Tooth Pain Relief: 7 Medications (Plus Home Remedies)

To relieve tooth pain, medications like anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and local anesthetics may help to numb pain and reduce the local inflammatory responses. These medications are effective for mild to moderate pain, which can be experience with erupting wisdom teeth, for example. 

However, this medication does not treat the underlying cause of pain, especially if there is already an existing cavity or tooth infection. Symptoms may be reduced, but inflammation will continue to worsen. Therefore, medications should only be used as directed by a doctor for mild conditions like a wisdom tooth erupting, after a more serious problem has been ruled out. 

Tooth pain that persists for more than two days after taking pain medication should be assessed by your dentist for  potential treatment. Toothaches caused by infection may be treated with a course of antibiotics,

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Medication for tooth pain

Over-the-counter medication that you can take for a toothache includes:

1. Benzocaine gel

Benzocaine gel is a local anesthetic for toothaches that is applied directly on the location of pain. It acts directly on the affected tooth nerves, allowing for quick relief.

The recommended dose of benzocaine gel is 0.5g for pain relief. You should not excess 2g of benzocaine gel per day. Local anesthetics are not recommended for pregnant women, for people with allergies to the active ingredients, or for people taking cardiac medication.

2. Topical lidocaine

Topical lidocaine is another type of local anesthetic that can be applied directly on any affected teeth to relieve pain quickly. The recommended dose for pain relief is 1 to 5g for pain relief, with a maximum daily dose of 20g per day. 

These local anesthetics can be applied to the tooth using an ear swab or applied to a cotton ball and left on the tooth. ​​​​​​Local anesthetics can be purchased at pharmacies and drugstores, however, it is always recommended you visit a dentist before using them. 

3. Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is an analgesic that can be used for mild or moderate toothache. Recommended acetaminophen doses for toothaches are: 

  • Acetaminophen 500mg capsules:  the recommended dose for adults is one to two capsules, three to four times a day, before or after meals. The maximum dose per day is eight 500 mg capsules;
  • Acetaminophen 750mg capsules:  the recommended dose for adults is one pill, three to five times a day, before and after meals. The maximum daily dose is five 750 mg capsules;

Acetaminophen can be purchased without a prescription, however, we recommend you check with your dentist before buying acetaminophen, as there are contraindications for use. It should not be used by those who have liver or kidney diseases or acetaminophen allergy. 

4. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory that can be used to treat toothaches. It reduces the production of substances that cause inflammation and it also works as an analgesic, reducing tooth pain. 

You can buy this anti-inflammatory in the form of capsules. The recommended dose for toothache is one to two 200 mg capsules every eight hours, after meals. The maximum dose per day is 3.200 mg, which corresponds to five capsules a day.

Ibuprofen should not be used by people who have an allergy to ibuprofen or by those who have gastritis, gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, asthma, or rhinitis. Ideally, you should visit a dentist or GP who can help you use ibuprofen safely.

In addition, ibuprofen should not be used by pregnant or lactating women, and babies younger than six months old. 

5. Naproxen

Naproxen, like ibuprofen, is an anti-inflammatory that works as an analgesic that can be used for relieving a toothache. It can be found in the form of tablets, in two different doses:

  • Naproxen 250mg tablets:  the recommended dose for adults is one 250 mg tablet, one to two times a day. The maximum dose is two 250 mg tablets.
  • Naproxen 500mg tablets: the recommended dose for adults is one 500 mg tablet, once a day. The maximum dose is one 500 mg tablet.

Naproxen should be avoided by people who have a history of heart surgery, by pregnant or lactating women, children younger than two years old, and people with stomach conditions such as gastritis or gastric ulcers. 

It's important to visit a dentist or a GP before taking Naproxen so that he can assess whether it's safe for you to take.

6. Acetylsalicylic acid

Acetylsalicylic acid, commonly known as aspirin, is an anti-inflammatory that can also be used for toothaches. It reduces the production of inflammatory substances, and also has analgesic effect which reduces the pain. You can buy Aspirin as 500 mg tablets and the recommended dose for adults is one tablet every four hours or two tablets every eight hours, after meals. You should not have more than eight tablets a day.

Aspirin should not be taken by pregnant women, children under the age of 12, or people with GI conditions, such as gastritis, colitis, ulcers, or bleeding. In addition, people who regularly use a low-dose aspirin as an anticoagulant or warfarin should not take aspirin for toothaches.

This anti-inflammatory is sold in pharmacies and drugstores and although you can buy it without a medical prescription, it's recommend you check with a dentist to guarantee safe use.

7. Antibiotics

Antibiotics are indicated for cases in which a dentist has assessed the tooth and confirmed an infection. This medication is needed to eliminate the infectious agent and relieve symptoms to prevent complications. Although some over-the-counter ointments may contain antibiotics, it is best to use oral antibiotics, obtained with a prescription. 

If you notice other symptoms like swelling, stiffening in the mouth, pus, bad breath or intense tooth pain, you may be experiencing a tooth infection that requires further treatment. 

Home remedies for toothaches 

Some home remedies can help to relieve toothaches such as cloves, mint, or garlic, as they have analgesic or anti-inflammatory properties. Check-out our list of proven home remedies for toothaches

Remedies for toothache during pregnancy 

If you experience a toothache during pregnancy, the only recommended medication is acetaminophen. It can generally be used to relieve any aches and pains during pregnancy. However, it is always recommend that you speak to your obstetrician before taking it to ensure safety and correct dosing. 

There are more ways to get rid of rid of a toothache at home on this list, although you should discuss any natural remedies containing medicinal herbs with your OB before trying them. 

When to go to the dentist

While it is recommend you visit a dentist every time you have a toothache, and before using any kind of medication, there are some situations that require prompt attention, which include:

  • Pain that does not improve within two days;
  • Fever over 100.4ºF (38ºC);
  • Infection symptoms such as swelling, redness, or changes in taste;
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.

A toothache that is left untreated can lead to infections, requiring the use of antibiotics. Therefore, if your symptoms do not improve with medication, you should see a dentist and start treatment.