Pain Management

Dental Pain

Most of us will suffer the unpleasant effects of dental pain or toothache during our lifetime. Dental pain, whether severe or ‘low grade’ can be totally debilitating and your first priority should be be to make an appointment with your dentist for diagnosis and treatment. The early warning signs should never be ignored.


At times, your teeth may become painful as a result of decay, abscess (a large hole in your tooth), gum (periodontal) disease or eruption problems. You may experience pain varying from an intermittent or fleeting sensitivity to hot and cold, to the most dreadful acute throbbing pain caused by advanced decay and a dental abscess. In this latter case you may find almost impossible even to touch you teeth together and eating may be difficult.

If you are experiencing toothache, it may indicate the early onset of tooth decay. You should make an appointment with your dentist to find the cause of the problem. You can also refer to the Dental Pain Control page for ways to mange your pain immediately.

Post-Operative Pain

You may sometimes experience some pain following dental treatment. It is not uncommon after a very large and deep filling has been placed or a dental extraction carried out. The degree of your pain is related to damaged dental tissue. You dentist will normally give you suitable medication and advise you to follow procedures aimed at promoting rapid healing whilst reducing your discomfort to a minimum. It is most unusual for post-operative pain to last for more than 10 days. In the vast majority of cases medication will not be required for more than three days.

If you are experiencing significant discomfort or the pain has lasted more than 10 days, you should call your dentist to seek advice. You can also refer to the Dental Pain Control page for ways to mange your pain immediately.

Dental/Facial Pain

There are other causes of dental pain that simulate toothache in people who otherwise may have good oral hygiene and excellent teeth Trigeminal (facial) neuralgia can bring stabbing pains that will cause serious incapacity. Deep-seated aches in the jaws may also indicate the presence of disease. Diagnosis may not be easy or certain. It is imperative to see your dentist who may have to refer to a consultant for further tests.

Dental Pain Control

There are many factors that influence the choice of a successful regime for dental pain control. The young and the old require extra care, together with those who may already be taking medication for other medical or dental conditions, and pregnant or nursing mothers. The assessment of the physical and psychological make-up of the patient, together with their past experiences with various forms of pain control, are key to future choices. Allergies, asthma, other contra-indications and short term personal or business activities may also have to be considered.

In the vast majority of emergencies dental pain can be controlled in the short term by one of three simple medicines – paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen. All can be purchased without the need for a prescription and are known as Over-the-Counter (OTC) medicines. Only a minority of dental cases will need access to more powerful Prescription-Only Medicines (POM) that can only be supplied by a general medical or dental practitioner.


Effective in pain relief in a wide variety of situations that include headaches, muscular pain, neuralgia, influenza and dental pain, it also reduces raised body temperature. It has remarkably few side effects and is well tolerated in those situations in which aspirin has to be avoided, including in young children.


A useful, safe, analgesic with blood-thinning properties. However, it can have unwelcome side effects for some, particularly those who suffer gastrointestinal problems. Aspirin must be avoided in those with peptic ulcers, pregnant women and also in some post-operative situations as it could delay healing. It should not be given to children under the age of 12, to asthmatics or those with a tendency to allergic reactions. The old fashioned practice of placing an aspirin tablet beside a painful tooth can cause burns and bleeding of the gum and is to be discouraged.


Like aspirin, it has anti-inflammatory properties and is effective in lowering a fever and relieving pain. It is useful in dental pain control as many dental conditions have an inflammatory element. It should not be used in situations that involve gastrointestinal problems, asthma or after surgery.

Manufacturer’s instructions should be read carefully and it should be remembered that medication is only a short-term remedy and not a long-term cure for acute pain.

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