foods to eat when you have a toothache

Foods to eat when you have a toothache can make all the difference in managing pain and discomfort until professional dental treatment can be obtained.

In fact, a toothache can disrupt even the simplest of life’s pleasures, like enjoying a hearty meal. The intense pain seems to permeate through your whole mouth, making something as instinctive as eating a daunting task.

However, while the first reaction might be to avoid all foods entirely, the key is choosing options that provide comfort rather than exacerbating the discomfort.

This article explores the best options to minimize misery, while avoiding foods likely to exacerbate inflammation, and provides guidance to promote healing.

A toothache can be one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences. The throbbing, aching sensation not only affects your oral health but also disrupts your ability to eat, speak, and carry out daily functions.

When faced with dental pain, your diet becomes significantly limited, as the act of chewing and consuming certain foods can exacerbate the discomfort.

However, completely avoiding food while experiencing a toothache can lead to nutritional deficiencies and hunger pangs.

The key is finding the right balance of nourishing foods that are also gentle on your aching tooth. Certain foods are recommended as they glide over the sore areas in your mouth, providing nutrition without causing further irritation.

Here are some of the best options to add to your diet when faced with tooth sensitivity or more severe dental pain:

1. Soft, Smooth Foods

Foods that require minimal chewing and are soft, smooth, and easy to swallow are ideal during a toothache.

The less you need to bite or chew, the lower the chance of aggravating your sore tooth and gums. Some of the best smooth food options include:

  • Yogurt – Opt for plain yogurt without added sugars or fruit chunks, which can provide a cooling, soothing effect.
  • Applesauce – Provides the sweetness and nutrition of apples in a pureed form that slides down easily.
  • Mashed potatoes – Warm, soft, and nutritious, mashed potatoes are a classic choice.
  • Mashed fruits and vegetables – Blending or pureeing your favorite produce makes it simpler to eat.
  • Pudding and custard – These classic soft desserts are unlikely to cause discomfort.
  • Porridge – Warm, creamy options like oatmeal provide the comfort of breakfast.
  • Soup – Broth-based soups with soft ingredients are ideal, as long as they aren’t too hot.

2. Cold Foods

In addition to being soft, certain cold foods can provide a numbing effect on the painful tooth. The chilled temperature helps constrict the blood vessels, reducing inflammation and soreness.

Some dentists recommend starting with cold foods and then slowly progressing to room temperature options. Excellent cold choices include:

  • Ice cream – Just be cautious of chunks or nuts that require chewing.
  • Popsicles – Great for hydration and numbing.
  • Cold beverages – Milkshakes, smoothies, and even chilled water can offer relief.
  • Cold fruits – Melons, peeled peeled peaches, and berries.
  • Yogurt – Especially Greek yogurt and yogurt pops.
  • Cottage cheese – High protein and cold from the fridge.
  • Gelatin and pudding – Choose sugar-free options.

3. Soothing Ingredients

Certain foods contain compounds that are naturally soothing for oral pain. Incorporating ingredients like mint, ginger, cloves, garlic, aloe vera, salt water, and green tea can offer anti-inflammatory and mild numbing effects. Some examples include:

  • Mint tea – Brew a strong cup for sipping or swishing.
  • Ginger tea – Gargle this warm brew to ease a sore throat and mouth.
  • Honey – Has antimicrobial effects and coats the throat.
  • Garlic – Contains compounds that relieve tooth discomfort.
  • Saltwater – Create a rinse to wash away food particles.
  • Aloe vera – Use the gel or juice to coat the gums and tongue.

4. Soft Proteins

Getting adequate protein is essential, even when you have difficulty chewing. Opt for soft proteins that are tender and simple to eat, such as:

  • Eggs – Scrambled, poached, soft-boiled, or in gentle omelets.
  • Tofu – Blend into smoothies or eat soft silken varieties.
  • Yogurt and cheese – Preferred options like ricotta or cottage cheese.
  • Tuna, salmon, and white fish – Choose canned, cooked, or steamed fish.
  • Ground meat – Lightly cooked or simmered in a sauce.
  • Nut butter – High in protein, spread on soft bread.
  • Milk – Or add it to oatmeal, mashed potatoes, or smoothies.

While temporarily numbing the pain, the ultimate goal is targeting the inflammation behind your toothache. Certain foods contain compounds that reduce inflammation and swelling that puts pressure on delicate tooth nerves.

Options like ginger, garlic, aloe vera, green tea, nuts, and olive oil have natural anti-inflammatory properties.

Ginger root can be steeped into a tea then gargled to coat the mouth and throat. The active components called gingerols provide pain-relieving effects by inhibiting inflammatory compounds like cytokines and prostaglandins.

