People experience toothaches for many reasons. Sometimes the cause is obvious — such as a cavity — and sometimes it isn’t. For example, you might have a toothache because of something caught between your teeth. Try swishing around some water inside your mouth to dislodge the source of the problem. You may have heard that you can put an aspirin between the tooth and the gum to relieve pain, but aspirin is only effective as a painkiller if you swallow it. Since aspirin has acid in it, holding it in your mouth will only cause an acidic burn, not relieve your pain.

If your teeth hurt because one is broken, fractured, or has been knocked out, acting quickly and seeing your dentist as soon as possible becomes important. If your tooth is knocked out completely, start by rinsing out your mouth to clean it. Then try to hold the tooth in its socket until you can see the dentist. Use something cold, like a compress, or a cold, damp washcloth, against your check to help reduce any swelling. If that doesn’t work, then be careful to hold the tooth by its crown, not its root, while you put the tooth into some kind of container that has warm milk, salty water, or even your own saliva, and keep it there until you can get to either the emergency room or your dentist’s office.

If your child has had a baby tooth that is loose but not out, either because of another tooth coming in or because of some trauma, such as a fall, then you can give the child something like an apple or a piece of caramel to bite down on that may be just enough to help the tooth come out the rest of the way.

For a cracked tooth, rinse it with warm water and press something cold against your cheek. You might also want to take something to help with the swelling, like ibuprofen. The dentist may be able to sand or restore the tooth if the damage to the pulp is small enough.