Don’t Let Your Child’s Toothache Go Untreated

A toothache is a sign that something is wrong with your child’s teeth or gums. Letting your child’s toothache go untreated can allow the problem to get even worse.

Toothaches are common in children. In a recent survey, in fact, about 1 in 7 children ages 6 to 12 had experienced a toothache in the previous year.


Toothaches may develop as the result of a minor problem, such as a popcorn hull stuck between two teeth. They may also be the result of a more serious issue, such as a cracked tooth or a tooth infection.

Causes of toothaches can include:

  • Tooth decay – damage to the enamel on a tooth’s surface, caused by bacteria and poor dental hygiene
  • Cavity – a hole in the tooth resulting from tooth decay.
  • Abscessed tooth – a bacterial infection developing on the inside of the tooth)
  • Tooth fracture – also known as a broken tooth
  • A damaged filling
  • Repetitive motions – clenching or grinding teeth, chewing gum, and other repetitive motions can wear down your child’s teeth
  • Gum infections
  • New teeth coming through the gums

Signs that Your Child’s Toothache is Serious

Some toothaches, such as those caused by food stuck between your child’s teeth, are not serious. Other toothaches are serious and require the attention of your child’s dentist. But if you are like many parents, you are not sure when to take your child’s toothache seriously. Our team of dental professionals wants to help parents determine when a child’s toothache is serious.

Take your child to the dentist if their toothache:

  • Lasts longer than 1 to 2 days
  • Is causing severe pain
  • Is causing facial swelling
  • Is accompanied by a fever or earache, or causes pain when your child opens their mouth wide

Will my child’s toothache go away by itself?

Some toothaches go away without a trip to the dentist. This is especially true if the pain comes from the outside of the tooth, such as in the gums, rather than from inside the tooth. Pain from a temporary irritation of the gums can get better, for example, especially with home care.

Home care for toothache can include:

  • Rinsing with warm saltwater to loosen food stuck between teeth, reduce inflammation and disinfect the area
  • Flossing around the affected tooth to dislodge stuck food
  • Rinsing with a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide diluted with equal parts water to reduce pain and inflammation; make sure your child does not swallow it
  • Holding a cold compress to the painful area for 20 minutes; repeat every few hours
  • Taking acetaminophen

If these home remedies do not work within 24 hours, take your child to the dentist.

What happens if a child’s toothache goes untreated?

The consequences of letting a toothache go untreated depend largely on its cause. Left untreated, a tooth infection can lead to serious or even life-threatening complications, such as:

  • Sepsis – an infection that spreads to the rest of the body
  • Ludwig’s angina – a bacterial infection that affects the floor of the mouth, usually as the result of an abscess or mouth injury; this condition is uncommon in children, but can happen
  • Meningitis – a tooth infection can spread to the brain to cause meningitis, a condition characterized by swelling of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord

An untreated toothache caused by cavities can compromise a child’s dental health. The bacteria that caused decay in the affected tooth may spread to other teeth. Tooth decay may also worsen and lead to infection or even the loss of the tooth.

Leaving a toothache untreated can lead to more pain for your child. This pain can prevent your child from eating, playing, or participating in school. Ignoring a toothache can also allow small issues to become large problems that are more expensive to fix.

For more information on toothaches, consult with the dental professionals at Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontist. We specialize in pediatric dentistry, and our dentists can diagnose the underlying cause of the toothache and recommend treatment to help your child feel better right away.