My tooth aches. I’m in pain. What do I do?

14th April 2020 | Posted by: Vanessa Giraud

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update:

  • During lockdown regular dental care is restricted. Read the tips below about what you can do until you’re able to visit the dentist.
  • Because of the current pandemic, current thinking advises against the non-prescribed use of anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, as it may suppress the immune system. If possible, use the correct dosage of paracetamol instead. Whichever pain medication you take, do not exceed the recommended dose.
Up until now it was easy to ignore that dull ache. But not anymore. Now your tooth aches so much you can’t think straight. In fact, now the whole of your head is screaming at you. Tooth pain is the worst.

tooth aches can feel like the blinding lights in this picure behind sihouettes of peoples heads

We can all ignore mild toothache. Even though we know it isn’t a good idea, it’s easier to do that than ring the dentist, make an appointment and fix the problem. After all, not one of us really wants to go to the dentist. And anyway, we’re all busy. There’s work, family, looking after the house, going to the gym, or just doing things we like doing. With a pain killer, the toothache calms down a bit, and is easier to ignore. That is, until it isn’t.

We can be sure that when our tooth aches the pain will ramp up just before an important meeting, when we’re on a trip, or when we’ve planned a big social event. Most probably it will be at a time when the dentists are all closed, and we’re left to suffer, regretting that we hadn’t done something sooner.

But there’s hope. There are dentists ready to help out.

Important note:

Unfortunately, although your tooth aches a lot, pain alone is not considered urgent. Urgent conditions requiring immediate care are:

For urgent advice, you can call the NHS helpline – 111.

What can I do to stop my tooth aching?

As your tooth won’t stop hurting by itself, you’ll need to see a dentist as soon as possible. Even if the pain subsides a bit, that doesn’t mean that the problem has gone away.

So the first thing to do is call a dentist.

Explain that you’re experiencing pain and want to book an emergency appointment. Most dentists keep slots open in their schedules for emergency appointments. It’s best to call your surgery as early as you can in the morning, as the gaps in the day’s diary soon fill up with other emergency patients.

Meanwhile, some temporary relief from pain may help:

Why does my tooth ache?

What will my dentist do?

“My dentist managed to promptly provide treatment to stop the pain and has since then completed a permanent solution.” a SpaDental Plymouth patient

Can I prevent toothache? man in orange shirt with tooth ache

In short, regular appointments with your dentist will keep you pain-free.

Pages with useful local information in an emergency:







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SpaDental practices are open for remote emergency consultation only

Under instruction from NHS England:

  • All routine, non-urgent dental care is suspended.
  • We offer remote urgent care during work hours. Contact us by phone, email or the link below. A clinician is on hand to advise and recommend temporary solutions.
  • Patients with severe symptoms will be referred to a local urgent dental care facility.

Access our remote urgent care:

Patients with booked appointments: please make sure your contact information is current as we will reschedule.

NHS England implements the above restrictions to protect patients and clinicians. Please stay at home.

This note was updated on 26th March 2020