What to do about a toothache on the weekend?

what to do about a toothache on the weekend

A toothache is a pain in the tooth and sometimes jaws due to infection in the tooth. It varies in intensity from mild to severe. Mild toothache is often neglected and is taken seriously when the pain becomes more frequent and unbearable. Severe toothache is quite distressing and affects your routine activities. It becomes a challenge to manage toothache if it starts on a weekend or during the Christmas holidays when the dental offices are closed. In this article, I will talk about the tips and tricks to manage toothache on a weekend or holiday.

why do teeth hurt?

Toothache occurs because of the bacterial infection in the tooth. Initially, the toothache is mild, and persists for few minutes. However, as the infection affects the deeper tissues of the teeth i.e, pulp, the severity of pain skyrockets lasting for several hours.

The infection triggers the production of inflammatory substances in the pulp space. The inflammatory substances and fluid accumulation as result of inflammation stimulate the nerve ending nearby and cause pain.

What to do about a toothache on a weekend?

The treatment of toothache involves removal of the source of infection to resolve the inflammation in the tooth surrounding tissues. The treatment of severe toothache often requires root canal therapy to completely remove the infection, which is performed by a dentist in the dental office.

However, there are few home remedies that can temporarily reduce inflammation and relieve toothache if happens on a weekend.

The following one or more of the home remedies will help relieve the pain temporarily.

Elevate your head 

Toothache often gets worse at night and on lying down because of the increased circulation to the head. It’s best to take some rest and avoid any activity during the severe episodes of pain. However, lying down straight on your back may worsen your pain. It’s best to sleep with an extra pillow under your head, keeping it high from the rest of the body. 

Maintain your oral health 

Brushing teeth twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste removes plaque and food deposits from the cavity and could be help with pain. You can also use an anti-septic mouthwash after the meal or twice daily.

Salt water rinses 

Warm salt water rinses are an effective way to control inflammation associated with teeth and gums. 

Add half a teaspoon of sea salt to half a glass of warm water (avoid using hot water). Stir it till it dissolves. Swish it in the mouth for a minute, then spit it out. Repeat it 3-4 times a day. 

Applying a cold pack on the neck

A cold compress or ice pack application on an affected cheek decreases inflammation by constricting the blood vessels and decreasing circulation to the affected area.

You can apply a cold compress or an ice pack wrapped in a cloth. Keep it on the skin near the affected tooth for 15 minutes. Repeat the process after 15 minutes for 2-3 times.

Clove oil application or biting on a clove

Clove oil has anti-oxidants, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and numbing properties. The eugenol, an active ingredient in clove oil, is predominately thought to relieve discomfort associated with toothache. Message 2-3 drops of clove oil on the painful tooth and gums. Moreover, clove oil is recognized as safe by the FDA.

Clove oil is not available in every home, so you can also use a whole clove instead. Biting on the clove slowly releases its active components, such as β-caryophyllene, α-humulene, and eugenyl acetate, that helps with toothache.

Over-the-counter pain medication 

Over-the-counter pain medication is the most effective way to relieve tooth pain. Ibuprofen (Advil) and aspirin are the most widely used medicines for pain control. They belong to a group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

NSAIDs alter the body’s response to pain and swelling by inhibiting the production of substances that cause inflammation. They are readily available in pharmacies or grocery stores. You can get them anytime for your toothache on the weekends or holidays.

Dosage for pain relief

Take Ibuprofen 400mg or 600mg after every 4-6 hours OR Aspirin 500 mg after every 4-6 hours. Do not exceed more than 12 tablets in 24 hours. 

If the pain does not subside, add acetaminophen (Panadol) 500 mg with either of the above NSAIDs.

It is advised not to take two NSAIDs together, i.e., asprin and ibuprofen, as they may aggrevate their gut-related side effects, such as gastric bleeding or ulceration. 

Acetaminophen (panadol) acts centrally i.e, on the brain and reduces reduces pain by raising the pain threshold and reducing the production of pain producing substances (prostaglandins). On the other hand, NSAID’s acts centrally and peripherally.

Panadol is the safest pain medication and can be used if you are pregnant. 500 mg of paracetamol 3 to 4 times daily effectively resolves the discomfort. 

Precautions taken while taking OTC painkillers

OTC painkillers are relatively safe in short courses (5-7 days) but are associated with adverse outcomes if taken for long periods or more than the recommended daily doses.

  • When taken at the correct dose, OTC painkillers are safe and effective.
  • For short-term pain relief, it may be best to take the medication as mentioned on the box.
  • Please do not take them for longer than three days without a medical prescription.  
  • If you feel the dose of medicine written on the pack isn’t enough, don’t top up with the same medication or other painkillers. Talk to your pharmacist. 
  • If the pain doesn’t subside entirely with the medicines, try some home remedies for pain relief.
  • It is recommended to take ibuprofen with a meal or a glass of milk to prevent any gastric disturbance.
  • Aspirin must not be taken by children under 16 years because of a sporadic illness called Reye’s syndrome that can be life-threatening.
  • If you have conditions like asthma, acid reflux, or stomach ulcers, or if you are taking certain medicines, NSAIDS may interact with them. In such cases, acetaminophen alone can be used as an alternate. 
  • High doses or long-term use of NSAIDs may lead to indigestion, bleeding from the gut, increased blood pressure, and increased risk of heart failure.

Toothache that calls for immediate attention

It is normal to experience mild swelling around the painful tooth. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms with toothache, report to the emergency room or emergency dentist immediately: 

  • Facial, neck, and eye swelling
  • Difficulty in breathing, mouth opening, and swallowing
  • Fever 

These symptoms suggest that the tooth infection has spread and has involved the facial and neck spaces. This widespread infection is known as cellulitis. This infection can be life-threatening if left untreated and is considered a dental emergency. 

Summary 

Severe toothache on the weekend can be very daunting when you can’t get hold of healthcare provider. However, you can temporarily manage them at home using pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. 

OTC painkillers provides relief within 30 mins to 1 hour. Warm salt water rinses, ice packs and clove oil application also help with pain.

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