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Child oral care: Remedies for toothache

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Toothache among children can be quite distressing for many parents. When it comes to a continuous toothache, it might indicate a serious issue that requires assessment by a healthcare professional.

The usual causes why a toothache occurs include cavities and gum disease. Momentary toothache can also occur from a bump to the teeth, food embedded in between teeth or a small scrape in the mouth. Issues with the ear, sinuses and the jaw can also cause pain similar to a toothache. There are home remedies that can help alleviate a toothache in children but a dentist should be consulted if the pain persists for more than 24 hours.

Brushing and flossing

It is recommended to gently brush the teeth and floss on either side of the sore tooth to get rid of any remaining food that might be embedded in between the teeth. In case the child is old enough to brush and floss on his/her own, allow him/her to do so with supervision to ensure that it is properly done.

Ice pack application

Enclose an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables in a clean cloth or towel. Place the ice pack on the sore area for about 15-20 minutes. Depending on the underlying issues, the ice pack might intensify rather than relieve the pain.

There are home remedies that can help alleviate a toothache in children but a dentist should be consulted if the pain persists for more than 24 hours.

If the child complains, remove the ice pack. If the ice provides relief, it can be used every few hours. Just make sure that the skin is allowed to completely rewarm between the applications. Avoid applying the ice pack directly on the skin or the tooth is painful.

Saltwater rinse

Children who are old enough can benefit from a saltwater rinse which helps relieve a toothache as well as minimizing the swelling surrounding the affected tooth. You can prepare the rinse solution by adding ½ teaspoon of table salt to a cup of warm water. Stir the solution until the salt is dissolved.

Allow the child to sip the solution and instruct him/her to swish it around inside the mouth especially close to the sore tooth. Let him/her swish for about 30 seconds and then spit out the rinse into the sink. The saltwater rinse can be given for a few hours if the discomfort persists. Always check if the child spits out the solution instead of ingesting it.

Over-the-counter medications

Medications can be given to momentarily relieve a toothache. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be given under the guidance of a doctor. Avoid giving the child aspirin unless instructed by the doctor.

In some cases, benzocaine which is a local anesthetic can be applied straight on the sore tooth. Make sure that the instructions on the packaging are carefully followed.

When to seek care

It is vital to seek medical care as soon as possible if the child with a toothache also has fever, presence of a lump close to the sore tooth, sustained a strong blow to the mouth or the pain is severe. A dentist should be consulted for any type of toothache that does not subside within 24 hours or recurs.

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