Dental Emergencies: DIY tooth fillings, crown fixes, pain relief, and more
At Dental Fear Central, we realise that you may be tempted to perform DIY dentistry rather than face a dentist. Before you attempt anything downright dangerous, have a look through our website and forum, and find a dentist who is right for you – he or she is out there.
Video Guide to DIY Dentistry
In this BAFTA-nominated Corona Special, dentist Lincoln Hirst teaches us the tricks of the trade. Learn how to manage broken teeth, lost fillings, and crowns that have come loose:
Pain Relief for Toothache
The best over-the-counter painkillers for toothache are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs for short. These include aspirin and ibuprofen. Generic aspirin and ibuprofen are cheaper and just as good as the branded versions (Disprin/Nurofen).
For contraindications, side-effects and maximum doses, always read the label! If you are unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Aspirin is an excellent pain reliever and can be the best choice for dental pain, it’s just not very trendy these days. Also, the acidity can cause stomach issues which can affect some people badly. But for most people, this is no big deal for short-term use. It’s best to take aspirin with food.
Don’t place aspirin on or around a sore tooth! It can burn your mouth and harm your teeth. It’s also a bit pointless, since the drugs work on pain sensors in the brain, and not on the gum or the tooth.
Aspirin tablets usually contain 300mg of aspirin. You can take 1 or 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours. Don’t take more than 12 tablets in 24 hours. Wait at least 4 hours between doses 1.
Ibuprofen is another good anti-inflammatory choice. Always read the label or check with your pharmacist to see if it is safe for you to take!
The usual dose for adults is one or two 200mg tablets 3 times a day. Your dentist may prescribe a higher dose of up to 600mg to take 4 times a day.
If you take ibuprofen 3 times a day, leave at least 6 hours between doses. If you take it 4 times a day, leave at least 4 hours between doses 2.
Paracetamol/Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is also pretty good for dental pain. Some people have reported that Paracetamol with Codeine (co-codamol) has worked for them when other pain meds wouldn’t.
The usual dose for adults is one or two 500mg tablets. You can take a maximum of 4 doses (up to eight 500mg tablets in total) in 24 hours. Wait at least 4 hours between doses 3.
Overdoses of paracetamol can cause serious side effects, so don’t be tempted to take more! Instead, combine it with other pain medicines.
Combining pain medicines
Alternating or combining ibuprofen with paracetamol can be helpful if you don’t get enough pain relief from ibuprofen on its own. You can either take them together or spaced apart (for the hours in between when the ibuprofen has worn off).
For maximum doses, follow the guidelines above.
If you have an acute infection, you may need antibiotics. Symptoms of an acute abscess can include:
- terrible pain
- a swollen face or cheek
- stuff oozing out around a tooth
- a fever.
If you’re too scared to see a dentist, visit your GP or the emergency department of your local hospital. They can prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause the infection and swelling, and thereby reduce the pain.
Antibiotics will not cure the infection permanently, but they will buy you time to find a dentist who is good with anxious patients who can help you.
Dental anaesthetic gels
Dental anaesthetic gels, pastes, or liquids, such as DenTek Instant Oral Pain Relief, Anbesol, or Orajel may provide short-term pain relief. The “maximum strength” versions usually contain 20% benzocaine. The problem is that the effect doesn’t last very long at all. So if you have a toothache, they’re usually a waste of money.
Caution: Do not use if you have a history of allergy to anaesthetics such as procaine, benzocaine, or other -caines.
More Pain Relief Tips
Don’t use oil of cloves – clove oil can give short-term relief but long term is toxic to the nerve in the tooth and could lead to needing root canal treatment.
- If a cavity is causing your toothache, try rinsing your mouth with warm water and using a toothpick to remove any food from the cavity.
- Try sleeping in a sitting position if you’re getting spontaneous night pain. The nerve and pulp chamber doesn’t get filled with fluid and blood and usually you don’t get that throbbing pain.
