Why Aren’t Painkillers Working For My Toothache? (3 Expert Tips)

In this brief article we will learn about why painkillers stop affecting toothache and what to do in such a situation.

Painkillers Aren’t Working For My Toothache

Toothache that does not go away even after eating a painkiller is perhaps no less than a nightmare. It can be a very uncomfortable situation to be in and can cause a great deal of discomfort. 

Whenever we are in pain, our first thought is to take a painkiller. All we are looking for is immediate relief from this pain as this can be one of the most painful situations to be in. However, if the pain does not get better even after taking a painkiller, that is when the bigger trouble starts. With a tooth that is paining severely, day to day activities can get disrupted badly. Simple activities like eating food, talking etc can become difficult because of the pain. You might face trouble sleeping at night because the toothache won’t let you rest. 

Though a painkiller usually gives temporary relief from toothache, the problem in the tooth may be severe if the painkiller does not have any effect on the pain. This is an alarming situation and your very first plan of action should be to visit a dentist immediately. 

Ignoring a toothache that won’t go away with painkillers is a bad idea. Your tooth is screaming to be looked at by the dentist and when you ignore this, the underlying problem can get worse.

Why Does Toothache Worsen At Night?

If you have ever experienced a toothache, you might as well have noticed that your toothache got worse during the nighttime. Your sleep might have also got disrupted because of this worsening pain. No matter what you did, the pain did not get better.

There is a reason behind toothache worsening during the night. That reason is the change in pressure of blood flow to the tooth. When we lie down at night, the blood rushes to our head because of our lying down position. This rush in the flow of blood towards the head increases the pressure of blood in the entire face and jaws. When the pressure in the flow of blood increases in the sensitive part of the tooth as well, the pain becomes worse.

We feel a throbbing pain at this time which did not happen during the day time. This throbbing is because of the increase in blood flow to that area and the subsequent worsening of pain. No matter what position you sleep in, whether on your back or on the sides, it will not lessen the pain. 

Another reason for worsening tooth pain during the night is grinding teeth. Some people have a habit of grinding their teeth while asleep. This increases the pressure on the sensitive tooth and can lead to worsening of the pain. Grinding teeth inflicts  immense harm to the teeth and if we have a tooth that is already aching, it can wreak havoc on that tooth.

Why Aren’t Painkillers Working For Toothache?

A painkiller not working for a toothache may be due to many reasons. The biggest reason is not taking the right kind of painkillers. There are more than hundreds of painkillers available in the market, some of them are OTC or over the counter painkillers and some can be bought with a valid doctor’s prescription.

If a painkiller is taken which is not strong enough for the intensity of pain that you are experiencing, your pain will not go away. Mild painkillers will have no effect on the pain which is strong in intensity. In addition to this, if the recommended dose of the painkiller is not taken, it will have no effect on the pain. 

Different pain killers have different modes of action. Some painkillers work in your nervous system, some are anti-inflammatory in nature and so on. It is important to figure out which type of painkiller will ease the pain and only then proper relief from the pain will be achieved.. A simple painkiller will not have any effect if a person has severe inflammation. Unless an anti-inflammatory kind of painkiller is not given, the pain will not subside. Read this article to know more about what are  the various kinds of painkillers and how do they work

Another reason for toothache not going away after taking painkillers is a long standing infection under the tooth. More than often we tend to ignore toothache in the initial stages. We tend to self medicate and as we get relief with the painkiller that we have taken, we avoid going to a dentist. If the infection of the tooth is not caught in the early stages, it can spread further and further deep into the surfaces of the tooth and can infect the pulp. 

Once this happens, it paves way for an abscess to form under the tooth. When ignored for long, the infection which is now a very old one, becomes resistant to painkillers. This means that no matter what painkiller you take, the pain will not go away. In such a case antibiotics are needed which only a qualified dentist can prescribe. However, the relief from pain will not be permanent with antibiotics and painkillers as well. The pain will subside for some time as the infection will become less severe temporarily. However, if dental treatment is still not taken at this stage, at one point the painkillers and antibiotics will stop working too. This is when no matter how strong painkillers you take, you will not get any relief from toothache.

