Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Lim Sock Ling on July 4, 2022

Top Toothache Remedies Your Children Wish You Knew

All parents need to have a list of the best toothache remedies handy for when pain strikes at home. Here's how to help soothe your child's oral discomfort in between dentist visits.

Toothache in kids min scaled

Kids aren’t the best at maintaining proper oral health. Therefore, as a parent, it’s always a good idea to have some good toothache remedies handy.

Doing so can help reduce your child’s pain in between dentist visits. Some may also help prevent the condition from reoccurring.

This guide explains why your child might be having oral problems and the best toothache remedies to soothe pain at home.

What Causes Toothache In Children?

Always consult your child’s dentist to identify the cause of their oral pain.

A toothache is usually caused by an injury to the teeth that exposes the insides or “pulp.” That’s also where the blood vessels and nerves are, which explains the toothache.

The medical term for this is pulpitis. However, pain in the teeth or gums could also have other causes that you should be aware of. 

Symptoms

Symptoms may include constant throbbing, an area of the teeth or gums that is sensitive to the touch, or worsening pain when you drink or eat hot or cold foods.

Other symptoms may include difficulty eating or sleeping. These can be clues as to why your child is unable to engage in usual daily activities. If it’s a bad infection, your child may have a fever or general malaise. 

Tooth decay

Tooth decay happens when the enamel wears away, exposing the nerves inside. A combination of poor dental hygiene and too many sweets can cause tooth decay in children, also known as cavities or caries.

Not brushing their teeth properly and eating a lot of sugary foods will give rise to harmful bacteria living on the teeth, producing acid, which in turn wears away the tooth enamel.

In earlier stages, you and your child may not realize that a cavity is slowly and silently forming. As it progresses, the cavity may appear as light brown stains, and over time as it gets worse, the stain turns into a darker brown or black. 

A cavity can turn into a dental abscess deep in the tooth, forming a pimple just below the gumline that is extremely painful. It may include a swollen mouth and face on the side where the abscess is located. Your child may complain of a strange taste, and their breath may smell quite bad. 

Other possible causes

Sometimes, there could be other things that are causing a toothache. If you rule out cavities as the source of the pain, it may be that your child has physically broken their teeth by biting into something too hard or falling and cracking their teeth on a hard surface.

It can also be food stuck in between their teeth, exerting pressure, and causing the aching. Sometimes it may not even be the teeth causing the pain, but the area near the teeth, such as having inflamed gums or gingivitis (also caused by bacteria), an earache, or sinus pressure due to a bad cold

Best Toothache Remedies For Children

Ideally, you can avoid toothaches altogether by instilling behaviors that ensure dental hygiene and oral health. But children are growing humans, and toothaches can be a normal part of growing up. The key is to manage the pain when one pops up and to prevent future occurrences. 

Natural toothache remedies

There are a few things at home you can use to ease your child’s toothache while waiting to visit the dentist. Have them gargle saltwater, which has an antibacterial compound and can help ease the infection of a cavity. You can also apply a cold compress to numb the pain

Certain essential oils like clove, peppermint, eucalyptus, oregano, or thyme, have natural anesthetic and antimicrobial properties. Dilute the oil and dab on the aching spot gently using a cotton ball or bud. 

Practice good oral hygiene habits

As soon as your child’s baby teeth appear, start brushing them regularly. When your child is old enough, show them how to brush properly by holding their hand so they can learn the correct motion. Teach your child to brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time. Show them how to regularly floss as well.

Limit sugar consumption as best as you can. When your kids do eat sugar (they’re children after all), then rinse their mouth with water or mouthwash right after. Develop the habit of eating healthier snacks like fruits rather than sticky candy to minimize tooth decay. 

Use toothpaste that has fluoride in it, as research has shown that it is important for developing healthy teeth enamel. Do note that occasionally — depending on whether the water in your home is already fluoridated — children under eight years old can sometimes develop fluorosis (level of fluoride is above 1.5mg/l in drinking water) from consuming too much fluoride.

Symptoms primarily look like faint white flecks on the teeth. It is usually harmless and will go away with time. Take your child to the dentist every six months to monitor their oral health, to detect and address issues. 

TCM Toothache Remedies

Edible Bird’s nest can help replace nutrients in your child’s diet if a toothache prevents them from eating. It also contains immune-boosting properties if the toothache is accompanied by a cold.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, imbalances in Wind and Fire, or an external pathogen, such as a bacterial infection, can cause toothache in children, as shared by TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling.

“Toothache due to Wind-Heat versus Wind-Cold will present with acute sharp pain with a burning or cold sensation, respectively. Meanwhile, toothache stemming from Stomach Fire usually comes with chronic sharp pain and a burning sensation, accompanied by redness of the face and gums, gum pain, constipation, bad breath, and persistent thirst.”

“If it is Fire Deficiency in the Kidney, the chronic pain is intermittent and dull in nature, accompanied by night perspiration and a dry stool,” Physician Lim further explains. 

Herbal toothache remedies

Wind-Heat can be addressed with Yin Qiao San, Wind-Cold with Jing Fang Bai Du San, Stomach-Heat with Qing Wei San, and hyperactivity of Fire Deficiency in the Kidney with Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan.

Light herbal drinks that contain ingredients like turmeric can also help manage inflammation. Galla Chinensis or Wu Bei Zi is a TCM herb in powder form that you can place on a painful spot or gargle with water.

If your child’s toothache is due to Heatiness, then you can soothe symptoms by giving them Pearl Powder to clear excess Heat.

If kids are not eating well due to a toothache, then you may want to consider an Appetite Enhancement Soup to help keep them nourished and hydrated.

Acupuncture

“Toothache is one of the conditions listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for which acupuncture is a recognized treatment,” Physician Lim shares. You can also try pediatric tuina massage, which works on the same acupoints to elicit the same relieving effects.

As with all medicines and modalities, follow the guidelines of your healthcare practitioner. For bacterial infections, be sure to go to the dentist immediately. 

Toothaches are certainly preventable, although common among children, especially pain caused by decay. Having some natural remedies at your fingertips will help them feel better. Helping your child develop good habits in oral care will help prevent toothaches and ensure their oral health is top-notch.

References

  1. Nationwide Children’s Hospital. 2021. Toothache (Pulpitis) in Children.  
  2. Seattle Children’s Hospital. 2021. Toothache
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Tooth Decay (Caries or Cavities) in Children
  4. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Toothache
  5. United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS). 2021. Children’s Teeth
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. Fluorosis. 
  7. Medical Acupuncture. 2014. Acupuncture: An Alternative Therapy in Dentistry and Its Possible Applications
  8. Organic Consumers Association. 2017. Chinese Herb Shows Promise Against Tooth Decay
  9. Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry. 2015. Essential oils, their therapeutic properties, and implication in dentistry: A review
  10. Applied Sciences, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. 2021. Essential Oils as Alternatives for Root-Canal Treatment and Infection Control against Enterococcus faecalis—A Preliminary Study. 

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