- If the pain is from a broken tooth and you have an exposed nerve, just covering it up may help a lot. Take a piece of sugarless chewing gum chewed up and cover the nerve and tooth.
How to stop tooth decay from getting worse
Do you have cavities but can’t see a dentist yet due to fear or finances? We have a page which explains how to stop cavities from getting worse.
Resist the temptation of superglue, and go for a dental repair kit instead. Such products are meant to be temporary measures – so don’t expect them to last long (4-5 days if you’re lucky).
You can check out DenTek’s repair and emergency kit below – other manufacturers make similar kits:
Dentek Temparin Max Temporary Crown and Filling Repair Kit
To temporarily re-cement lost crowns (“caps”) or bridges, you can use a temporary dental cement, such as Dentek Temparin. Kerr Temp-Bond may be even stronger but is harder to get hold of (it tends to be sold in quantities more suitable to dental practices, rather than end consumers). But if money is no object, it can be ordered online.
For lost fillings: Wash the cavity area with warm water and do not dry. Pinch a small amount of Temparin Max from the vial, and roll into a ball between fingers. Slightly overfill the cavity with Temparin Max and tamp into place with the applicator tool tip. Close your teeth together and gently chew or grind on the replaced filling a couple of times to create a comfortable bite. Use a moist cotton swab to remove excess Temparin Max from around the area. Avoid chewing on the repair for 2-3 hours to allow the material to fully set.
Caution: do not use this to make your own fillings for long-term use! If you don’t remove all the decay and create a perfect seal (not doable at home), the decay will spread and result in a painful abscess. You’ve got a better chance of keeping the area clean if you don’t make your own fillings.
For loose crowns (caps) or inlays/onlays: Rinse tooth area and inside of the crown or onlay with warm water and dry thoroughly with a cotton swab. Using the wooden applicator, scoop a small amount of temporary filling material and place evenly inside the crown or onlay. Place the crown or onlay on the tooth and carefully bite down, applying enough pressure to secure in position. Use a toothbrush to gently clear excess material. Avoid chewing for an hour to allow the material to set.
If you can’t get hold of a dedicated repair kit, denture adhesive may also hold crowns and bridges in place temporarily. With a lost temporary crown, it’s always better to put it back on because this prevents tooth movement, and allows you to eat. If the temp crown fits the tooth well, and you can’t get to a pharmacy or drugstore, a simple toothpaste may be enough, although a denture cream is even better.
Also watch our video featuring Lincoln Hirst at the beginning of this page for more detailed instructions!
Cosmetic DIY Dentistry
If you’re up for an artistic challenge and you enjoy needlepoint, macrame, scrapbooking, and painting ceramic penguins, then Cosmetic Dentistry may be your thing…
Set up your very own dental lab, with cosmetic teef from Imako!
Although this smacks of yet another novelty product, apparently it can work rather well. As one of our readers has said:
“It is made by Dr. Bukk, the same company that makes those “plastic” vampire teeth. They’re very popular for Halloween in the US. Anyway, it (imako) is a sort of thin shell that fits over a person’s natural teeth. It’s made (supposedly) to look like a perfect, straight set of upper teeth. Personally, I don’t think it looks all that realistic – the “teef” are bigger than my own, but it’s still a definite improvement in my case. It has a plastic backing which you melt in hot water, then mold to cover your teeth.”
If you’re very gifted, you can even create your own faux partials!
Some caveats: they’re not suitable for eating with, and don’t work if you have protruding teeth or a cross bite (lower teeth out in front of uppers). Wearing them too much is also bad for your gum health, so they should only be worn for special occasions (such as facing the world).