Another common reason for no relief with painkillers is when you have an impacted tooth. The gums around the impacted tooth can become infected and there might be swelling and inflammation. The impacted tooth will also put pressure on the adjacent teeth and bone which will lead to severe pain. Painkillers usually do not help in this situation and a visit to the dentist will be your only saving grace.

What To Do If Painkillers Aren’t Working For Toothache?

The first thing to do is to stop self-medicating. Self-medicating can have serious consequences and can worsen our situation further. Taking medications without proper knowledge about your condition and about the medications can be a bad combination and you can land in some serious trouble. If you are experiencing toothache, the best thing to do is to book an appointment with your dentist and visit them.

A dentist is the only person who will be able to diagnose your problem correctly and based on the diagnosis, a proper medication regime and treatment plan can be made for you. Taking appropriate dental treatment is the only permanent solution for your toothache.

Based on your diagnosis, your dentist will plan the right kind of dental treatment for you like fillings, root canal treatment, extractions etc. These treatments will resolve the reason behind your toothache permanently. Painkillers are only a temporary solution and after a while they stop working for toothache once the infection becomes severe. Therefore, if you have a toothache which has started only recently or if you have been ignoring one since long, visit your dentist at the earliest. 

Some  Home Remedies For Reducing Toothache

Sometimes you may be in a situation when you do not have a dentist in your reach, like when you are travelling or are in a different city. In situations like these, it may not be possible for you to visit a dentist but your toothache is troubling you a lot. There are some simple home remedies that you can try which will ease your pain to some extent.

Salt water rinses work great to reduce toothache. Rinsing with lukewarm water mixed with a little salt helps to reduce inflammation. This way the swelling around your tooth will reduce and any food debris will also get removed. You will notice a decrease in your toothache. Do salt water rinse at least five to six times in a day and you will surely notice a difference in the intensity of pain. This works great with an impacted tooth too.

Using clove oil is a great option too. Apply clove oil on and around the painful tooth and it will ease the toothache. If you do not have clove oil at your dispense, simply keeping a piece of clove on the tooth will also help. Clove has natural painkilling and anti-bacterial properties and it will help a lot in easing toothache for some time.

The next home remedy is rinsing with an alcohol based mouthwash. Rinsing your mouth will remove any annoying food debris that may be lodged in the tooth that has cavity. Food lodged in a decayed tooth will exert a lot of pressure on the tooth which can lead to toothache. Rinsing will remove this stimulus and it will ease the pressure on the tooth ultimately easing your pain.

Frequently Asked Questions (Painkillers Aren’t Working For My Toothache)

Does a throbbing tooth mean infection?

Yes, a throbbing tooth is a clear indication that something is wrong with the tooth. A tooth that has infection underneath or in the pulp or a tooth which has been injured can throb and pain. It is important to visit a dentist if you have a throbbing sensation in your tooth.

How do I know if my tooth infection has spread to my jaw?

The signs of tooth infection that has spread to the jaw are:

  • Swelling at the affected side of the jaw.
  • Severe pain.
  • Pus oozing in the mouth.
  • Inability to open the mouth fully.
  • Affected side of jaw tender to touch.
  • Affected side of the jaw is warm to touch.
  • Fever.
  • Severe sensitivity to hot and cold.
  • Inability to chew and swallow normally

Can a dentist pull an infected tooth?

There are multiple treatment options for an infected tooth. Procedures like filling, root canal etc can be done to treat an infected tooth. However, if the infection in the tooth is too severe and no other treatment options will be helpful, your dentist might decide to pull out the infected tooth.

Should I still have pain 5 days after tooth extraction?

It is common to experience pain upto a week after extraction. The intensity of pain will be the highest in the first 48 hours post extraction. However, if the intensity of pain has still not decreased 5 days after extraction you should visit your dentist as this may be due to dry socket or secondary infection.

What is a dry socket?

A dry socket is an extremely painful condition in which the blood clot in the extraction site gets dislodged due to improper post extraction care or very traumatic extraction and the socket is now empty and not healing. The socket of the tooth will be extremely red and painful. This condition needs proper management by the dentist.


When an infection in the tooth has been long standing and no treatment has been taken, painkillers will stop working. It is important to see a dentist before a minor infection becomes severe so that your tooth can be saved in time and a great deal of pain, discomfort and expenditure can be avoided.



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