Tooth and Gum Pain in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A tooth with decay

The most common causes of dental pain are tooth decay and gum disease. Pain can also be caused by an infection of the tooth (abscess) or the gums. Or your child may have a broken or cracked tooth. Other causes of pain include infection and damage to a tooth from grinding the teeth. A tooth that is coming in but cannot break through the gum can cause pain.

Prompt dental care can help find the cause of your child's toothache and keep the tooth from dying or gum disease from getting worse. Care at home may reduce your child's pain and discomfort.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your dentist, doctor, or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • To reduce pain and facial swelling, put ice or a cold pack on the outside of your child's cheek for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin. Do not use heat.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce pain and swelling. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give your child very hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks if they increase pain.
  • Rinse your child's mouth with warm salt water every 2 hours to help relieve pain and swelling. Older children (starting around age 8) can do this by themselves. Mix 5 g (1 teaspoon) of salt in 250 mL (8 fluid ounces) of water.
  • Talk to your dentist about your child using special toothpaste for sensitive teeth. To reduce pain on contact with heat or cold or when brushing, have your child brush with this toothpaste regularly or rub a small amount of the paste on the sensitive area with a clean finger 2 or 3 times a day. Floss gently between your child's teeth.

When should you call for help?

Call your dentist, doctor, or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks on the gum leading from a tooth.
    • Pus draining from the gum around a tooth.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has a severe toothache that does not improve after 2 hours of home treatment.
  • Your child has facial pain or swelling.
  • Your child has a bump near the sore tooth.
  • Your child's toothache interferes with sleep or other activities.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your dentist, doctor, or nurse call line if:

  • Your child has a toothache off and on for 2 weeks or longer.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: August 9, 2016