Tooth pain medication is usually necessary to help manage a toothache. While an over-the-counter pain reliever may be enough to relieve a mild tooth pain, a toothache may become so severe that only a much stronger prescription toothache medicine may help. You should always ask your dentist or physician before you take any pain medicine, especially if you take and other medications.Overview Over the Counter Meds Prescription Meds Safety Precautions
About toothache medicines
A toothache can occur for many different causes either as a symptom of dental problem such as tooth decay, tooth abscess or tooth fracture, but it can also follow after a dental treatment such as an extraction, root canal or even after a common dental filling.
The tooth pain, whatever the cause, is in most cases the result of the irritation of dental or periodontal tissues and teeth nerves. For this reason anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used as tooth pain medications.
The group of drugs most commonly used to provide tooth pain relief, referred as ‘analgesics’, has analgesic (anti-pain), antipyretic (fever reducing) and anti-inflammatory properties. For severe cases, usually for post-surgery dental pain, narcotics are also used. Tooth pain medicines include a variety of substances, either individually or combined with others to provide increased effectiveness. Some of them are available over-the-counter but other can be purchased only with prescription from a medical professional.
Types of toothache medication
Depending on the severity of the toothache and the existence or not of an infection, the most common categories of toothache medication used are:
- over-the-counter pain relievers
- prescription pain medicines – narcotics
Over-the-counter tooth pain medicines
When you have a mild toothache, medicines that can be purchased over-the counter without a doctor's prescription are usually adequate enough to manage the dental pain. Less serious dental problems such as a small cavity will rarely require a stronger medication.
In most cases toothaches happen unexpectedly, and the pain may escalate in a few hours. When this happens during the night, or when you can not reach a doctor to give you a prescription, an over the counter tooth analgesic can provide some relief even for severe toothaches.
This category of pain killers includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen and numbing gels. They can be purchased from local pharmacies and most grocery stores without prescription, but caution is nevertheless necessary because some medical conditions are contradicting their use.
- NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the most widely used medicines for moderate dental pain and inflammation. They do not only relieve the pain, but they also help reduce any swelling. The most often recommended non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Neurofen), Aspirin and aspirin derivatives.
- Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen or Paracetamol (Panadol, Tylenol) is also used as a toothache medicine for mild to moderate dental pain. It provides rapid analgesic and anti-pyretic effect but has little anti-inflammatory action. Compared to acetaminophen, NSAID's provide better results for tooth pain relief at lower doses, but they act slower. Acetaminophen can provide an alternative for patients that cannot take aspirin or NSAIDs.
- Topical numbing gels: Topical numbing gels, such as Orajel and Anbesol, are placed directly on the aching tooth to ease toothache. They contain benzocaine, which can numb the area providing immediate relief from tooth pain but its effect does not last long. Orajel is available in several variants for babies, children and adults, and in different strengths. There are also specific products for a variety of conditions that cause dental pain.
Toothache Medicine for Kids
Pain relievers based on acetaminophen can be used by kids, but you should ask your doctor to advise you about the right dosage based on your child’s weight. Toothache medicines containing aspirin should not be used by children because they can increase the risk of developing a serious health condition known as Reye's syndrome. Low concentration numbing gels for children are also commercially available. Some of them are available in liquid form and can be applied directly in the painful area with a soft brush.