Ice or Heat for Pain? How To Choose For Dental Pain

woman frowning and holding her jaw because of dental pain

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More than 40% of adults experience oral pain as reported by the Center for Disease Control. Toothaches occur as a result of fractured teeth, exposed dentin, bacterial infection, and untreated decay.

Toothaches can range from mild to severe depending on the severity of the underlying condition. It’s best to visit a dentist as soon as possible if the pain persists for more than 1-2 days. Until then, you can use ice or heat for pain.

Keep reading to learn more.

Using Ice for Pain

A cold compress can prove effective for minimizing dental pain and inflammation. The low temperatures constrict blood vessels and slow blood flow to the affected area. Cold also reduces nerve activity, thus numbing the pain.

The most common types of cold therapy include cold packs and frozen gel packs. You can also bundle up crushed ice in a clean washcloth. Hold it on the outside of your cheek and repeat as needed.

A cold compress is particularly effective if the dental pain is due to swollen gums or an injury. Use it for short periods, approximately 10-15 minutes. Don’t use a cold compress for more than 20 minutes at a time. You risk nerve, skin, and tissue damage.

Using Heat for Pain

Heat therapy relies on warm temperatures to relieve pain. It is effective for soothing muscles and healing damaged tissues. However, heat isn’t reliable for alleviating tooth pain. The heat draws out any oral infection and worsens the inflammation.

Alternatives for Temporary Dental Pain Relief

You can also use the following strategies for temporary dental pain relief as you await your dentist appointment.

Take an Anti-inflammatory

Medications like Ibuprofen can block pain signals. Take the anti-inflammatory medication every few hours as directed on the label.

Saltwater Rinse

Saltwater is a natural disinfectant that loosens debris and food particles stuck between your teeth. Saltwater rinse also helps heal wounds and reduces swelling. Mix a half teaspoon of salt with a glass of warm water and use it as a mouthwash.


It can kill harmful bacteria that cause plaque and reduce dental pain. Crush a garlic clove to create a consistent paste and apply it to the affected area. You can also chew the clove slowly. Consider adding a bit of salt for better taste and results.

Peppermint Tea Bags

Peppermint has mild numbing properties that provide temporary dental pain relief. Cool the tea bags in the freezer for two minutes before use. Some people prefer using them while still warm and allowing them to cool. It creates a pleasant sensation that takes your mind off the tooth pain.

When to See a Dentist

Oral pain is generally an indication of an underlying condition. Whether it’s a damaged filling, tooth decay, or an abscessed tooth, you must address the problem immediately. Delayed treatment can lead to loss of the teeth and supporting bone.

Schedule an appointment with an experienced dentist immediately if you notice the following signs:

  • Swollen face or jaw
  • Throbbing jaw
  • A swollen, red bump in the mouth
  • Red, swollen gums

Whatever the cause of dental pain, our specialists will evaluate the problem and treat it accordingly.

Using Ice or Heat for Pain

When it comes to the ice or heat for pain debate, we highly recommend cold therapy for temporary relief. Heat may make things worse and cause you added discomfort. Be sure to set up an appointment with Synergy Dental Implant and Oral Surgery Center for evaluation. 

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