If the whole cosmetic smile makeover is too much of a challenge, or if you’d like to just replace a single missing tooth, you could try googling TempTooth – a tooth replacement that you can complete in minutes in the privacy of your own home. We asked a dentist what he makes of this product – here’s the answer:
“Yeah that looks interesting, but the aesthetic results are a bit mixed. It sounds like some sort of thermoplastic tooth-coloured material that people are warming up and adapting into the gap or perhaps a self-setting resin of some sort. I’d have to see the material and instructions to be able to say much more, but this wedging effect makes it sound like the material must be slightly pliable to try to lock into the undercuts around the teeth to keep it in place. It’s probably not the best thing to use, but in a pinch if it works in an emergency, why not hey? I just can’t comment on what long term effects something like that may have on the gums though.”
Caution: don’t wear a temp tooth while sleeping – it could come out and you could choke on it. Also, members of our forum haven’t had much luck with making temp teeth.
How to pull your own teeth
You shouldn’t attempt anything that’s more involved than the above in the home setting. The following is a (slightly abbreviated) post entitled “Extractions at home” which appeared on our message board – and one dentist’s answer to it.
I need to know how to pull my own tooth. What tools should I use and what type of pain killers? Do not mention seeing a dentist in your reply. Also, I need to know how to fill your own teeth. Should I use Portland cement? Also, I want to place shell teeth over a few front teeth. What glue should I use. Someone must know these answers. Also, I want to buy some fake teeth and hold them in place with wires. Also, I am presently munching cashews to get rid of my tooth abscess. It has been 3 days and my abscess has been diminishing! Now I need to protect my tooth, any ideas?
I read all of your mail, so please read all of this one! I know you expected a response like this and don’t really want to hear it, but it is all true.
When I was a dental student they showed us pictures of a dentist who did his own treatment. He did it in the surgery (not at home) and obviously was a qualified dentist. His teeth looked terrible and he ended up losing several of them. I have also heard stories of dentists trying to do their own extractions, using the correct tools they still get themselves into a lot of bother and end up having to admit to their colleagues that they have made things worse by trying to save the embarrassment of going for an extraction. No one ever considers the dentists out there who need dental treatment, a lot of them have issues about it too!!
I don’t know the reasons why you previously did not want to go to a dentist, but unfortunately, DIY dentistry will not now solve your problem. At home, you could never remove all the decay in a tooth before filling it, and anything you placed in the tooth would leak, or kill the nerve. If you attempted an extraction you could end up fracturing the tooth, making it harder to get out when it flares up again. All the techniques we use in the surgery are tried and tested – and safe.
Remember even dentists need dentists! Please do not try to do this on your own. Go to the dentist and at least talk things through. It will be less painful, look better and cost you less in terms of your general health and in finances in the long run.
I know that you did not want this type of response! I apologise for disregarding your request for no ‘go to the dentist’ responses. I also cannot answer any of your other questions for the reason that there is no good answer. There is nothing that you could do at home that wouldn’t be extremely risky to your dental and general health. Sorry.
I do hope that you manage to get things sorted out. You may even be surprised by how much easier it all is after you have talked things through with a dentist you can relate to. You can obviously handle pain or you wouldn’t be considering such drastic action by your own hand. Anything you did to yourself would hurt 100 times more than it would in the surgery! So I know that you are no coward. Perhaps it is feeling out of control that is the problem? With the right dentist and the right management this need not be a problem – see how well so many others on this forum have got on.
Handling Dental Emergencies (American Dental Association)
“Where There is No Dentist”, by Murray Dickson, Michael Blake, Joan Thompson. Hesperian Foundation (15th updated printing 2018). A rollicking good read, according to this rave review on Amazon.com:
“Too bad there aren’t more writer’s of the same mind, filling in the gap between costly expertise and layman stricture. The book is a well-balanced work between hand-drawn illustrations and simple, succinct text, explaining procedures for teeth cleaning, pulling, simple filling, broken teeth, etc… and describes how to construct the necessary instruments and materials out of what bits can be found at hand, for all the procedures. At one end, we pay for the dentist’s scent & muzak, at the other, with this book, they discard the intervening fluff and tripe and get something done themselves.”
Are you considering DIY dentistry? Before you go too far, consider joining our dental phobia support forum!