Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Man with toothache

Man with toothache
beginning of content

Toothache and swelling

If you have a toothache, it could be caused by:

  • tooth decay
  • a cracked tooth
  • a loose filling or a broken filling
  • inflammation of the pulp inside your tooth
  • receding gums
  • a dental abscess.

You can also have painful teeth if you have a sinus infection, a mouth ulcer or a problem with your jaw.

Toothache sometimes starts very suddenly. It can cause pain and discomfort that ranges from mild to very severe. The pain may affect not only your tooth, but also your head, ear and jaw. The pain may be constant, throbbing, or it may come and go. If you have toothache, you may also have a:

  • swelling around your tooth and inside your mouth
  • swelling of your jaw and face
  • pain when chewing
  • bleeding from your tooth or gums
  • sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet food.

Looking after yourself

There are a number of things you can do to help relieve any pain and discomfort you may be feeling.

  • If you are in pain, get advice on pain relief medicines you can take. Take them regularly and always follow the instructions on the packet.
  • Make sure you keep your teeth and mouth clean. Brush your teeth twice a day – once in the morning and once at bedtime – using fluoride toothpaste. If your mouth is sore, use a soft toothbrush.
  • Eat foods that are easy to chew and swallow and avoid drinks that are very hot or very cold.
  • Try lying with your head propped up on a pillow, as lying flat can sometimes make dental pain feel worse.
  • Using clove oil or gargling aspirin are not recommended.
  • Salt water might help. Mix one teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water, then take a mouthful of the liquid and hold it in your mouth so it covers your affected tooth for two minutes, then spit it out. Do not swallow it. Salt water should not be given to children because they may accidentally swallow it, which could make them sick.
  • Try using a cold compress against the side of your face. Wrap an ice pack in a cloth before placing it against your skin.
  • If you smoke, try to cut down or quit.

Call your dentist if:

  • Your toothache persists for more than two days
  • you have a fever
  • you have an infection (swelling, pain when you bite, red gums or a discharge that tastes bad)
  • you have trouble breathing or swallowing.

Last reviewed: November 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 5 results

Dentist's remedy for toothache experience | myVMC

Stu found out the hard way that the only cure for toothache is dental treatment, when a niggle became excruciating pain and headache. This is his story.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dental Pain | myVMC

Dental pain or toothache is acute or chronic pain related to the teeth and surrounding structures varying in severity from mild to excruciating.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Emergency dental | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

What to do when a dental emergency occurs, including knocked out teeth, toothache, chips, fractures and cracks, bitten lips / cheeks, abscesses and swelling, trauma and bleeding, and jaw pain.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Wisdom teeth - Better Health Channel

Wisdom teeth that may cause problems are best taken out sooner rather than later.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Removing wisdom teeth - Better Health Channel

Wisdom teeth are the teeth at the back of your mouth (the third molar teeth). They tend to come through (erupt) in the late teens or twenties.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback