Should Your Child See a Doctor?
- Pain or discomfort in a tooth
- Not due to an injury
- Main Cause: tooth decay
- Food wedged between the teeth
- Injured tooth
When to Call Your Doctor for Toothache
Call Your Dentist or Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Fever is present
- Face is swollen
- Severe pain and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
Call Your Dentist Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Toothache present over 24 hours
- Brown cavity visible in the painful tooth
- Red or yellow lump present at the gumline of the painful tooth
Call Your Dentist During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
- Mild toothache present less than 24 hours and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Home Care Advice for a Mild Toothache
- Reassurance: Most toothaches are temporary and due to a sensitive tooth. If the pain becomes worse or doesn't resolve in 24 hours, it could be due to a small cavity.
- Floss: Floss on either side of the painful tooth to remove any wedged food.
- Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen for pain relief.
- Local Cold: Apply a cold pack or ice in a wet washcloth to the painful jaw for 20 minutes.
- Expected Course: Most minor causes of toothache resolve in less than a day.
- Call Your Dentist If:
- Toothache persists over 24 hours
- The toothache becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
- AAP Section on Pediatric Dentistry. Preventive oral health intervention for pediatricians. Pediatrics. 2008;122 (6):1387-1393.
- Bimstein E. Peridontal health and disease in children and adolescents. Pediatr Clin North Am. 1991;38:1183-1207.
- Dorfman DH, Kastner B, Vinci RJ. Dental concerns unrelated to trauma in the pediatric emergency department. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155:699-703.
- Edelstein BL. Evidence-based dental care for children and the age 1 dental visit. Pediatr Ann. 1998;27:569-574.
- Marek MA, Lindsell CJ, Jauch EC, Panioli AM. Effect of education and guidelines for treatment of uncomplicated dental pain on patient and provider behavior. Ann Emerg Med. 2004;44:323-329.
- Mueller W. When baby teeth decay. Contemp Pediatr. 1993;10:75.
- Wilson S, et al. Nontraumatic dental emergencies in a pediatric emergency department. Clin Pediatr. 1997;36:333-337.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 8/1/2010
Last Revised: 8/6/2007
Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.