What are the most common causes of a toothache in children?

Written by: Dr Moira Wong
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

There are various causes of toothache in children, and as parents, the first thing we naturally want to do is to discover the cause and find ways to relieve them of this pain. Dr Carmen Colomar, a paediatric dentist and member of Dr Moira Wong’s highly experienced team, is here to provide answers to the most common questions regarding toothache in children.

What are the common causes of toothache in children?

The most common cause of toothache in children is from cavities (a hole in the tooth) caused by dental decay. Dental decay occurs when we consume too many sugary drinks and food and don’t clean our teeth well enough. When these sugars and starches aren’t cleaned off your teeth properly, bacteria start to grow and eventually, plaque forms around your teeth. This plaque then erodes the enamel covering the teeth and causes small openings or holes, exposing the nerves and blood vessels and causes toothache.


Gingivitis is another condition that is quite common in children and caused by plaque build-up. It causes the gums to swell and bleed easily when brushing. In young children, gum inflammation can happen due to teething which causes pain in the mouth, however, both of these conditions are related to the gums rather than the teeth.


What can I do for my child’s toothache?

If your child is experiencing a toothache, you should take them straight to the dentist to get it checked out and treated promptly. To temporarily relieve the pain in the meantime, you can give them painkillers, such as Calpol® - paracetamol for children - and also ibuprofen if the Calpol® doesn’t fully relieve the pain.


Can you get rid of a toothache at home?

It depends on what causes the toothache. If it’s due to teething then maybe painkillers can help. However, in the majority of cases, you cannot fully relieve the toothache at home simply because you probably won’t know what exactly is causing it. For example, if it’s a hole, then this cannot be treated at home and a dentist is needed to fix the problem.


What medicine is ok to give a child for tooth pain?

There are two types of medication I would recommend giving children, which is Calpol® and anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. I wouldn’t go any further and give them more medication without consulting a dentist first.


What should I do if my child has swollen gums?

Swelling in the gums can be due to poor brushing techniques, gingivitis (inflammation of the gum), trauma, or from a tooth infection (abscess). There are also times when viral infections can spread to the soft tissues in the mouth causing sores. If your child is experiencing swollen or painful gums, you shouldn’t diagnose it yourself but instead, take them to the dentist to have this assessed.


When should I take my child to the dentist with a toothache?

If your child’s toothache isn’t going away, especially after 24 hours, then you should make an appointment with their dentist as soon as possible. If you find your child’s pain does subside before you see a dentist, you should take them anyway to get it checked out as it might be a cavity which can lead to an abscess if not treated.


Visit Dr Wong’s Top Doctors profile to find out how she and her highly skilled team at Moira Wong Orthodontics can care for your child’s dental needs.

By Dr Moira Wong

Dr Moira Wong is a highly accomplished orthodontist based in London, with extensive experience in all aspects of dentistry.

Dr Wong qualified from the prestigious London Hospital Medical College before going on to specialise in orthodontics. She was accepted onto the specialty training course at Guy’s hospital where she gained a master’s degree, before receiving more training at the renowned King’s College and St George’s Hospital and gaining a fellowship in orthodontics.

One of the most well-trained orthodontists in London, Dr Wong gained her experience in both the UK and the US, where she worked with the Pennstar Trauma team at the University of Pennsylvania treating gunshot victims. She later took a post as a senior house officer in the oral surgery unit at Mount Vernon Hospital and gained unique experience treating victims of a train crash.

Dr Wong later went on to establish her own dental practice, Moira Wong Orthodontics, and is highly regarded by patients and peers alike. At the cutting-edge of her field, Dr Wong can offer the best patient care and the most up-to-date treatments for adults and children alike.

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