How to Manage Your Cavity Pain

Tooth decay destroys the hard enamel and dentin of your teeth, exposing the nerves and leading to sensitive teeth and toothaches. You need to see your dentist to get your tooth decay repaired, but what do you do until your appointment?

Here are some quick dos and don'ts for dealing with cavity pain.

  • Make an appointment to see your dentist right away

  • Brush with warm water

  • Try an OTC anti-inflammatory pain reliever

  • Apply oil of cloves (eugenol)

  • Keep your mouth as clean as possible

  • Consider sealing the cavity with a temporary OTC filling material

  • Put off treatment—the cavity could invade the nerves of the tooth

  • Expose teeth to very hot or very cold temperatures

  • Eat sugary or acidic foods

  • Put topical pain relief medication directly on tooth or gum tissue

  • Be afraid to gently floss and brush your teeth

What to Do to Manage Cavity Pain

Here are specific guidelines for dealing with discomfort.

cavity pain treatment
Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell

Make an Appointment and Ask About Pain Relief

Before you take any pain-relief steps, call your dentist for an appointment as soon as possible. If you can't be seen right away, ask the dentist what you can do to relieve the pain.

To prevent drug interactions, be sure to tell him or her what medications you're currently taking. If the pain fades temporarily, don't cancel that appointment⁠—the pain is bound to return, and the damage won't have repaired itself.

Avoid Hot and Cold Foods and Beverages

Your teeth are sensitive because bacteria in plaque produce acid that eats away tooth enamel. Avoid foods and beverages that are very cold or very hot.

Since the dentin layer of the tooth has been invaded by the tooth decay, it may react painfully to extremes in temperature. You may want to brush your teeth with warm water rather than cold water as well.

Avoid Sweet or Acidic Foods and Beverages

You should also avoid foods and beverages that are very high in sugar or are very acidic as these both can worsen tooth decay. Your teeth may or may not be immediately sensitive to them the same way as hot and cold, but they can contribute to further decay and more pain.

Consider Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

If your dentist agrees, take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medication. These products often relieve tooth decay pain, although perhaps not entirely. Never exceed the recommended dose in an attempt to get more relief.

Generally speaking, a pain relief medication that reduces inflammation works best for dental pain, because most toothaches are caused by inflammation of the tissues or the nerve.

Never put pain relief medication directly on the tooth or gum tissue, as this could cause a chemical burn to your gums.

Try Oil of Cloves (Eugenol)

Found in most health food stores, eugenol is used in various dental materials because of its antiseptic and anesthetic properties. Using eugenol at home may help reduce your tooth decay pain.

Soak a small piece of cotton in the oil, then blot the cotton on a piece of tissue to remove the excess. Using a clean pair of tweezers, hold the cotton on the painful tooth for 10 seconds, making sure you don't swallow any of the oil.

Brush and Floss

Don't avoid brushing or flossing the painful area. Keeping your mouth clean can help, as clumps of bacteria produce acid that can further trigger pain. Try flossing between the teeth that are painful. Removing the food particles and plaque may help reduce the toothache pain.

Seal the Hole Temporarily

Some pharmacies have OTC temporary filling material that you may be able to use to seal the decay-created hole, at least temporarily. If you can identify where the decay has caused a cavity, you might use this tactic.

However, some dentists don't agree with sealing an affected/infected tooth as it may cause more pain and may cause infection to build up if the tooth is completely sealed with the bacteria already inside. It's advisable to consult your dentist prior to trying an OTC filling.


7 Tips for Preventing Cavities

A Word From Verywell

As soon as you develop a toothache, contact your dentist to see about getting an urgent appointment. Sometimes tooth decay pain may seem to come and go or appear to get better for a time, making you think you can postpone doing something about it.

But the longer you wait to have the decay removed from the tooth, the deeper the cavity will go and the more pain it may cause. You could end up needing a root canal or even a tooth extraction instead of a simple filling. See your dentist and have your smile restored.

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Article Sources
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  2. Kumarswamy A. Multimodal management of dental pain with focus on alternative medicine: A novel herbal dental gel. Contemp Clin Dent. 2016;7(2):131-9. doi:10.4103/0976-237X.183066

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