Understanding Causes, Relief, and Prevention

October 25, 2023 | Mint Dental Works


If you’ve experienced a toothache before, you’re familiar with its throbbing, stabbing, and relentless pain.

Whether it comes on suddenly or slowly worsens over days and weeks, it can leave you wondering what to do if tooth pain becomes unbearable.

Tooth pain may be uninvited, but understanding what’s causing it and learning how to manage the pain at home while you wait for a dental appointment can help put you, and the pain, at ease.

Read on to explore the most effective treatments and prevention strategies for unbearable tooth pain so you can start smiling again.


Table of Contents


When Experiencing Unbearable Tooth Pain, What To Do at Home Depends on These Two Factors

When searching for how to get rid of unbearable tooth pain, it’s important to understand that not all tooth pain is the same.

How to get effective pain relief will depend on what is causing the pain in the first place and how severe the pain is.

Read on to uncover at-home remedies for tooth pain and when it may be time to seek professional dental care.


#1: Reason for the Pain

Toothaches are often caused by inflammation and pressure put on nerves.

The swelling and inflammation of pulp tissue in a finite space pushes on the internal walls of the tooth (the pulp canal), resulting in intense pain or discomfort.

This inflammation caused by the nerves being compressed causes more damage, which results in more inflammation — it’s an excruciating cycle that often continues until the root cause of the inflammation is addressed.


#2: Severity of the Pain

If pain is mild, over-the-counter medications or at-home treatments may give relief, but for extreme pain, prescription medications may be necessary.

The longevity of the pain can point to underlying issues or damage to pulp tissue that will likely not resolve on its own.

It’s best to see a dentist as soon as possible if the pain:

  • Is unbearable from its onset
  • Is episodic (i.e. acute pain, not chronic) for more than a week
  • Progressively gets worse

Mint Dental Works can help diagnose your tooth pain, suggest relief options, and help you find lasting treatment.


what to do when tooth pain is unbearable


How Do You Relieve Unbearable Tooth Pain?

The most appropriate treatment for unbearable tooth pain will vary depending on what is causing the pain.

Common professional and at-home pain relief methods include:

  • Fillings
  • Root canals
  • Extractions
  • Antibiotics or over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Cold compresses
  • Saltwater or hydrogen peroxide rinses
  • Pain-relieving ointments

Read on for relief options you can try at home to ease the pain while you wait to see a dental professional.


7 At-Home Approaches To Mitigate Toothache Pain


#1: Take Medications — Painkillers and Anti-inflammatory Drugs

To best mitigate pain, try alternating between ibuprofen and acetaminophen — 400-800 mg ibuprofen and up to 1000 mg of acetaminophen — every two hours. This will mean taking each medication every four hours.

Both medications work on separate pain pathways, so keeping both medications in your system is a good way to manage pain until you get to the dentist.


#2: Apply a Cold Compress

A cold compress can be effective for relieving pain due to injury or swollen gums. Holding an ice pack or bag of frozen fruit or vegetables against the outside of the cheek for 15-20 minutes at a time can help alleviate intense throbbing and discomfort.

The concentrated cold constricts the blood vessels, which slows the flow of blood to the affected area, helping to numb the pain and reduce any swelling or inflammation.

It’s important to be aware that if this method provides relief, it could point to an irreversible pulpitis diagnosis, which requires professional dental intervention.

The pain will eventually get better in this case because the nerve will die. There’s a high likelihood that you’ll develop an abscess, so it’s best to see a dentist as soon as possible.


what helps unbearable tooth pain


#3: Rinse With Saltwater

As a natural disinfectant, salt can provide a cleansing relief to inflamed gums or wounds.

To try and alleviate tooth pain, mix 1 teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water. Swish for 30 seconds, and then spit out the mixture.

You can repeat as often as needed, as the warm salt water can help loosen any debris lodged in cavities or between your teeth that may be causing pressure.


#4: Use Pain-Numbing Rinses and Ointments

There are a number of over-the-counter or at-home rinses and remedies that can be applied directly to the affected tooth to try and find pain relief, including:

  • Clove oil
  • Gels, including Orajel or Anbesol
  • Medicated ointments or mouthwashes

Cloves have antiseptic properties and may provide a numbing sensation that offers relief to those suffering from unbearable tooth pain.

