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The Best OTCs for Tooth Pain

Cartoon man holding face having pain in his tooth

Most people have experienced a toothache at some point in their lives. It can come on without warning and cause severe, throbbing pain that can make you extremely uncomfortable; sometimes, the pain is so severe that it affects your work and personal life. Toothache pain can occur after hours or on weekends when a dental appointment is not immediately available. Fortunately, certain pain medications available over-the-counter (OTC) can temporarily relieve mild to even severe pain caused by toothache. Please continue reading to find out the best OTCs for toothache pain. 

What causes dental pain?

A painful tooth can occur for various reasons. Common causes of toothaches include:

  • Tooth decay (cavities)
  • Abscessed tooth
  • Damaged filling
  • Broken, fractured, or cracked teeth 
  • Tooth loss
  • Gum disease or gum infection
  • Dental trauma
  • Wisdom teeth eruption
  • Excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth

How to get pain relief from toothache?

There are essentially two ways to get toothache relief temporarily at home:

Topical Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain relief liquids, gels, creams, and swabs can be used for temporary pain management. These products usually contain an active ingredient such as benzocaine that temporarily numbs the area until you can see a dentist. 

Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

OTC analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), aspirin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) temporarily relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and reduce swelling related to dental problems. 

What is the best painkiller for a toothache?

Dentists recommend a few options for temporary relief from dental pain. Such as:


It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works well for moderate pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen is available over-the-counter under the brand names Advil or Motrin. However, higher strengths of ibuprofen are available with a doctor’s prescription; those strengths are 400 mg, 600 mg, and 800 mg.

Brand names: Advil, Motrin.

Available as: Tablets, oral suspension, liquid gel capsules. 


It is also an NSAID that can relieve pain from tooth decay and other dental issues. There are different strengths and dosage forms of naproxen; ask your pharmacist if you’re unsure which would be the best choice.

Brand names: Aleve, Naprosyn, Anaprox.

Available as: Caplets/tablets (regular, extended-release, or delayed-release), oral suspension, and gelcaps.

Aspirin or Acetylsalicylic Acid 

This is an NSAID that is effective for toothache pain. Note: It is a myth that placing aspirin on the tooth relieves pain. Do not do this as it can cause a chemical burn leading to tooth damage.

Brand names: Anacin, Bufferin, Excedrin.

Available as: Chewable tablets, extended-release tablets, and delayed-release tablets. 


This popular pain reliever can be used to manage dental pain. It causes fewer gastrointestinal side effects than NSAIDs. Also, if you have any type of kidney disease, Tylenol is the OTC drug of choice for fever and pain; however, it is important to be mindful about the maximum daily intake of Tylenol as chronic use to avoid liver injury.

Brand names: Tylenol.

Available as: Tablets, oral suspension, and liquid gel capsules. 

Precautions While Using OTC Medications to Relieve Pain

It is important to use OTC pain relievers only for short-term relief and seek professional care from a dentist as soon as possible. A dentist can identify the cause of your tooth pain and treat it appropriately, for example, root canals for tooth abscesses.

If you are using these OTC pain-relieving drugs for toothache, keep in mind that taking a larger dose or more frequently than what’s recommended on the package can be dangerous. If you have severe pain and take large doses of NSAIDs or take them for a long time, they can irritate your stomach, increase your risk of heart attack, and cause kidney disease that leads to other complications such as high blood pressure and stroke. Large doses of acetaminophen can lead to liver damage and liver failure. Also, these OTC medications may not be safe for people with certain medical conditions. Moreover, some OTC medications for tooth pain can interact with other medications, including other OTC products, prescription drugs, and herbal medicines. 

Always take the recommended dosage indicated on the package and see your regular or emergency dentist as soon as possible. Please seek emergency medical care if you start developing fever, chills, weakness, or shortness of breath.

What over-the-counter medicine is good for a tooth infection? 

If you have a tooth infection, your dentist will recommend antibiotics to help clear it up, along with pain medications to reduce pain and inflammation. Antibiotics are only available with a doctor’s prescription. In many cases, one course of antibiotics is sufficient to take care of the problem. However, antibiotics may not solve the underlying problems if there are other causes for your toothache. For example, if the infection is from a tooth abscess that requires tooth extraction or if the infection is from a root canal. Still, when used appropriately, antibiotics will contain the infection and stop it from worsening or becoming systemic, especially for those with weakened immune systems. Meanwhile, your dentist will discuss the treatment plan with you to address the underlying cause of your tooth pain. 

What are some home remedies to relieve pain from dental issues?

If you don’t want to use over-the-counter pain medication, other at-home tips or pain relief options that might work include:

  • Avoid very hot or cold foods and beverages.
  • Avoid sugary or acidic foods and beverages.
  • Gently flossing around the affected area to remove any food particles that might be causing irritation and tooth pain.
  • Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water.
  • Applying a cold compress to relieve tooth pain and inflammation.
  • Using a hydrogen peroxide rinse.
  • Applying clove oil to the affected area.
  • Crushing or chewing a garlic clove.
  • Applying a cold peppermint tea bag to the painful area.


  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10957-toothache
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4906852/
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1601-5037.2010.00492.x
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8805113/
  5. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0112726