What are molars?

Molars are the big teeth in the very back of your mouth that you use for chewing and grinding food. Kids have 8 molars in total—two on each side of the upper jaw, and two on each side of the lower jaw.

Why do my kid’s molars hurt?

These are some of the common causes of molar pain:

  • A cavity is one of the most common causes of molar pain. Cavities are treated with dental fillings.

  • A tooth abscess—An abscess is an infection that has reached the soft inside part of the tooth where nerves and blood vessels are. Abscesses usually require a root canal.

  • An injured tooth—Accidents might lead to broken, cracked, or loose teeth. Small chips and cracks can be fixed with dental fillings, but large breaks might require a dental crown. Teeth that have been knocked slightly loose may or may not heal on their own.

  • Gum disease—Infected gums, caused by poor oral hygiene and untreated tooth decay can lead to pain around the teeth.

  • A loose tooth—If your child is around 9–12 years of age, they might be losing a baby molar, which could cause mild pain.

  • Teeth grinding while sleeping. This usually goes away with age, but mention it to your dentist.

  • Misaligned bite—If your child’s top and bottom teeth don’t fit together properly, this can cause pain in the teeth or jaws. Treatment usually includes orthodontics.

When should I see a dentist about molar pain?

If there is severe pain, or pain that lasts longer than a day or two, see your dentist right away. If the pain is accompanied by fever, chills, a bad taste in the mouth, or swelling in the face, see a dentist immediately, as the infection could become life-threatening.

What can I do if the dentist can’t see me right away?

For temporary help with the pain, try the following:

  • Use a topical pain reliever with benzocaine. Use only a small amount and tell your child to spit in the sink after about a minute to get rid of any leftover painkiller.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain killer such as ibuprofen (Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®).

  • An ice pack on the cheek might help with pain.

How to take care of molars

Molars are hard to keep clean, because they have lots of uneven surfaces that can trap food. When brushing molars, spend extra time on them brushing both the tops and sides. Also, ask your dentist if sealants are a good idea. This is a special plastic type of coating that prevents food from sticking to teeth and protects them from acids in the mouth.

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