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What to Do When Your Kid Has Tooth Pain?

Child with toothache pointing to his tooth

Toothaches in kids are a common occurrence and a cause for concern among many parents. No parent wants to see their kids in pain, but it can be hard to know the difference between normal development and a real cause to worry. Here are some common causes of tooth pain in kids and what to do about them.

Signs of Toothache in Kids

Not all children can express their pain in words, especially babies and toddlers. In these cases, they show their discomfort with non-verbal signs and clues. Some of the most common symptoms of kids’ tooth pain are:

  • Fussiness
  • Refusing to eat
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constant teeth or jaw rubbing

Facial swelling or a high fever may also accompany tooth pain. This is especially common when a baby’s first teeth are emerging.

When to Worry about Kids’ Toothaches

Most kids’ tooth pain is due to easily treatable problems that can be avoided with proper preventative dental care. A toothache, however, can also be a sign of more serious underlying conditions. Here are the most common causes of toothaches in children.

New Teeth

It’s normal for babies to have some pain with their first teeth. Be sure to visit the dentist as soon as you see your baby’s first tooth erupting. Years later, when new teeth start to grow in children’s mouths after they lose their baby teeth, the new teeth can likewise put pressure on nerves and cause pain.

Dental Decay

Cavities are common in children, affecting mostly their molars, causing a dull pain if left untreated for long. Even if a child’s cavity has been filled, loose or broken dental fillings are a source of sensitivity and toothache in kids that can be fixed with restorative dental care.

If a tooth becomes infected or a cavity is left untreated for too long, it can turn into a pus pocket within the root. This dental abscess is accompanied by throbbing pain. A child frequently complaining of sharp tooth pain in the same place of his mouth should see a dentist immediately.

Cracks and Chips

Teeth fractures from injuries, grinding, or biting on hard objects can make your children’s teeth sensitive and painful.  

Incorrect Brushing

Aggressive brushing with an improper toothbrush can wear down the enamel, damage the gums, and cause immense pain. Improper brushing and flossing can lead to gum disease, also known as gingivitis. This condition can cause toothache in kids and lead to redness, bleeding, and swelling in the gums.


Children with overly sensitive teeth can experience toothaches from eating sugary, acidic, or hard foods. Hot and cold beverages can cause pain as well. If a piece of food gets stuck between your children’s teeth, it can create pressure and cause a dull pain that will end when the food is flossed out.

Home Remedies for Kids’ Tooth Pain

While home remedies should never replace professional dental care, they can help ease your kids’ toothache until they see a dentist. Here are some at-home toothache pain relief options for your kids.

Over-the-Counter Painkillers

To ease your little one’s pain, you can give your children over-the-counter pain medications approved for kids until you are able to take them to a dentist. Be sure to follow any dosage instructions on the package. 

Warm Salt Water Wash

A simple salt water rinse can reduce toothache in kids. This natural disinfectant can reduce swelling in the mouth and heal oral wounds. Just mix a teaspoon of salt with one cup of warm water and have your children swish it in their mouths.

Cold Compress

A cold compress can constrict the vessels in the affected area and reduce the pain. You can wrap a frozen compress or a bag of ice in a soft towel and place it on the area of pain on your children’s faces. Hold it there for a few minutes and take it off. Repeat this a couple of times for the most effective relief. 

Brushing and Flossing

While kids might complain of tooth pain during flossing or brushing, this is actually a reason to clean their teeth more often. Food stuck on or between their teeth may be irritating the gums and causing pain. Help your child floss all the way to the gumline, assuring them that sore gums will heal on their own once flossing is a routine practice.

When to Visit the Dentist

If the child’s pain persists for more than a day or two, it may be a symptom of a more serious issue. Home remedies are a temporary fix until you can take your child to the dentist. Treating the toothache in your kids early on will prevent it from turning into something worse. 

At the clinic, the dentist will first ask about your children’s medical history and thoroughly examine their mouth, teeth, gums, sinuses, and neck. Then they will ask your children where it hurts the most and if it gets better or worse with slight pressure and tapping. The dentist might need to take X-rays and perform other tests to determine the root of the problem. Once they identify the issue, they will start the treatment to get rid of your child’s toothache. 

Your Children’s Dentist in Montana

Dr. Delisle and the caring staff at Children’s Dentistry in Lolo are experienced in treating kids’ tooth pain and other common kids’ dental issues. Families from all over the Missoula area and beyond trust Lolo Children’s Dentistry for confident, healthy smiles. Whether it’s your child’s first visit to a dentist or you simply need an emergency appointment with no waitlist, call us at 406-284-8669. We’re open Monday-Saturday and accept most insurances. We look forward to meeting you!

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