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It’s simple: if you’re in pain, you want relief. And if your toothache is bad enough, you’ll do just about anything to get rid of it. You might be tempted to take a Tylenol or ibuprofen, but are they really the best painkillers for a toothache? There are many different options available, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. In this blog post, we’ll rank the best painkillers for tooth discomfort and explain why they work best.



How do pain relievers work?

What happens after you take a pain reliever? It doesn’t go directly to your gum or head, even though that’s the spot that hurts so much. Pain relievers work with your cells, your body’s nerve endings, your nervous system, and your brain to keep you from feeling the pain.

Painkillers are medicines that are used to treat pain. There are a large number of painkillers available, and they all come in various different brand names. They can be taken:

  • By mouth as liquids, tablets, or capsules.
  • By injection.
  • Via the back passage (rectum) as suppositories.

Some painkillers are also available as creams, ointments, or patches.

Even though many painkillers are available, there are only three main types (each works differently). They are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen. Aspirin is also an NSAID. However, it is mainly prescribed (in low doses) to help to keep the blood from clotting – for example, for people who have had a heart attack in the past.
  • Paracetamol. Paracetamol is normally prescribed if your pain is not too serious and you do not have inflammation.
  • Weak and strong opioids (sometimes called opiates). Examples of weak opioids include codeine and dihydrocodeine. Although commonly described as ‘weak opioids’, they are extremely effective analgesics often used to treat severe pain; however, they can lead to significant addiction and adverse effects, so they should not be underestimated. Examples of strong opioids include morphine, oxycodone, pethidine, and tramadol. Many people who need strong opioids are in hospital.

The type of painkiller your doctor will prescribe depends upon the following:

  • The type of tooth pain you have.
  • Any other health problems you may have.
  • How severe your toothache is.
  • The possible side-effects of the medicines.


Pain Relief: What to Consider

Finding the right pain reliever to ease your tooth pain helps you understand how these medications manage pain. But first, you need to know whether they’re safe for you. Here are some things to consider when choosing an OTC pain reliever:

Health Conditions

Some medical conditions (e.g., digestive problems, kidney or liver disease) make certain pain medications unsafe. The same goes for pregnancy. Ask your healthcare provider what’s safe for you.

Side Effects

The fact that these drugs are widely used and easily accessible doesn’t mean using them is risk-free.

Some potential side effects of short-term use are outlined for each OTC drug option covered here. Think twice about those drugs that pose concerns that may be especially problematic for you.

Drug Interactions

Some pain relievers may not be safe to take with other medications you may be on.

Drugs that may be unsafe to mix with OTC pain relievers include:

  • Blood pressure drugs: Vasotec (enalapril), Zestoretic (lisinopril), Tenormin (atenolol), Lopressor (metoprolol)
  • Blood thinners: Coumadin (warfarin), Eliquis (apixaban), Xarelto (rivaroxaban)
  • Some antidepressants: Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Cymbalta (duloxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine)

These are just a few of the many possible drugs that may be dangerous to combine with pain relievers. Ask your dentist, healthcare provider, or pharmacist what OTC products are safe for you.

Potential for Overdose

Suppose you take a pain reliever with an active ingredient that is also in another medication you are taking (like a multi-symptom cold medicine). In that case, you run the risk of overdosing, which can have harmful side effects.

Here, we have dentist-approved pain relievers for toothache that can offer you effective relief.


ibuprofen for toothacheIbuprofen is one of the most-used OTC painkillers for tooth pain.2 It’s sold under the popular brand names:

  • Advil
  • Motrin
  • Nuprin

These medicines are available in tablets, liquid gel capsules, and oral suspensions.

Ibuprofen is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It works well for dental pain because it relieves pain and lowers inflammation—a cause of many mouth-related aches and pains.


An older pain reliever, aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), is also in the NSAID class. Studies suggest it’s effective for pain from dental problems.5

Aspirin comes in many forms, including chewable tablets, delayed-release and extended-release tablets, and suppositories.

This medication is sold under dozens of brand names. Common ones include:

  • Anacin
  • Bayer
  • Bufferin
  • Empirin
  • Excedrin


Acetaminophen is a popular way to manage dental pain. However, it doesn’t reduce inflammation like NSAIDs, so it may not be as effective for tooth pain.

Acetaminophen is available under the brand names:

  • Tylenol
  • Actamin
  • Feverall

Acetaminophen is especially useful if you can’t take NSAIDs. It is available in several forms that may work for toothache medicine, including:

  • Tablets
  • Liquid gel capsules
  • Oral suspension

Naproxen Sodium

Naproxen is another NSAID frequently used for tooth pain. It comes in tablets, caplets, gel caps, and liquid gels.

naproxen for tooth painBrand names include:

  • Aleve
  • Anaprox
  • Naprosyn

To give a sense of how effective the drug can be, research suggests naproxen may be as effective for post-surgical dental pain as the narcotic pain reliever Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen).

While naproxen and ibuprofen are in the same drug class, one may work better for you than the other, or vice versa.

Home Remedies for Toothache

There are many home remedies for toothache that people use to try to find relief from the pain. While some of these remedies may provide some relief, it’s best to speak with a dentist to find the root cause of the pain and get proper treatment.

Some of the more common home remedies for toothache include:

  • Saltwater rinse: Swish the salt water around your mouth for a few minutes to help reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Clove oil: Apply a small amount of clove oil directly to the affected area to help reduce pain.
  • Garlic: Chew on a piece of garlic to help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Cayenne pepper: Mix cayenne pepper with water and gargle with the mixture to help ease the pain.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the affected area to help reduce swelling and numb the pain.
  • Peppermint Tea Bags: Peppermint oil has anti-microbial properties that can benefit oral and dental health. Apply a warm peppermint tea bag to the site of your toothache and let the oils do their thing.

No matter what home remedy you choose, it’s best to seek professional medical advice if your toothache persists. Your emergency dentist will be able to best assess and diagnose any underlying issues that may be causing your discomfort and provide the best advice on the best painkillers for toothache. Call Emergency Dentist Adelaide DR today if you need emergency dental care in the Adelaide area.


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