Soak a cotton swab in clove oil, with the option to mix with olive or coconut oil, and apply directly to the site of the pain.


#5: Rinse With Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide diluted with equal parts water can act as an effective antibacterial mouthwash, and may aid in:

  • Easing tooth pain
  • Calming inflammation
  • Healing bleeding gums

With equal parts 3% hydrogen peroxide and water, swish the solution in the mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out in the sink. Do not swallow the rinse.

Rinse with plain water 3-4 times, spitting after each rinse.

If you turn to this method for unbearable tooth pain relief, remember this rinse should never be swallowed, is not suitable for children, and any use of hydrogen peroxide should always be diluted.


what to do when tooth pain is unbearable


#6: Sleep With Your Head Elevated

As with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, the goal of sleeping in an elevated position is to help reduce inflammation and pressure.

You might try and prop up a few pillows against your bed frame, securing your head at a higher position. This position may make falling asleep easier as the pain may subside.


#7: Seek Out Permanent Pain Relief

Permanent pain relief may only be found when you see a dentist for an accurate diagnosis and any necessary treatment.

Underlying causes of tooth pain that typically require professional dental help to resolve include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Cavities
  • Gingivitis
  • Gum disease
  • Infection
  • Tooth abscess
  • Enamel erosion
  • Gum recession
  • Bruxism
  • Trauma or injury to the tooth

At Mint Dental Works, we’ll work to uncover any underlying causes of your tooth pain while you sit back to watch your favorite show or movie as you receive exceptional, comprehensive dental care.


how to get rid of unbearable toothache


Tips To Prevent Unbearable Tooth Pain

Prevention is the best medicine, so maintaining good dental hygiene is the best way to mitigate the risk of painful toothaches.

If you don’t already, consider:

  • Using fluoride toothpaste
  • Brushing your teeth at least twice each day
  • Flossing regularly to help remove plaque residue between teeth and along the gum line
  • Using an antibacterial mouthwash for added protection against bacteria-causing decay
  • Minding the amount of sugary or acidic foods you eat and drink
  • Limiting or discontinuing the use of tobacco products
  • Drinking at least the average recommended amount of water per day
  • Seeing a dentist regularly


What To Do When Tooth Pain Is Unbearable — Determining When To Visit the Dentist

As we shared earlier, just like with other types of bodily injuries, not all tooth pain is the same.

General tooth pain is actually quite common — more than 40% of adults experience some kind of pain in their mouth annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A toothache that lasts for a day or so can often be considered normal, but prolonged pain or discomfort should be addressed by a dental professional.


Why Is It Important To See the Dentist When Experiencing Tooth Pain?

Home remedies can provide temporary relief, but to truly find solace from the pain, seeing a dentist as soon as possible will help diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your tooth pain.

Seeing a dentist regularly can help catch any underlying causes before the unbearable pain sets in.

The only way to know the difference is to let a dentist confirm a correct diagnosis and help you find the best way to treat the type of tooth pain you’re experiencing.

If you’re fighting tooth pain, you need to see a dentist to:

  • Get a correct diagnosis
  • Get the correct and appropriate treatment
  • Get preventative treatment
  • Address the pain and source of the pain/problem early on so the pain isn’t prolonged or cause more damage


what to do when tooth pain is unbearable


Mint Dental Works — Treating Patients of All Ages Who Are Experiencing Tooth Pain or Seeking Preventative Care

If you are suffering from unbearable tooth pain in the Portland area and looking for permanent pain relief, Mint Dental Works is here to help.

As a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified dental facility, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality of care thanks to our industry-leading technology.

For our patients, this means making it our mission to provide exceptional and comprehensive care that prioritizes you while maintaining environmental sustainability.

Whether you’re looking for how to get rid of an unbearable toothache, a smile makeover, or periodontal care — your smile, and dental health, will be in good hands.

Contact us to explore services and treatment options.


The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.