Over-the-Counter Medicine for Toothache Pain

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You really need to go to the dentist to check for toothache, but you may need pain relief before the exam. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can help you manage your toothache in the meantime.

Dentists suggest several options when it comes to medication for your toothache. These options include:

But not all of these drugs are right for everyone. This article reviews over-the-counter pain relief options, side effects and drug interactions to consider, and other ways you can manage your toothache.

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Causes of toothache

Some possible causes of toothache include:

While you can manage a toothache at home, you should always Call your dentist as soon as possible to get treatment and prevent possible complications.

What to consider

To find the right pain reliever to ease a toothache, you should understand how these medications work to control pain. But first, you need to know if they are safe for you.

Here are some things to consider when choosing an over-the-counter pain reliever:

Health status

Certain medical conditions (for example, digestive problems, kidney or liver disease) make certain pain relievers unsafe. Same when pregnant. Ask your healthcare provider what is safe for you.

Side Effects

The fact that these drugs are widely used and easily accessible does not mean that their use is without risk.

Some of the potential side effects of short-term use outlined for each OTC drug option are covered here. Think twice about worrisome medications that may be causing you particular problems.

Drug interactions

Some pain relievers may not be safe when taken with other medications you are taking.

Medications that may not be safe when mixed with OTC pain relievers include:

These are just a few of the many medications that can be dangerous when combined with pain relievers. Ask your dentist, healthcare provider, or pharmacist which OTC products are safe for you.

An overdose may occur

If you take a pain reliever that has an active ingredient that is also in another medicine you are taking (such as a multi-symptom cold medicine), you run the risk of overdose, which can cause harmful side effects.


Ibuprofen is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter pain relievers for toothaches. It is sold under the popular brand names:

These medications are available in the form of tablets, liquid gel capsules, and oral suspension.

Ibuprofen is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs). It works well for toothaches because it relieves pain and reduces inflammation — a cause of many mouth-related aches and pains.

Side Effects

Common side effects of ibuprofen include:

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Bloating or bloating
  • Dizzy
  • Worried

Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience serious side effects such as:

  • Shortness of breath or shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the abdomen, legs, ankles or feet
  • Fever
  • Blisters, hives or rash
  • Itchy
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, throat, arms or hands
  • Difficulty swallowing


Naproxen is another NSAID commonly used to treat toothaches. It comes in the form of tablets, capsules, gelcaps, and liquid gels.

Brand names include:

For the drug’s effectiveness, research suggests naproxen may be as effective for post-operative toothache as the narcotic pain reliever Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen).

Although naproxen and ibuprofen belong to the same class of drugs, one may work better for you than the other.

Side Effects

Common side effects of naproxen can be:

  • Stomach upset and nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Flatulence, bloating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sleepy

Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience:

  • Changes in vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or lips
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Changes in mental health or mood
  • Shortness of breath or shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the abdomen, legs, ankles or feet
  • Signs of infection (fever, chills, sore throat)
  • Blisters, hives, rash or redness of the skin
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, throat, arms or hands
  • Too tired
  • Severe nausea or vomiting

Dosage instructions on naproxen are different from most OTC pain relievers. That’s because it keeps working longer.


Older pain relievers, aspirin (acetylsalicylic acids) also belong to the NSAID group. Studies show it to be effective for pain caused by dental problems.

Aspirin comes in many forms, such as chewable tablets, extended-release and delayed-release tablets, and suppositories.

This drug is sold under dozens of brand names. Popular ones include:

  • Anacin
  • Bayer
  • Bufferin
  • Empirin
  • Excedrin

Do not apply Aspirin directly

An old folk remedy claims that putting aspirin in the tooth will relieve pain. Not only is this wrong, but it can also damage your teeth. Swallow the medicine as directed.

Side Effects

Aspirin can cause digestive side effects in some people. Take care of:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomachache
  • Heartburn

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you develop:

  • Hives or rash
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue or throat
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Arrhythmic heartbeat
  • Cold skin
  • Tinnitus (tinnitus) or hearing loss
  • Vomiting blood or coffee grounds
  • Bright red blood in stools or black, tarry stools


Acetaminophen is a popular way to manage toothache. However, it doesn’t reduce inflammation like NSAIDs do, so it may not be as effective for toothaches.

Acetaminophen is available under the brand names:

Acetaminophen is especially helpful if you can’t take an NSAID. It is available in several forms that may work for toothaches, including:

  • Tablet
  • Liquid gel capsule
  • Mixed Drinks

Side Effects

Acetaminophen can cause side effects. Popular ones include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Excitement

Large doses of acetaminophen can cause liver damage. Alcohol also damages the liver, so you should avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.

If any of these serious side effects occur, call your healthcare provider right away:

  • Red, blistering or peeling skin
  • Rash or rash
  • Itchy
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, throat, hands, shins, ankles or feet
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

Use according to instructions

Any over-the-counter pain relievers you take for a toothache will provide short-term relief until you can fix your dental problem. These medications are not intended to give you long-term pain control, so you can avoid going to the dentist.

Although your pain may be severe, taking more of these drugs than directed can be dangerous. For example, taking too much acetaminophen in a short time can lead to liver failure, which can be fatal.

And excessive or long-term use of NSAIDs can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. It can also irritate or damage your stomach, intestines, kidneys, or liver.

Always follow the dosage instructions on the package or given to you by your healthcare provider.

Other pain relief options

You have other options for toothache relief until you can see a dentist. You can use them with or instead of OTC pain relievers.

  • Avoid foods and drinks that are too cold or too hot, as well as those that are high in sugar or acid (such as orange juice).
  • Floss around the affected teeth to remove any food particles that may be irritating them.
  • Elevate your head while you sleep. This can relieve some of the pressure that can add to your pain.
  • Gargle with warm salt water.
  • For some types of toothache, you may find relief when applying clove oil.


Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are NSAID pain relievers. Because they help reduce inflammation, they are a popular choice for toothaches. Acetaminophen can also help with toothache, but it doesn’t reduce inflammation.

Watch out for side effects with OTC pain relievers, some of which can be serious — especially if you take more than the recommended dose. Make sure you’re not taking medications that could interact badly with each other.

Your dentist, health care provider or pharmacist can help you choose the best one for you.

A very good word

Toothaches can be intense and don’t always come during your dentist’s regular business hours. If that happens, call your dentist’s office. They may have a calling or emergency number in their voicemail recording.

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