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How to Achieve Pain Relief for an Abscessed Tooth

Toothache Remedies

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Updated April 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

How to Achieve Pain Relief for an Abscessed Tooth Photo © Tammy Davenport, Licensed to About, Inc.

An abscess is a localized collection of infection that usually forms at the root of the tooth. Abscessed teeth are usually caused by untreated tooth decay, a cracked or broken tooth or filling, or from a gum infection, synonymous with advanced gum disease.

A toothache caused by an abscessed tooth is often very excruciating to say the very least. At the onset of pain from a suspected abscessed tooth, it is highly recommended to see your dentist as soon as possible. A root canal may be necessary to remove the infected tissue. Failure to have an abscess treated promptly could result in the advancement of the infection, which may invade further into the bone and surrounding tissue. In rare cases, an untreated abscessed tooth may cause a severe infection that could result in death. A sad example of an abscessed tooth causing death was the case of a young boy named Deamonte Driver.

How to Relieve Pain from an Abscessed Tooth

Here are some ways to relieve toothache that is caused by an abscessed tooth:

  • Avoid foods and beverages that are very cold or very hot. Since the dentin layer of the tooth has likely been invaded by tooth decay, extremes in temperature may cause pain.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that are very high in sugar, or are very acidic.
  • Use an over-the-counter pain relief medicine. Never exceed the recommended dose, and check to make sure you are able to take pain relief medications with any of the other medications you may currently be on. Generally speaking, a pain relief medication that is intended to reduced inflammation works best for dental pain, because most toothaches are caused by an inflammation of the tissues or the inflammation of the nerve. Never put pain relief medication on the tooth or gum tissue, as this could burn the tissue.
  • Floss between the teeth that are painful. Removing the food particles and plaque may help reduce the pain from the toothache.
  • Use oil of cloves (eugenol). Eugenol, which can be found in most health food stores, is used in various dental materials because of its antiseptic and anesthetic properties. Using eugenol at home may help reduce pain from a toothache. 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 do not swallow any of the oil.
  • Seal a hole in the tooth temporarily. Some pharmacies have over-the counter temporary filling material that may be used to seal the hole created by decay temporarily.
  • Sleep with your head elevated. The inflammation of the nerve of the tooth with an abscess is very painful, and is often what causes the most uncomfortable pain. If you elevate your head when resting, some of the pressure in the area of the toothache may diminish.
  • Rinse with warm salt water. Rinsing with warm salt water two to three times a day may help to relieve a toothache caused by an abscess, if the toothache is caused by a gum infection. Salt water works as an antiseptic to remove bacteria from the infected area.

A toothache that is caused by an abscess may come and go, but don't be fooled. The longer you wait to have the abscess treated, more serious complications may arise. As soon as you develop a toothache, see your dentist immediately.

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