Fresh garlic also contains the compound allicin which displays anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anesthetic effects that can ease oral discomfort.

Green tea has antioxidant ingredients called catechins that reduce inflammation while also combatting bacteria behind dental infections and decay.

Foods rich in vitamin E like almonds, hazelnuts, and olive oil help counter inflammation as an antioxidant. Aloe vera gel and turmeric contain compounds that inhibit the COX-2 enzyme involved in inflammatory responses.

A diet filled with fruits and vegetables provides vitamin C to strengthen tissues and minerals to improve oral health.

Options like citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes, and strawberries increase collagen production and offer vitamin C for connective tissue repair. Just avoid highly acidic produce against exposed dentin.

It can be just as important to know which foods to avoid as it is to choose the right options to eat during a toothache. Any foods that are crunchy, chewy, hard, or spicy are more likely to put pressure on your sore tooth, banging against exposed nerves. It’s best to steer clear of:

  • Hard vegetables – Raw carrots, celery, broccoli, and more.
  • Tough meats – Steak, pork chops, chicken wings require vigorous chewing.
  • Crunchy granola and nuts – Anything hard or chunky.
  • Crisp crackers – Such as rice cakes or granola bars.
  • Toast and hard bread – Opt for soft options or dunk in milk.
  • Spicy seasonings – Chili powder, hot sauce, everything with a kick.
  • Salty foods – Can irritate mouth sores or inflamed gums.
  • Acidic produce – Citrus fruits, pineapple, tomato.
  • Carbonated beverages – The bubbles can be painful.
  • Crunchy chips, pretzels, and popcorn – Better to avoid these favorites.
  • Sticky candy – Can pull at sensitive teeth.
  • Chewy caramels – Are likely to get stuck in grooves.

The cardinal rules are to choose soft, smooth, and cool foods that slide easily down the throat. This allows you to maintain your strength and nutrition without exacerbating your oral discomfort.

While these dietary adjustments can minimize pain, it’s also vital to schedule an urgent dental appointment.

Getting to the root cause of your toothache with professional treatment is crucial for healing.

In the meantime, experiment with the safest food options and resist the temptation to chew or bite down on anything hard or crunchy.

With the right balance of nutritious, soothing choices, you can keep up your calories and energy despite the dental distress.

Pay attention to any specific triggers and find the recipes and ingredients that offer you the most relief. With a tooth-friendly diet in place, you can mitigate mealtime misery.

Certain foods naturally contain acids or compounds that irritate inflamed nerves or dental injuries, exacerbating your tooth pain.

Foods that are highly acidic, like citrus fruits, pineapple, and tomatoes, can cause a stinging sensation against exposed dentin, enamel erosion, or irritated gums.

Spicy seasonings like chili powder, hot sauce, cloves, or black pepper can inflame nerves. Crunchy foods like nuts, seeds, popcorn kernels, or chips may bang against cracked teeth.

Hard foods like raw veggies, nuts, beef jerky, or candy can put excessive pressure on damaged areas. Sticky foods like caramel, dried fruit, or peanut butter can pull at sensitive teeth and fillings.

Sugary foods feed the bad bacteria behind cavities and decay while salty snacks lead to dry mouth. Carbonated drinks have acidic pH levels that degrade enamel and fizzy bubbles that sting open nerves.

Alcohol and caffeine dry the mouth while menthol and eugenol in dental products further numb pain receptors. Identifying and avoiding foods that aggravate your specific dental issue is key to minimizing discomfort until you can receive treatment.

Beverages can either help soothe a toothache or potentially make symptoms worse depending on ingredients and temperature.

Cold drinks are useful for numbing, so long as ice directly touching teeth is avoided. Lukewarm soup broths hydrate without extreme temperatures.

Caffeinated and alcoholic drinks should be avoided, as these can dry out the mouth and exacerbate dehydration.

Carbonated drinks with bubbles can cause stinging sensations against irritated areas. Chamomile, green, or ginger tea offer anti-inflammatory relief – just ensure they aren’t scalding hot.

Smoothies, protein shakes, and fruit juices may quench thirst and provide nutrients, but watch for citric acid or sugary ingredients.

While tap water lacks nutrients, it helps cleanse the mouth of debris that can aggravate pain. Ideally, aim for cool, non-carbonated options that hydrate without harsh ingredients.

There are conflicting schools of thought on ice cream for toothaches. On one hand, the cold temperature provides numbing relief by constricting blood vessels and slowing nerve conduction. The smooth, creamy texture also requires minimal chewing pressure.

However, ice cream contains sugar that feeds decay-causing bacteria. Chocolate chips, nuts, and candy in some varieties can bang against a sore tooth. Extreme temperatures from very cold to melted softness can shock nerves.

The optimal approach may be a small portion of plain ice cream allowed to soften slightly before consuming.

Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin can temporarily reduce toothache discomfort until dental treatment is obtained. Ibuprofen tends to be the most effective in blocking inflammation behind dental pain.

The key is using oral pain relievers properly by not exceeding dosage limits, avoiding combining medications, and not relying on them long-term in place of dental care.

Topical numbing gels containing lidocaine can also help when applied directly to the affected area. Only use OTC dental painkillers for short-term relief and seek professional help.

1. Does brushing teeth help toothache?

Gentle brushing can dislodge some food debris caught near an irritated tooth. It spreads fluoride toothpaste over teeth, which strengthens enamel. Brushing increases saliva flow to wash away bacteria and acids.

However, vigorous brushing can damage exposed dentin and bang on a loose filling or cracked tooth. Use a soft brush and small circular motions, avoiding direct pressure on painful areas.

There are also salt water, clove, oregano, and peppermint rinses that can disinfect the mouth after brushing.

2. Why does milk help toothache?

There are a few reasons why a glass of cold milk can offer relief from a toothache. First, it washes away acid and sugars coating teeth that cause further irritation.

Milk also contains vitamin D for bone and tooth health and protein for tissue repair. The cold temperature numbs painful areas and the liquid form requires no chewing.

Additionally, milk creates a temporary barrier over exposed dentin, shielding nerves. However, the lactose sugar in milk could potentially feed bacteria leading to more decay.

Overall, it provides several soothing mechanisms but dental treatment is still needed.

3. Can I drink coffee with toothache?

Coffee is not typically recommended, as the heat can inflame already irritated nerves. Caffeine also restricts blood flow, which counters the body’s inflammation response.

Coffee stains the teeth, allowing more bacteria to adhere to surfaces. Acids in coffee erode protective enamel.

However, a room-temperature iced coffee with milk could provide soothing coldness and wash away debris.

The goal is to avoid temperature extremes, limiting staining and erosion, while utilizing the thick, creamy texture of dairy to coat teeth.

4. Why should you avoid sugary foods and drinks when experiencing a toothache?

Bacteria feed on the sugars in carbohydrates and beverages, releasing eroding acid as a byproduct that decalcifies tooth enamel.

This acid also inflames the inner pulp of the tooth. Sugars allow bacteria to grow and multiply, increasing plaque buildup and risk of decay.

Sticky candies and dried fruits adhere to teeth surfaces, coating them in sugar. Sodas, even diet varieties, contain citric and phosphoric acid that erodes enamel.

Sugary foods essentially supply fuel for the issues causing and worsening your tooth pain, so limiting intake can minimize damage.

5. How can a saltwater rinse help after consuming certain foods?

Warm salt water rinses are recommended after meals because salt acts as an antimicrobial, flushing away lingering oral bacteria.

Salt also draws out fluid, reducing the swelling of inflamed gums. Rinsing dislodges trapped food debris that could aggravate tooth pain. Finally, salt water eases inflammation and lubricates tissues.

However, salt can irritate existing mouth sores or cuts. Use a ratio of 1 teaspoon salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water.

Swish gently for 30 seconds then spit out. Repeat with plain water to avoid too much salt exposure.

6. How can foods rich in vitamin C aid in reducing tooth pain?

Vitamin C aids collagen production which is needed for connective tissue repair and wound healing after dental injuries.

It also boosts the immune response to clear harmful bacteria reducing inflammation and potential infection. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties protect against cell damage.

Foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes speed up recovery from gum trauma, mouth sores, and procedures like wisdom teeth removal that can contribute to toothaches.

Just avoid highly acidic sources against exposed dentin.

7. How do you manage pain when eating with a toothache?

The key is identifying the foods that provide comfort versus those that aggravate your specific dental issue.

Stick to a soft diet of broths, smoothies, mashed vegetables, and proteins that slide over sore spots. Use room temperature or cool foods to numb inflammation.

Avoid hard, crunchy, spicy, sugary, or acidic options that put pressure on damaged areas. Take small bites and chew on the side opposite your pain.

Coat sharp tooth edges with dental wax for temporary smoothing. Stay hydrated and use oral rinses to keep your mouth clean after meals. Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide additional relief.

In conclusion, toothaches certainly limit food enjoyment, but being strategic with your diet can help minimize mealtime pain.

Prioritize soft, smooth, cool foods and ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties while limiting exposure to foods that could worsen nerve irritation.

Most importantly, see your dentist to diagnose and properly treat the cause of your tooth pain for lasting relief.

Useful Links:

Prevalence of Toothache and Associated Factors: A Population-Based Study in Southeast Iran

Six common causes of tooth pain

Dental pain and self-care: a cross-sectional study of people with low socio-economic status residing in rural India