How to deal with non-emergency dental problems at home

Whilst we are prioritising dental emergencies at the moment, you may be asked to wait a short while longer for a non-emergency appointment. If you are unsure whether your dental issue is a dental emergency, please check here for the latest guidance. We understand this may be frustrating, so we’ve compiled some useful advice for coping with dental pain at home.



Toothache can have any number of causes, but if the pain comes and goes or is a dull ache, you will be asked to stay at home for now. The following recommendations and remedies can help to relieve or prevent your symptoms:

  • Try to avoid very sugary, acidic, hot or cold foods – these can cause the pain to restart or worsen.
  • Painkillers or over the counter anaesthetic oral gels will reduce the pain, please consult a pharmacist about what options are suitable for you.
  • Maintain excellent oral hygiene, brushing and flossing thoroughly twice a day.
  • Rubbing toothpaste directly on the affected area of the mouth will keep the area clean and therefore less prone to infection.
  • Sleep with your head elevated, this will reduce the blood pressure in your head and decrease any pressure in your gums which might be causing pain.
  • If you want to cool the area, use a cold compress, or something frozen, wrapped in a towel and apply to your cheek. Do not directly hold ice on the inside of your mouth, this can cause damage to the tissue and subsequently cause more pain.


Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth are another very common problem which can be managed at home. Similarly to toothache, avoiding very sugary, acidic, hot or cold foods will help stop your teeth reacting. There are many specialist sensitive toothpastes available in supermarkets which can have benefits too. However, the most important thing you can do is maintain good oral hygiene, and don’t rinse your mouth after spitting out the toothpaste when you brush, so your teeth have time to benefit from the toothpaste.


Painful, bleeding gums

This can usually be remedied by maintaining good oral hygiene at home. The most common cause of this is gum disease and is caused when there is too much plaque built up on your teeth. Brushing regularly will remove this substance and allow your gums to heal.


Pain when biting down

Pain when biting down can be caused by tooth decay, a loose filling or a crack in your tooth. We would recommend booking an appointment as soon as possible, once we resume our usual services. For now, we need to prioritise emergency treatments and so to manage the pain, ask a pharmacist about over the counter painkillers and try to avoid any hard, crunchy or chewy foods.


Facial swelling

If the swelling is causing you difficulty with breathing or is affecting your vision, or you are struggling to open your mouth or swallow, please visit your local A&E department immediately.

You should contact your dentist to see if you require antibiotics, they may be able to prescribe you this over the phone. You can also use a cold compress and rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution regularly to reduce the swelling.


Mouth ulcers

These will usually heal on their own in 1-2 weeks. If your ulcer hasn’t healed after 2 weeks, please contact us.

To relieve the pain of mouth ulcers at home, the following can help:

  • Regularly do a saltwater rinse, this will help sanitise your mouth and reduce swelling.
  • Ask you pharmacist about over the counter painkillers.
  • Try using a mouthwash, such as Corsodyl or Difflam, to reduce the ulcer and speed up the healing process.


Post tooth extraction pain or bleeding

It is to be expected that for the 3-4 days following a tooth extraction, you will experience some pain and bleeding. To speed up the healing process we would recommend:

  • Making sure you are following the guidance given to you by your dentist or hospital when you had the extraction.
  • Continuing to clean the area, with a saltwater rinse or suitable mouthwash – only when your dentist has advised it is safe to do so.
  • Using an over the counter painkiller can help to make the pain more tolerable.
  • Do not smoke for at least 48 hours after the extraction.
  • If the site of the extraction is freely bleeding, bite down on a clean hankie or gauze to apply pressure to the site until the bleeding stops, 20 minutes will usually be enough time. If the bleeding persists, please contact us as soon as possible.


Pain from orthodontic treatment

If you are experiencing pain caused by your brace, there are usually steps you can take at home which will reduce the pain. Pain may be caused by the wires digging in or from your braces rubbing.

Check out Bupa’s advice for treating common orthodontic problems here.