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Is your child complaining of a tooth pain? Understanding more about tooth pain can help you know how to ease your child’s discomfort. In addition, it is a good idea to know when to call the dentist.

Common causes of a toothache

Tooth decay / cavity. Your child may have a cavity if tooth pain has been present for several days. Cavities also cause sensitivity to sweet, hot or cold food and drink and discomfort when chewing.

New tooth eruption. When adult teeth come in, they may be crowded or growing in crooked. This can sometimes cause tooth pain.

Food is stuck. Hard foods may be lodged between the teeth. This can cause discomfort. Help your child to gently floss around the painful area to ensure it is free of debris.

Cracked tooth. Biting down on hard objects or a bump to the chin could crack tooth enamel. This may result in sensitivity or pain.

An abscess. Tooth damage or decay can cause an infection that creates an abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in the oral tissues. Abscess pain is usually severe and throbbing. It may also be accompanied by a fever and swelling.

When should I call the dentist?

If the pain is severe and throbbing or if your child also has fatigue and fever, call the dentist right away. If your child does not have a fever and you see no swelling, then it is probably not an emergency. Ask your child to point to the pain. Look for signs of tooth decay or trauma to the lips or gums. What a child calls a tooth pain may in fact be a bitten tongue or sore gums. You can try to ease your child’s discomfort by carefully flossing around the painful area, applying a cold compress to the outside of the cheek, or using over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol. Always follow dosage instructions and age recommendations when administering any kind of medication.

If pain persists after careful cleaning and flossing, make an appointment with the dentist.