When the pain of a toothache hits, it can hit like a hammer, a drill, or in a dull throb. The pain can be dull, nagging and irritating, or intense, acute, and crippling.
In some cases a tooth might only feel painful when pressure is applied to it, or when temperatures change. And even people who practice good oral hygiene can develop toothaches!
The sad news is that in Australia, in 2013, 16% of adults with natural teeth had experienced a toothache in the previous year! This is why Prevent Dental Suite wants you to know the causes of toothaches – so you can do what is possible to avoid them!
What Causes Toothaches?
If you have a toothache, it could stem from a number of causes, ranging from a cavity to an internal infection. Let’s look at some of the most common causes of dental pain.
- Tooth decay is the most common cause of a toothache. Small cavities that affect only the outer coating of the tooth are normally painless. But if decay penetrates to the inner layer of the tooth, that tooth can become very sensitive and painful. In advanced stages the decay progresses deeper into the innermost layer (pulp) resulting in intense, sharp pain.
Infection from a decayed tooth can cause death of the pulp and cause an abscess below the root of the tooth.
- Gum disease causes red, swollen, bleeding gums. But advanced gum disease can also cause toothache even in an otherwise healthy tooth. Gum infection causes inflammation of the gum and bone tissues leading to swelling, loss of bone around the teeth, and a dull pain. Gum abscess that occur in most advanced stages of gum disease (periodontitis) can also cause pain.
- Falls or accidents can cause fractured or broken teeth, which may or may not be noticeable at the moment they occur. However, they are almost certain to cause severe toothache when the fracture line reaches the pulp (containing the nerves) of the teeth. Even if the fracture line is not very deep, plaque and bacteria can accumulate in the crack and cause tooth decay.
- Tooth grinding (bruxism) can wear down or chip your teeth and put excess force on the tissues supporting them causing pain not only in the teeth but also in the jaw joints and muscles.
- Improper tooth brushing and gum disease cause the gums around the tooth to detach or recede. This causes the roots of the tooth to be exposed and can cause extreme sensitivity to cold, hot, and spicy foods. Acidic drinks can also further erode the roots and aggravate the sensitivity.
- When a wisdom tooth tries to erupt through the jaw it may cause pain if there is not enough space for it to completely come through. This may put pressure on the adjacent tooth and cause a dull ache.
- Orthodontic treatment can cause pain for brief periods of time when the braces are adjusted or tightened. This only becomes a problem if the pain lasts for more than a day or two.
- A toothache may also be caused by a problem that is not related to a tooth or the jaw. There are some conditions elsewhere in the body that can cause pain that is referred to a tooth. One of the most common causes of this is sinusitis, or a sinus infection.
How Do I Alleviate Toothache Pain If I Cannot See My Dentist Right Away?
If you suffer from a toothache should see your Prevent Dental dentist at once for diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, a toothache and the condition that is causing it can worsen. However, if you are unable to schedule an emergency appointment, the following at-home treatment can temporarily alleviate pain and inflammation from a toothache:
- Rinse with warm salt water.
- Gently floss teeth to dislodge any food particles trapped between teeth.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain.
- Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth, as it may burn the gum tissue.
- Apply an over-the-counter antiseptic containing benzocaine directly to the irritated tooth and gum to temporarily relieve pain. Direct application of oil of cloves may also help to numb the gums. The oil may be rubbed directly on the sore area, or soak a small piece of cotton and apply it to the sore tooth.
- If there has been trauma to the tooth, a cold compress may be applied on the outside cheek to relieve pain or swelling.
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