What is dental pain in my child?



Tooth pain in children is a common concern among parents. There are several reasons for dental / tooth pain in children. Dr Gargi S Murthy, Senior Pedodontist explains the various causes of dental pain in children. Read on……


What are the causes of dental pain in children?

“We generally see many child patients on the paediatric dental OPD for many problems. But the most common reason of visit is dental pain for which parents bring their children. Dental pain in children can be due to 


  • The most common cause of tooth pain is dental decay. The child may not be able to recall the pain or describe the type of pain most of the times. The dentist has to depend on the parent’s description often.
  • The child could also have a tooth abscess ( Swelling in the gums and subsequent pain ) for which they are brought to the dentist. 
  • Another reason for tooth pain is because of teething ( New tooth coming into the child’s mouth ).
  •  Tooth pain also occurs due to trauma, when there is a fracture of a tooth and subsequent infection.
  •  Even a faulty filling or fractured filling can cause discomfort. 
  • Mouth ulcers, which is generally the apathous ulcers can cause pain and discomfort for the child. 
  • Viral infections ( Primary herpetic stomatitis ) is another cause of mouth pain in children. 
  • Fungal infections also can be the cause sometimes.”


What are the symptoms of the dental pain in your child that you need to know?

Dr Gargi says————“It’s important to know the type of pain or discomfort in the child patient. The type of pain, the time of the day when your child gets pain, the duration of pain, frequency of pain  and the stimulus for the pain can all indicate the cause of the pain. Sometimes your child can have pain on chewing and in severe cases your child can have severe, continuous and spontaneous pain not associated with eating.

Pain at night is indicative of pulp infection. A throbbing / pricking type of pain can be because of tooth abscess. All this will give us a fair idea of the various stages of tooth infection. Tooth pain in children can be intermittent. A tooth infection that has reached the pulp will cause degeneration of the nerves. In such cases your child may not have any pain. But none the less any tooth decay or swelling in the mouth has to be addressed by your dentist.

“ Sometimes your child can have mild tooth sensitivity due to deep grooves on the tooth or wearing out of teeth. Mild soreness because of teething or burning sensation due to fungal infection is also a possibility.”



What is the treatment for dental pain in my child?

The treatment for dental pain depends on the cause of the pain. Your dentist will examine the child, and find out the cause and suggest the treatment options accordingly. 

  • A simple tooth cavity that is causing sensitivity can be restored with a filling.
  • A deeper cavity will need a medicated filling the helps  the tooth heal.
  • Severe pain which increases at night and can be associated with a swelling will need a deep cleaning called “pulpectomy”.
  • Mouth ulcers generally heal after a week or 10 days. So palliative care during this time is recommended. Topical anaesthetic gels will be prescribed that will reduce the discomfort especially before eating.
  • Viral infection will have mouth ulcers and associated fever. So again palliative care with topical gels or mouthwashes is recommended. Your dentist will advise some antipyretic ( To reduce fever ) and plenty of liquids during these times.
  • Pain during teething, especially the back teeth can cause a condition known as “pericoronitis”. This is an infection in the gums that is covering a partially erupted tooth. Maintaining good oral hygiene with regular rinsing and managing the gums helps ease the pain and discomfort. In severe cases, your dentist can prescribe some antibiotics and pain killers.


How can I prevent dental pain in my child?

Dr Gargi reiterates———“Prevention is better than cure. And tooth decay is totally preventable. Since treatment in a child patient is painful, cumbersome,  expensive and time consuming, the emphasis is on preventive dental care  to avoid tooth pain in your child. Early childhood caries is the most common type of tooth decay in your child. You can avoid dental pain by following these steps———

Good home hygiene.

This is the easiest and the cheapest preventive care measure. Home hygiene measure includes  proper brushing at least twice a day with a definite emphasis on night brushing. Most parents wait for all the teeth to erupt before brushing. It is also important to note that brushing of teeth should start when the first teeth comes into your child’s  mouth. Infact, oral hygiene begins with the cleaning of the gums pads (Gum pads are the gums of the baby before teeth erupt) with a soft cloth or gauze after every feed. 


Sometimes your child can have teeth in tight contact. In such cases, it is advisable to start flossing. This is because cavities occur between teeth too.

Balanced diet.

A good diet which includes fibrous food is beneficial to the dental and the overall health of your child. Avoid between meals snacking.


Use a fluoridated toothpaste to brush your baby’s teeth. A very small quantity like a “rice grain size” of the paste is sufficient to cover all the teeth in the mouth. A “pea size” tooth paste is required for older children.

Regular dental visits.

This is again very important. Your chid’s first dental visit should be when the first tooth erupts and not later than the first birthday. Your dentist will guide you on all the required oral hygiene steps and may also prescribe fluoride supplements. Your dentist can also do some non invasive procedures like sealants to cover deep groves on the back teeth.


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