3 Year Old Says Teeth Hurt: Common Tooth Pain Causes

3 Year Old Says Teeth Hurt: So, you’ve got an unhappy toddler driving you crazy with tooth pain? What do I do, how do I make their pain go away!!? How do I look after their teeth!!  I get it, it can feel super frustrating having to see your toddler in pain, let alone without knowing what to do to make it better or know if you need to visit the dentist or the doctor!

All of the tips and information below are from both my learned experience with both of my toddlers and the advice of professionals’ we have spoken with and researched. 

What follows in this post are not only tips to help you with coping with tooth pain in your child, when to take them to the dentist and how to look after their teeth moving forward! So, without further ado….

Table of Contents

3 Year Old Says Teeth Hurt: Signs Your Child Needs To See A Dentist NOW

1. “My Teeth Hurt”

When your child complains of tooth ache, it isn’t necessarily due to a cavity. Your child’s tooth ache could be caused by a variety of factors, including a new tooth breaking through (and, randomly, sinus problems!). If your child does have dental pain, though, you should still be on the watch for cavities.

Request that your child point to the tooth that is irritating them or the area where they are experiencing discomfort. Even when your toddler isn’t eating or drinking, cavities in the teeth ache. This is why tooth pain might indicate the presence of a cavity.

3 year old says teeth hurt

2. “My Gums Hurt”

If your child complains of gum pain, it’s possible that they’re misinterpreting the source of the discomfort. This is more common in toddlers than in older children, but if your child complains of gum pain, it’s still a good idea to check for cavities or get a dentist to check for gum disease.

Another reason gum pain could be linked to a cavity is because poor brushing can irritated gums. If your child is old enough to brush his or her own teeth (and most 3 year old’s should be!!), double-check that they’re doing it correctly, if they’re brushing at all. Irritated gums can indicate that your youngster isn’t brushing properly (my toddler loves to just suck the toothpaste off and say that he is done!)

3. There are Spots on Your Child’s Teeth/Tooth

Have you noticed your child’s teeth have white or brown chalky spots on the tooth enamel? These are symptoms that your child’s tooth is developing a cavity and will 99% be the cause ofyour child’s toothache. Tooth decay is sometimes indicated by dark areas around the tooth.

A tooth that is developing a cavity will start to deteriorate. As the decaying process advances, dark spots on the tooth will appear before the entire tooth darkens. ABSOLUTELY time to visit the dentist!!! 

4. “It Hurts to Eat”

3 year old says teeth hurt

If a child who has language skills is in discomfort when chewing, they will be able to tell you about it. Try to pick up on strange habits in younger children or children who are unable to communicate their concerns. For example, if your child doesn’t seem to be eating as much as usual, you should examine their teeth for cavities or loose teeth.

Chewing will be painful if you have a cavity in your tooth. A toddler may be able to specify a specific tooth that is causing them pain when chewing, but it is more likely that an area in their mouth is causing them discomfort rather than a specific tooth. The best way to check is a visit to the dentist! 

5. Child Complains of Sensitive Teeth

Keep in mind that tooth cavities might produce pain only when particular items are eaten or chewed. When your child eats specific foods (cold, hot, high sugar etc), does he or she experience dental sensitivity? Just as with adult teeth, you should check for cavities if he or she exclusively complains of sensitivity or pain when eating a specific item.

6. You’ve Noticed A Hole

Get. to. the. dentist. NOW. 

The presence of a hole/holes in your child’s teeth is one of the last symptoms that he or she has a cavity and is the king of dental problems. One of the most common and certain indicators of a cavity is a hole in a tooth. You might get your toddler to open his or her mouth and look for holes in all of his or her teeth.

Once a cavity begins to eat away at a tooth, the tooth as a whole becomes more fragile. As a result, teeth with cavities are more likely to suffer cracks or chips. A chipped or cracked tooth does not automatically indicate the presence of a cavity, as damage might occur as a result of an accident, but you should look for cavities to be safe.

3 Year Old Says Teeth Hurt: How to Ease The Pain

3 year old says teeth hurt

Home Remedies for Child’s Tooth Pain

Many simple home remedies can help to relieve teething pain. Give these a go:

  • Rubbing the gums with a clean finger.
  • Having the child hold a cold spoon between their teeth.
  • Having the child bite on a cold, wet gauze pad or a washcloth soaked in ice water.
  • Offering teething rings for chewing. The rings should be made from firm rubber and should not be frozen. Rings that are too hard can hurt the child. Try The Molar Magician for molar pain.
  • Applying moisturizers regularly to the skin around the mouth to prevent cracking and dryness caused by drooling.
  • Distraction techniques, such as coloring, singing songs, and dancing, can also help to take a child’s mind off their aching teeth.

Parents and caregivers should always observe children who are using a teething toy, a spoon, or another device to relieve the pain.

