When Kids Complain of a Toothache: What to Look For

kid having a toothache

• Cavities, gum disease, and tooth sensitivity can all cause toothaches in children. 

• Visit a dentist to diagnose the cause of the toothache and recommend the appropriate treatment. 

• Home remedies can help ease discomfort in the short term. 

• Practice good oral hygiene habits to prevent future toothaches and ensure healthy teeth for life. 

A toothache can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience, and it’s even worse when your child suffers from the pain. Children may not always have the words to express exactly what they’re feeling or what’s wrong, and a toothache can be particularly difficult for them to communicate. As a parent, it’s important to know what could be causing your child’s toothache so that you can take steps to ease their pain.

Reasons for Kids’ Toothaches

You may notice one day that your child is complaining of a painful toothache. Toothache can come from many different causes, and it’s important that, as a parent, you know what to look for. Here are the possible reasons:


One of the most common causes of toothache in children is cavities. Cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth that erodes the enamel on teeth and creates tiny holes in them. The easiest way to detect cavities is through regular dental check-ups. Cavities can cause severe pain and lead to infection. If your child complains of a sharp shooting pain while eating something sweet or cold, they may have a cavity that needs treatment.

Gum Disease

Another potential cause of toothaches in children is gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. It occurs when bacteria build up between teeth and gums, leading to inflammation and infection, which can cause significant discomfort for kids. Gum disease signals redness, tenderness, or swelling around the gums and bad breath that doesn’t go away with brushing or flossing. Treating gum disease quickly is important, as it will only worsen over time.

A small girl complaining about toothache

Tooth Abscesses

Sometimes, a toothache can be caused by an abscess—a pocket of pus that forms around the root of a tooth. Tooth abscesses are usually very painful and can cause fever, bad breath, swollen glands or face, and even trouble swallowing. These are caused by a bacterial infection and must be treated by a dentist as soon as possible.

Tooth Sensitivity

Sometimes kids may experience sensitivity in their teeth due to changes in temperature or pressure on certain areas of their mouth (such as chewing). This kind of sensitivity can be caused by chipped teeth, worn enamel, or receding gums—all issues which require professional treatment from a dentist. If your child experiences sudden sensitivity without noticeable damage, it could indicate an underlying issue, such as an impacted wisdom tooth.

Treating Kids’ Toothaches

If your child suffers from a toothache, getting treatment right away is key to alleviating their discomfort. The following are the steps you should take to treat your child’s toothache:

Visit the Dentist

The first step is to make an appointment with your dentist. A professional children’s dentist can evaluate your child’s mouth, diagnose the cause of the toothache, and recommend the appropriate treatment. They can also advise how to prevent future problems with your child’s teeth. They can also recommend further measures to prevent future toothaches and discomfort.

A kid being checked by a dentist with parents watching

Home Remedies

If the dentist cannot immediately see your child, there are some home remedies you can try in the meantime. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area.
  • Give them over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen.
  • Rinse their mouth with warm salt water.
  • Try a topical anesthetic such as benzocaine.
  • Apply clove oil directly to the affected tooth—this has natural anesthetic properties that can help soothe the pain.

Pain Relief

Over-the-counter pain medications can help reduce discomfort in the short term while you wait for your dentist appointment. Medicines include ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. When using these medicines for children, it’s important to follow the directions on the label and never give a child more than the recommended dose.

Preventive Measures

Good oral hygiene habits are the best way to prevent toothaches in kids. This includes doing and teaching the following:

  • Brushing for at least two minutes twice a day
  • Flossing once a day
  • Eating a balanced diet that is low in processed sugars and starches
  • Limiting sugary drinks and snacks
  • Regularly visiting the dentist for check-ups and cleanings

Making these measures part of your kid’s everyday routine can help keep their teeth healthy and prevent uncomfortable toothaches in the future. When these habits are instilled at a young age, your child will have healthy teeth for life.

It’s important to remember that toothaches in children can be serious and require immediate attention. If your child is complaining of a toothache, don’t hesitate to get them checked out by a professional dentist right away. Taking the proper steps can help reduce your child’s pain and prevent further problems.

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