Toothaches in Children: Causes and Care Tips

A toothache in a child can be a distressing experience, both for the child and the parents. Toothaches can cause discomfort, pain, and anxiety, and understanding their causes and knowing how to provide care is essential for every parent. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the common causes of toothaches in children and provide valuable care tips to help alleviate their discomfort and maintain their oral health.

The Common Causes of Toothaches in Children

Toothaches in children can be attributed to various underlying causes. Identifying the root cause is the first step in providing appropriate care. Here are some common reasons why children may experience toothaches:

Tooth Decay (Cavities)

Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of toothaches in children. When bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and produce acid, it can erode the tooth enamel, leading to cavities. These cavities can expose the sensitive inner layers of the tooth, causing pain and discomfort.

Sensitive Teeth

Some children have naturally sensitive teeth, which can make them more prone to toothaches. Tooth sensitivity can result from worn enamel, exposed dentin, or thin enamel that doesn’t provide adequate protection.

Gum Problems

Issues with the gums, such as gingivitis or periodontal disease, can cause toothaches. Inflammation of the gums can lead to gum recession, exposing the tooth roots and causing discomfort.


Teething is a common cause of toothache-like discomfort in infants and toddlers. As baby teeth emerge, they can cause soreness and mild pain in the gums.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

In older children and teenagers, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to toothaches. Wisdom teeth may become trapped beneath the gum line, causing pain and discomfort.

Dental Trauma

Accidents and injuries can lead to dental trauma, including cracked or chipped teeth, which can cause toothaches.

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Children who grind their teeth at night (bruxism) can experience toothaches due to the excessive wear and tear on their teeth.

Orthodontic Issues

Children undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces or other appliances may experience temporary discomfort and toothaches as their teeth shift and adjust.

Infections (Abscesses)

In rare cases, infections in the tooth or gums can lead to an abscess, a pocket of pus that causes severe pain.

Care Tips for Alleviating Toothaches in Children

If your child complains of a toothache, or if you suspect they may be experiencing dental discomfort, here are some essential care tips to help alleviate their pain and address the underlying causes:

Thorough Oral Hygiene

Encourage your child to maintain excellent oral hygiene habits:

  • Brushing: Ensure they brush their teeth gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush using fluoride toothpaste. Teach them proper brushing techniques and supervise their brushing until they can do it effectively on their own.
  • Flossing: Teach your child how to floss to remove plaque and food particles from between their teeth and along the gumline.

Rinse with Salt Water

A warm saltwater rinse can help soothe gum irritation and reduce inflammation. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and have your child swish it around their mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

If your child is old enough, you can give them the appropriate dose of over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, following the package instructions. Ensure you use age-appropriate medications and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any doubts.

Cold Compress

A cold compress can help reduce swelling and numb the area around the affected tooth. Apply a cold pack wrapped in a cloth to the outside of the cheek for 15-20 minutes at a time.

Avoid Sugary and Acidic Foods

Limit your child’s consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages, as they can exacerbate toothache pain and contribute to dental issues.

Regular Dental Check-Ups

Schedule regular dental check-ups for your child, starting at a young age. Routine visits to the dentist can help identify and address dental issues early, preventing more significant problems.

Teething Relief

If your child is teething, provide them with teething rings or toys designed to soothe gum discomfort. You can also gently massage their gums with a clean finger.

Wisdom Teeth Evaluation

If your child is a teenager and complains of wisdom tooth pain, consult with a dentist for an evaluation. Wisdom teeth may need to be removed if they are causing persistent discomfort.

Address Bruxism

If your child grinds their teeth, discuss this with their dentist. A night guard may be recommended to protect their teeth from damage caused by bruxism.

Orthodontic Care

If your child is undergoing orthodontic treatment, ensure they follow their orthodontist’s instructions for care and maintenance. Orthodontic wax can help alleviate any discomfort caused by braces or appliances.

Promptly Address Infections

If you suspect an infection or abscess, contact a dentist immediately. Dental infections can be serious and require prompt treatment.

Child-Friendly Dentist

Choose a dentist who specialises in paediatric dentistry or is experienced in treating children. A child-friendly environment and a dentist who can communicate effectively with your child can make dental visits less intimidating.

When to Seek Professional Dental Care

While these care tips can help alleviate minor toothaches and discomfort, there are situations where you should seek professional dental care promptly:

  • Severe Pain: If your child experiences severe, persistent pain, or if the pain worsens despite home care, contact a dentist immediately.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the affected tooth or in the face is a sign of a dental issue that requires professional evaluation.
  • Fever: If your child develops a fever along with a toothache, it may indicate an infection that needs immediate attention.
  • Abscess: If you notice any signs of an abscess, such as a bump or pimple on the gums, pus discharge, or a bad taste in the mouth, seek dental care urgently.

Preventing Toothaches: The Role of Prevention

Preventing toothaches in children begins with a proactive approach to oral health:

Start Early

Begin caring for your child’s oral health as soon as their first tooth emerges. Use a soft, damp cloth to clean their gums before teeth come in, and transition to a small, soft-bristle toothbrush as teeth appear.

Balanced Diet

Provide a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit sugary snacks and drinks, and encourage water consumption.

Supervise Brushing

Supervise your child’s brushing until they are around eight years old to ensure they are brushing correctly and thoroughly.


Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel. Consult with your dentist on the appropriate fluoride products for your child’s age.

Regular Check-Ups

Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings for your child, as recommended by their dentist. These visits are crucial for early detection and prevention of dental issues.


Consider dental sealants on your child’s permanent molars to protect against cavities in the deep grooves of the teeth.

Fluoride Treatments

Discuss the use of fluoride treatments with your child’s dentist. These can help strengthen their teeth and prevent decay.

Teaching Proper Oral Care

Educate your child on proper oral care habits, including brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash, as they grow older.

Toothaches in children can be challenging to deal with, but with the right care and preventive measures, you can help alleviate their discomfort and maintain their oral health. Regular dental check-ups, good oral hygiene habits, a balanced diet, and prompt professional care when needed are essential components of keeping your child’s smile healthy and pain-free. By instilling these habits early on, you can set the foundation for a lifetime of excellent oral health for your child.


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