Toothache pain is one of the worst kinds of pain to experience. Whether the pain is sharp and stabbing or dull and aching, it can interfere with your ability to eat, talk, and complete normal life obligations. The good news is that toothaches are highly treatable, and the methods used to treat them have been highly perfected by dentists over the years. There are also plenty of steps you can take to prevent tooth pain in the future.
Causes of Toothaches
Any sort of injury or damage to the tooth itself or to the tissues surrounding a tooth can cause a toothache. Tooth pain ranges in severity from mild to severe. Sometimes it may be constant, and other times it may fade in and out. The most common causes of tooth pain include:
Cavities and Damaged Fillings
Cavities don't usually cause any symptoms when they first appear and are small. However, if you do not have a cavity filled promptly, it will continue to grow. Eventually, the decay will extend through the enamel and into the dentin portion of the tooth where it begins to irritate the nerves. If you previously had a cavity filled and the filling cracks or becomes displaced, decay can also set in around the damaged filling, leading to tooth pain.
Cracked and Chipped Teeth
If you crack or chip a tooth while playing sports, chewing, or in an accident, this may lead to tooth pain. Sometimes patients do not realize they have cracked a tooth until the pain later develops.
Bruxism, or clenching and grinding of the teeth, can irritate the nerves leading to those teeth, sometimes resulting in toothaches. If you are waking up with toothaches that subside throughout the day, you may be grinding or clenching your teeth at night. Some people also grind or clench their teeth when they are under stress.
If your toothache is accompanied by a fever or pus exuding from your gums or from around the tooth, there's a good chance a dental abscess is to blame. A dental abscess is an infection of the tooth root that can also spread into the surrounding gum and jaw bone tissue. Abscesses are often caused by tooth decay that is left untreated.
Exposed Tooth Roots
If you have serious gum disease resulting in gum recession, your teeth may become painful and sensitive due to the exposure of the nerves near the surface of the roots.
Patients whose wisdom teeth are impacted often experience toothaches as the impacted wisdom teeth put pressure on the other teeth, causing them to shift. One or more teeth may be painful, depending on which wisdom teeth are impacted and how they are oriented in your jaw.
Whenever you have a toothache, it's important to seek professional dental care. If your tooth pain is accompanied by a high fever or serious swelling, you may have an abscessed tooth, and you should seek treatment at an emergency dental clinic to make sure the infection does not spread. Otherwise, you can wait to seek treatment until your regular dental office is open.
When you arrive at your dentist's office seeking toothache relief, they will determine the cause of your toothache and then recommend a specific treatment approach based on the cause. Common toothache treatments include the following.
Dental Fillings and Crowns
If your dentist discovers that a cavity or damaged filling is to blame for your toothache, he or she can remove the decayed tooth material and fill the resulting hole. If the decay is excessive, your dentist may cover the tooth with a crown, which is like a cap for your tooth. The crown will prevent contact between saliva or air and the sensitive nerves in your tooth, which will ease your pain. Your tooth may continue to be a bit sensitive for a few days after having a filling or crown put into place, but this sensitivity should soon subside. Using sensitivity toothpaste can help expedite the process.
If a cracked or chipped tooth is to blame for your tooth pain, your dentist may also recommend a crown to protect and support the tooth. Dental bonding, a procedure very similar to having a filling placed, may be recommended to fill in small cracks and chips.
When a toothache is due to an abscessed tooth, your dentist may perform a procedure called a root canal. A hole is drilled in the center of your tooth, and the infected tooth pulp is removed from within the tooth's roots. The roots are then filled with a synthetic material, and the tooth is covered with a crown for added protection.
Some patients fear root canals because they are thought to be painful. But in fact, root canals are performed under local anesthesia, and you should experience relief from your toothache as soon as the procedure is complete. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to help your body fight off any lingering bacteria.
If your tooth is badly decayed and also abscessed, your dentist may not be able to save it, even with a root canal. Instead, he or she may need to extract the tooth. Extractions are generally performed under local anesthesia, and although you will have some discomfort for a few days as your empty tooth socket heals, most patients are relieved that their toothache pain subsides once the tooth is removed.
If an impacted wisdom tooth is pushing on your other teeth, your dentist may also recommend having it removed. Removing an impacted wisdom tooth will help prevent future problems like a misaligned bite, dental abscesses, and ongoing tooth pain.
Patients who grind their teeth can be fitted with mouth guards to prevent this behavior. Not only will wearing a mouth guard prevent tooth pain from grinding your teeth, but it will also protect your teeth from enamel damage and excessive wear.
Gum Disease Treatments
If receding gums have left your tooth roots exposed and sensitive, your dentist may recommend a procedure called gum grafting to help cover the exposed tooth roots. Tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth and grafted to your gums. Another procedure called root scaling may also be used to clean the tooth roots and stop gum disease from progressing further.
Toothache Relief at Home
To temporarily ease tooth pain at home, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen. Only take the dose recommended on the bottle. You can also purchase some clove oil from a local pharmacy and apply a drop of clove oil to the sore tooth. Clove oil naturally calms down nerve endings and may give you a few hours or relief from the pain. Some patients find that holding an ice pack or a bag of frozen veggies against the outside of their mouth provides toothache relief. You may also want to sip cold beverages or rinse your mouth with salt water.
How to Prevent Toothaches
Tooth pain can be overwhelming, even if you do have it treated promptly. So it is wise to do all you can to prevent toothaches. Here are a few preventative measures to get you started.
Wear a Mouthguard When Playing Sports
To prevent cracks and chips that may later lead to toothaches, always wear a good mouth guard when playing contact sports. If you are hit in the mouth and think you may have cracked a tooth, make an appointment with your dentist even if you are not experiencing any pain yet.
Brush, Floss, and See Your Dentist
Good oral hygiene will help prevent tooth decay that can lead to abscesses, gum disease, and filling failure. Remember to brush for two minutes twice per day, using a soft toothbrush. Floss daily, and make sure you see your dental hygienist for regular cleaning appointments.
Professional dental cleaning removes tartar, a hardened form of plaque that increases your risk of gum disease and tooth decay. You cannot remove plaque at home, so even great at-home tooth care is not a substitute for regular dental cleanings. Search for "dentist near me" if you are looking for a new dentist to visit for cleaning appointments.
Have Wisdom Teeth Removed as Recommended
If your dentist informs you that your wisdom teeth are impacted and need to be removed, follow through with this procedure promptly rather than waiting for tooth pain to appear. Impacted wisdom teeth do not get better on their own, and the extraction is a lot simpler when you are young and not yet suffering from tooth pain.
Toothache Relief From a Dentist Near Me
Do not put off seeking toothache relief from a dentist near you. Most of the conditions that cause toothaches, from abscesses to cavities, become worse the longer you leave them untreated. There are a handful of convenient offices near your location! Visit our “dentist near me” Zip search tool for online appointment scheduling, where our professional staff will to figure out the cause of your toothache and how to best treat it.