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How Long Does a Toothache Last?

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

The duration of a toothache will depend on the underlying cause but typically, the severity of the pain is a good indicator for how long it can last. A mild toothache can last a couple of days but severe tooth pain can last indefinitely.

cracked tooth

It all comes down to the underlying cause of your condition and how it evokes your pain. You may be fortunate because some of the etiologies may be transient but others will not go away without professional treatment.

So, do you know what is causing your tooth to ache? If you do, you'll have your answer.

Table of Contents:

How long should a toothache last?

The duration of tooth pain ultimately depends on the etiology or underlying cause. Some of them may be transient and can resolve within a few days. Although the more serious conditions may last indefinitely and won't go away without professional intervention.

Key takeaways:

  • Mild conditions result in discomfort for 2-3 days.

  • Severe conditions can persist indefinitely if left untreated.

Conditions with short lasting toothaches

The less severe and more minor oral conditions will typically only be painful for 2-3 days at most, thus resulting in a short lived toothache. These are often slight injuries or unsuspecting insults to the dentition.

injury on the palate
injury on the palate

Conditions which cause temporary discomfort:

  • Foreign body impaction. Small hard foods can potentially become impacted into the gums and thus cause it to swell up. It'll feel very tender and mildly painful if it happens.

  • Cut or scrape. Hard foods can be sharp and they can injure the gingiva by scraping them.

  • Accidentally biting into hard foods. A hard chomp the wrong way can cause mild tooth pain. You'll immediately feel the pressure reverberate through the root and into the jaw bone.

  • Tooth concussion. An accidental hit to your mouth such as from a sports accident can leave your tooth bruised with a concussion.

  • Forgetting to floss for a few days. If you don't floss for a couple of days and food gets jammed in there. That can be a recipe for the gums to swell up and become inflamed.

red scrape on the gums
red scrape on the gums

Usually with good oral hygiene practices, all of these conditions above will resolve without further intervention. You'll often notice a day to day improvement in your symptoms.

Conditions with indefinite toothaches

The oral conditions which have the potential to cause long lasting tooth pain will often be accompanied with more severe pain. The etiology of these are such that they will not self-resolve and do require emergency dental treatment for them to go away.

fractured tooth

Conditions with indefinite discomfort:

  • Tooth decay. Cavities will only get bigger if you leave them untreated. They initially start at the enamel and then progress to the pulp in successive stages.

  • Irreversible pulpitis. Tooth nerve injuries can result in pulpitis which is irreversible. That means the pulp can no longer recover to a healthy state.

  • Dental abscess. An abscess is definitely not short lasting because it will persist until you get rid of the infection's source. That usually involves draining it along with either a root canal or extraction.

  • Fractured tooth. Depending on the severity of the crack in your tooth, it may or may not be able to be saved. Nonetheless, the tooth will need to be restored or removed for the toothache to be resolved.

large cavity on side of molar
large cavity on side of molar

If you think you have any of these, you shouldn't wait to see what happens. Contacting a dentist immediately would be the correct choice of action. The symptoms for these conditions typically get worse the longer you wait.

Wisdom teeth pain

We've decided to give pain from wisdom teeth their own category because they can be indefinite but they also come and go. They'll typically cause you discomfort for about 1-2 weeks and then disappear on their own.

swollen wisdom tooth
swollen wisdom tooth

However, they do return at some later date in the future. It could be weeks or months before they return. Other times they can be dormant or many years later before resurfacing.

How do you stop a throbbing toothache?

A mild toothache that is self-limiting can be successfully managed at home with various OTC medications and home remedies. However, a severe toothache may be immune to at home care so you should seek out a dentist if you want permanent pain relief.

Temporary relief with home remedies

Home remedies will not permanently get rid of a toothache but they can temporarily alleviate them.

OTC medication

Over the counter pain relievers and numbing gels can help alleviate your toothache.

  • Painkillers - ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen, etc.

  • Numbing gels - orajel and anbesol.

orajel 4x

However, did you know that combining ibuprofen and acetaminophen provides a synergistic pain alleviation effect? That is essentially what is in advil dual action.

Saltwater rinse

Salt is a proven natural antiseptic where rinsing with it can reduce inflammation and expedite healing in your mouth.

How to use:

  1. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt into 4 ounces of warm water.

  2. Swish for 30 seconds, and then spit it out.

Hydrogen peroxide rinse

Hydrogen peroxide is a very potent antiseptic mouthwash. A diluted rinse with this little brown bottle solution can eliminate half of the bacteria in just 15 seconds.

How to use:

  1. Mix half peroxide with half water in 1:1 ratio.

  2. Swish for 30 seconds and then spit out.

hydrogen peroxide

Please do not rinse with hydrogen peroxide at full strength because it can burn your mouth. For your own safety, just remember to always dilute and never swallow.

Cold compress

Applying a cold compress to the affected area helps to numb the area for pain alleviation and also reduce inflammatory swelling. You can wrap a bag of ice or frozen veggies in a clean towel, and then hold it against your outside jaw for about 20 minutes. Repeat several times a day.

Essential oils

Most essential oils do have an analgesic property, which means it can help alleviate your pain.

Common essential oils:

Other types of remedies

Aside from the commonly known home remedies, here are a couple of less common ones.

  • Willow bark - Contains salicin which is the predecessor to modern day aspirin.

  • Toothache plant - Has a tingly numbing sensation when chewed on. It is exotic and you probably won't find this!

Permanent dental treatment

Unbearable tooth pain will need to be treated by a dentist if you want to alleviate the pain for good. Home remedies may tickle it and provide a teensy little bit of relief but will do very little in the face of a severe aching tooth.

Professional treatments:

  • Dental filling

  • Crowns

  • Root canals

  • Extractions

  • Dental abscess drainage

When should I see a dentist?

We have three simple guidelines as for when you should see a dentist if your tooth is hurting.

  • There are no signs of improvement after 2 days.

  • Unbearable tooth pain that is a 7+ out of 10 on the pain scale.

  • Swelling in the mouth, face, or jaw.

All three of these scenarios are an indication that your condition is too severe for you to self-manage a toothache at home. It means that whatever you try to do for it at home will have very little effect. There is simply no way to kill the tooth nerve in 3 seconds with home remedies, you must see a dentist.



David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

Association Memberships:

Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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