Toothache From Damaged Filling
When you understand HOW and WHY things happen, your actions for treatment and prevention are vastly improved.
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- Filling material failure such as cracking or breaking away
- Accidental biting of a hard object in food (e.g. bone, popcorn kernal)
- Leakage where the filling and tooth touch each other allowing plaque bacteria to invade the inner part of the tooth.
Typically a damaged filling causes no pain and is usually found during a normal dental exam. However, your child may have one of the following that makes you aware of the problem.
- Pieces of filling suddenly missing
- Sensitivity to cold
- Sensitivity to heat
- Sensitivity to sweet
- Generally painful
If your child has have pain or an obviously broken filling, the same recommendations apply for how you would treat a cavity.
Any OTC (Over The Counter) medicine you might give your child for a headache, but NOT aspirin. Aspirin can cause damage to young children and bleeding problems if your dentist has to remove your child’s tooth or perform other surgery. Standard OTC pain relievers can include Acetaminophen (example: Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (examples: Motrin or Advil).
Temporary filling material can be purchased at most drug stores or pharmacy section at big box stores. This will cover the hole and often prevent further pain until a dentist can fix it permanently. If your child also has a temporary crown, these materials can be used to temporarily recement them if they come off.
Clove oil (believe it or not, the most common temporary filling a dentist might place contains eugenol or concentrated clove oil). Put a drop or two on cotton swab to apply. DON’T leave swab in child’s mouth as there is risk of swallowing or (worse) inhalation. NOTE: Clove oil can mildly burn the gums so be careful to apply only to the cavity of the tooth.
Petroleum jelly (example: Vaseline). Sometimes broken fillings become painful due to exposure of the inner part of the tooth. This inner part has microscopic pores in it. Petroleum jelly is an inert substance that can block those pores temporarily and relieve the pain from exposure. A small layer that thoroughly covers is enough and can be placed with a cotton swab or your finger. It will work best if you FIRST blot dry the cavity with a tissue or other moisture-absorbent material.
Warm salt water rinse may sometimes reduce toothache from broken fillings. Mix a teaspoon of salt in a cup of very warm water (as warm as your child can comfortably hold in their mouth without burning). Have your child take a big sip and hold the solution in the mouth for about 20 seconds. Repeat this procedure until the pain is relieved or the cup is used up.
Broken fillings are usually not a health-threatening emergency that requires urgent attention, although no one wants to see their child in pain. Try one of the methods above to relieve pain until you can get to the dentist.
Schedule your child with the dentist as soon as convenient. You may need to ask for an emergency appointment to be seen sooner. However, if it’s at all possible to wait, schedule time for a complete exam that includes x-rays. They are still the best method we have for detecting cavities between the teeth while they’re still small.