Ibuprofen for Toothache Relief: Understanding Effectiveness, Dosage, and Potential Side Effects

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Tooth-related pain is extremely common.

Ibuprofen for Toothache

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , more than 40 percent of adults experienced some form of pain in their mouths in 2023.

This article informs you how ibuprofen can help ease your toothache. Learn its correct dosages and associated precautions you need to take before you get your prescription filled.

Understanding Dental Pain

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.

Pain in the tooth can be mild or severe depending on the cause. It can also occur intermittently or persistently, either of which can indicate a serious condition bubbling below the surface.

Symptoms And Causes Of Toothache

Toothache can be caused by a myriad of different causes. Some of these causes include:

What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen or brufen, popularly marketed in the U.S. under brand names Advil® and Motrin® belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can help relieve pain and inflammation related to tooth-related ailments.


It is an FDA-approved drug that is commonly used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases and rheumatoid disorders. It was initially discovered as an alternative to non-corticosteroid pharmacotherapy for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

What is it used for? 

It is a medication widely used to manage and treat diseases of inflammatory origin. This includes rheumatoid arthritis, mild to moderate pain, fever, headaches, muscle pain, back pain, dysmenorrhea (pain during menstruation), and osteoarthritis.

It has also been proven to work for pain caused by dental problems. For severe pain, brufen injections mixed with medical-grade opioids like morphine may be specially injected by a licensed medical professional.

How does it ease toothache?

There are two types of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes in the human body, namely COX-1 and COX-2. These enzymes produce compounds called prostaglandins that cause inflammation, pain, and fever.

Ibuprofen is a non-selective type of NSAID. Simply put, it works by inhibiting the activity of both COX-1 and COX-2 which thereby lowers the levels of prostaglandins made in the human body. This allows it to manage dental pain associated with inflammation.

How fast does the toothache go away?

It is a fast-acting drug. You can notice remarkable results within just 20 to 30 minutes of consuming it. The half-life of this drug is approximately 2 hours, so you can take doses every 4 to 6 hours if needed.

Proper Usage and Dosage for Adults and Children

Ibuprofen dosage

Before you start taking this medication, you need to see a dentist so that you understand the safe recommended dosage, precautions, and potential risks of taking antiinflammatory medications like Brufen. 

Recommended dosage for adults

The recommended dose for mild to moderate pain is 400 mg every 8 hours, meaning you should take it three times a day to relieve tooth pain. 

For severe pain, you can use the 3-3-3 method. Here, you need to take three Motrin’s or Advil’s (600 mg total) three times a day for three days for best results. Since this is only a temporary relief, you must follow up with a dental appointment after the three days are up.

If the pain is persistent and undiminishing, doctors may prescribe a maximum dose of 3200 mg per day (4 doses a day). However, you should never take more than 3200 mg within 24 hours as it can be deadly.

Recommended dosage for children

A child’s dose is based on his or her age and weight. Children under the age of 12 can be prescribed in liquid form (oral suspension) or chewable capsules. It is recommended to use the exact dosage prescribed by a doctor for your children.

How to take Advil / Motrin for toothache relief?

It can come in various strengths and forms. The medication can be available as capsules, tablets,  chewable tablets, dissolvable tablets, or in liquid form. Oral suspensions should be shaken thoroughly before use.

A slow-release form of ibuprofen may be available in higher concentrations including 800 mg.

A side effect of NSAIDs is indigestion and possible stomach ulcers. Therefore, you should always take it with food, and should not be taken for more than 2 weeks without the supervision of your doctor.

Safety precautions and warnings

Avoid if

You should avoid taking this drug if you:

  • If you’re allergic to NSAIDs (experienced asthma attacks, hives, swelling on the face and throat)
  • If you’ve active peptic ulcer disease as overuse of this drug can initiate or aggravate peptic ulcers in the stomach and holes in the esophagus
  • If you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy
  • If you’ve severe heart failure
  • Immediately before or after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery
  • If you’re already taking other NSAID painkillers like aspirin 

Use with caution if

You should use ibuprofen with caution if you have any of these health conditions:

  • Asthma or other allergic diseases
  • Bowel problems like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Severe heart disease
  • Severe liver disease
  • Aged 65 or over
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Coagulation or other bleeding disorders with family history
  • First and second months of pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • If you’re taking medicines like anticoagulants, antihypertensives, and others

Other over-the-counter pain medications

If taking ibuprofen is not an option, you can find fast relief from taking an OTC pain reliever that serves as an alternative.

However, it is worth mentioning that ibuprofen is more effective against toothaches than other pain relievers like acetaminophen and aspirin, one study suggests.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Paracetamol, also called acetaminophen is an effective pain medication that works best for tooth-related aches without inflammation. A popular acetaminophen brand in the U.S. is Tylenol®.

Naproxen (Aleve)

Like ibuprofen, naproxen is an anti-inflammatory drug with a longer half-life, its effect lasting twice as long up to 12 hours. Studies even suggest that it can be as effective for post-surgical dental-related pain as the narcotic drug, Vicodin®.


Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid also belongs to the class of NSAIDs used commonly to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. Popular brands in the market include Bayer®, Easprin®, and Ecotrin®.

Hypersensitivity to aspirin can cause hives, asthma, or swelling in the face or throat.


For particularly persistent throbbing pain, you can use benzocaine, a local anesthetic drug. While it is safe for a majority of adults and children, the U.S. FDA cautions against its use in children under the age of 2.

A study found that benzocaine was successful in reducing acute toothache pain.

It is available in topical gel preparations with common brands including Topex, Orajel, and Orabase. Consult your pharmacist before using this topical drug.

Home remedies for toothache

Home remedies for toothache

It is always important to maintain good oral health to prevent tooth-related problems that can cause pain and swelling. Some of these home remedies may give pain relief before you visit your dentist.

  • Use something cold like a bag of frozen peas and apply a cold compress to the side of your face with the pain. 
  • Apply a peppermint tea bag directly on the site of the pain or use peppermint oil to numb the pain.
  • Use clove oil as an alternative to peppermint oil for soothing and numbing effects.
  • Prepare a warm salt water rinse with one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out.
  • Mix half parts hydrogen peroxide with half parts water. Rinse your mouth with this mixture for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Regularly rinse your mouth with antiseptic mouthwash to remove food debris. You can also try rinsing with warm water if a mouthwash is unavailable.
  • Brush and floss your teeth regularly at least twice a day to prevent tooth decay and maintain dental health.
  • Cut down on sugary, hard, or sticky foods and drinks.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a routine dental examination and cleaning.

When to Seek Professional Help

Inflammation is one of the causes of pain in the tooth. While ibuprofen can lessen the effects of swelling and inflammation, it is only a temporary solution. Tooth-related aches should be treated immediately. 

If your tooth hurts and nothing is helping, you should see a dentist right away.


What do I do if I miss a dose?

Ibuprofen can be used when needed, so if you miss a dose you do not need to worry. However, do not miss two doses at one time if you want the most effective results.

Can I take ibuprofen with other medicines?

Ibuprofen tends to react with some medicines. If you take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory painkillers, you should skip out on taking ibuprofen. Additionally, it should not be taken together with anticoagulants, steroids, antihypertensives, and antidepressants.

Is it safe to take alcohol with ibuprofen?

It is typically safe for you to drink alcohol while taking ibuprofen. However, drinking too much alcohol while on ibuprofen can irritate your stomach.

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