Medication for Child’s Tooth Pain

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) remains the most recommended pain relief medication for babies and toddlers. NSAIDs such as aspirin (Bufferin), ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) shouldn’t be given to children with asthma.

Benzocaine-containing products may be given to tots ages 2 and older, but you should always ask a doctor first. These usually come in sprays or gels, such as Orajel. You might consider this as a last resort, or use benzocaine only for sudden episodes of sharp pain. This will reduce the chances of your child swallowing the product.

What Should My Child Eat With Tooth Pain?

Your toddler might drool more and become fussy more quickly during mealtime. Plan meals around their symptoms—choose foods that are easy to swallow and don’t take a lot of work to eat. – try to avoid hard foods Here are a few food ideas for your toddler who is in pain:

  • smoothies
  • mashed banana
  • soup / stew
  • purees a-la when first introducing food
  • frozen fruit

Items to Avoid When Dealing With Toddler Tooth Pain

Don’t give your child any devices that hang around their neck, like the so-called amber teething necklaces to fix the pain of sensitive teeth. Not only do these present choking and strangulation hazards, but there is no scientific proof that they actually work (controversial, sorry).

You should also avoid letting your child chew on hard plastic toys. These can hurt your child’s new teeth, and there may be a risk of BPA exposure. 

How To Look After my Toddlers Teeth?

toddler & mum

All children should have their first dental visit within 6 months after the first baby teeth but no later than the child’s first birthday (FYI – Freddie had his first dental visit at around 18 months so, whatever!).

Still, it’s important that you start teaching your child to take care of their teeth from an early age. As soon as a tooth cuts, be sure you (or your toddler, if they’re on top of them) gently brush on and around them with fluoride toothpaste then think about making an appointment with the child’s dentist.

For children under 3 years, use no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children 3 to 6 years, use no more than a pea-sized amount. Y

oung children should be supervised while brushing. Cavities tend to be most common in and between the molars, especially in young children who can’t floss and brush the back teeth as well as the front. Being mindful of the position of the molars can help in preventing cavities and tooth decay. 

For more info, see our post on toddler teeth brushing

Toddler Tooth Pain: Essential Resources

3 year Old Says Teeth Hurt: FAQS

Q: Why would a 3-year-old’s teeth hurt? A: There can be several reasons why a child’s teeth might hurt at this age. Some common causes include tooth decay, teething, gum inflammation, or an injury to the mouth.

Q: How can I determine the cause of my child’s tooth pain? A: It can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause without a professional examination. Look for signs of tooth decay, such as visible cavities or discoloration. Check for swollen or red gums or any visible injuries. If you’re unsure, consult a pediatric dentist for a thorough evaluation.

Q: Should I be concerned about my child’s tooth pain? A: While occasional tooth sensitivity or discomfort can be normal, persistent or severe pain may require attention. If your child is experiencing prolonged or worsening pain, it’s best to consult a dentist to rule out any underlying dental issues.

Q: What can I do to relieve my child’s tooth pain at home? A: Start by gently rinsing your child’s mouth with warm water to remove any food particles. Use a clean finger or a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently clean around the affected tooth. If your child is experiencing teething pain, you can offer them a cold teething ring, cold foods or a clean, chilled washcloth to chew on.

Over-the-counter children’s pain relief medication (following appropriate dosage instructions) can be used if recommended by a pediatrician or dentist.

Q: When should I take my child to a dentist? A: If your child’s tooth pain persists for more than a day or two, or if you notice any concerning symptoms like swelling, pus discharge, or fever, it’s important to schedule a dental appointment promptly.

Although some parents think because the permanent teeth aren’t here yet, that it’s not worth the cost, but a dentist can diagnose the issue and recommend appropriate treatment.

Q: How can I prevent tooth pain in my 3-year-old? A: To promote good oral health and reduce the risk of tooth pain and gum line infection, establish a routine of regular brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Limit sugary snacks and drinks, encourage a balanced diet, and ensure your child sees a dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.

Why trust My Toddler Life?

My Toddler Life is run by mum’s, for mum’s. All information provided on our site is thoroughly researched and takes in to consideration our lived experiences and the opinions of industry professionals. How are we different from other sites doing the same thing? We have fun while doing it (often with a glass of wine in hand) and don’t take ourselves too seriously!

3 year Old Says Teeth Hurt: To wrap it all up…

Thank you for making it this far with me. I hope that at least one of these tips & images resonates with you & your family when it comes to your toddler and tooth pain. We’ve had a look at what to do about tooth pain and signs you should absolutely take your toddler to the dentist. I’ve then provided a brief guide on how to look after your toddler’s teeth moving forward.

I hope it’s all been helpful – please comment below with any tips I may have forgotten! And if you need any further tips on toddler teeth, don’t forget to check out this post here!


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