My child has toothache…what should I do?

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child toothache

Here are a few helpful guidelines on what to do if you have been up all night with your little one. And what you can do to reduce the likelihood of a repeat performance!

Immediate steps

  • If the pain has lasted more than 1-2 days then seek advice from your dentist or get an emergency dental appointment (see link below)
  • Painkillers may help. Your dentist will advise you on which type is best. Your pharmacist can advise you on appropriate over-the-counter medicines for children. Always check that medicines are sugar-free.
  • Avoid aspirin in children under 16 years of age.
  • The longer toothache is left, the worse it may become. It is important to seek professional dental advice quickly so that the correct advice and treatment can be given.

The most common cause of toothache is tooth decay but there are other causes.

What is tooth decay?

A third of children who start school in the UK have tooth decay.

yFood, bacteria and saliva in the mouth combine to form plaque which sticks to teeth…especially to all the nooks and crannies where it is difficult to brush!

The bacteria LOVE sugar…in sweets we eat, in the fizzy drinks we drink…even the fruit drinks that are supposed to be “good” for us.

When the plaque bacteria eat the sugar they produce acid which eats away at the tooth.

The rot (literally) sets in if the sugary snacks are consumed throughout the day and if the plaque is left to build up. The acid attacks start become more frequent and more intense

The acid eventually eats holes into the teeth and can start to irritate the nerve in the centre of the tooth (the pulp). This is the start of toothache.

Treating toothache

If the damage to the tooth from the plaque acid has only affected the outer surface (the enamel) then the damaged tooth material can be removed and replaced with a “filling”.

If the damage has spread more toward the centre of the tooth (to the dentine or even through into the pulp itself), the tooth may need to have a more complicated treatment such as root canal treatment. Or (more commonly) it may need to be extracted.

Do you need a change in lifestyle?

If your child has tooth decay it is a warning sign that habits and lifestyles need to change inside and outside the home.

No matter how many fillings your dentist places, if the basic causes of tooth decay are not addressed, your child’s poor oral health could stay with them right up to and into their adult life.

There are several ways to take care of your child’s teeth: these include the following simple steps:

Other causes of “toothache”

  • Trauma to teeth
    By 12 years of age, 33% of boys and 19% of girls have experienced at least one episode of dental trauma.

    From small chips off the corner of a tooth through to a tooth being knocked completely out…there are ways that teeth can be damaged. Early advice from your dentist is important.

  • Mouth ulcers

    This is another common condition in children and teenagers. Ulcers can be painful and may occur frequently.

  • Teething

    Teething starts at around 6 months of age and can continue as the baby teeth come through the gums.

    Your pharmacist will advise you on suitable sugar-free medication. See your dentist if symptoms persist.

Further information

British Dental Health Foundation

It’s a Jungle in There! Read about the tiny creatures living in your mouth

Find a dentist near you

About Cleveland Orthodontics

Our specialist-led practice has been established since 1996 and provides brace treatment to people of all ages from across the North East and Teesside, including Middlesbrough, Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees, Billingham and Redcar.

We offer NHS orthodontic treatment for children and a range of modern white and “invisible” braces for adults of all ages such as Invisalign. FREE consultations are available… you can either telephone for an appointment on 01642 243 020 or book through our website.

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