What causes sore teeth?

Sore teeth may occur at any age for a variety of reasons. In children, there are a few common causes of sore teeth we see most often.


Babies and young children often get sore teeth and gums when teeth are erupting. Their teething pain can be soothed with a teething ring (try chilling it in the refrigerator first) or teething gel. Sore teeth during teething may cause your baby to be grizzly, febrile and generally a little unwell. Many parents understand that extra saliva will develop when a child is teething. This is accurate and requires no intervention. However it’s important to note that around 4 months old, all babies can produce excessive saliva in order to assist their digestion of solids. This doesn’t mean your 4 month old is teething, and it is perfectly normal.

 Food particles

If food becomes stuck between teeth, this can irritate the child’s mouth and cause pain. If your child complains of a sore tooth or mouth, check for food particles and gently floss to remove from teeth. Check for a chipped tooth or filling, as these can also lead to sore teeth.


Toothache or pain may be caused by an infection, resulting from tooth decay, a cracked or broken tooth or periodontal disease. This results from bacteria entering the tooth’s soft tissue (pulp). This can result in sore teeth if they are affected by a trauma, an infection or if the tooth structure itself is compromised.

How are sore teeth treated?

If your child has a toothache, they need to see a dentist to identify the cause and get treatment before the toothache gets worse. If you can’t get to a dentist immediately, try rinsing your child’s mouth with plain warm water or water with salt. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel can also be placed on the outside of the mouth over the sore area.

Over the counter children’s pain relievers can help temporarily ease tooth pain, but make sure you follow the dosage instructions for your child’s age and weight. If your child is very young, you may be able to distract them from the pain by reading or singing to them or allowing them to watch a favourite movie.

If your child looks or acts very sick, or has fever or swelling, contact a dentist or doctor immediately. Any abscess needs to be treated by a dentist before it results in serious infection in the teeth, jaw bone or other tissues.