Have you ever felt a dull nagging pain deep within your gums that just doesn’t seem to want to go away? Almost the instant you begin to feel the pain, you know exactly what it is, toothache. But, what if you’ve never experienced toothache before? How would you know?
Your mouth hurts, your face hurts, and your head probably does too. You’ve been feeling a little under the weather, and may be somewhat feverish, too. It hurts for you to eat, so when you do, you try to chew your food as lightly as possible, if at all. To put it plainly, you just don’t feel good. In fact, you feel down right bad and groggy. If this describes your situation, then you’re probably suffering from toothache.
Of course, many people often mistake toothache for a sinus or ear infection. But, if you try to remedy the symptoms of either of them, you will quickly come to find out that something else is causing the problem.
What is toothache?
Toothache is exactly what the name suggests. It’s a condition in which your tooth “aches.” At first glance, it seems that an easy solution for toothache would be some kind of pain reliever. Wrong! Acetaminophen or ibuprofen will on go so far to help the situation. It will stop the pain, but it won’t fix the problem. So, even though your tooth no longer aches, there could be something brewing under your gums that you’d never suspect.
Symptoms of toothache
The most common symptoms of toothache include pain in and around the tooth or gums. The pain caused by toothache can be sharp and sporadic, throbbing, or dull and constant. There are some people who only experience the pain of toothache when pressure is being applied to the affected area.
Additional symptoms of toothache include swelling of the gums around the affected tooth, a mild fever or headache, and sometimes, there will be drainage from the affected tooth due to infection. Though the pain of toothache may come and go from time to time, you should see a dentist if you experience any of these symptoms for a period lasting longer than 1 to 2 days.
What Causes Toothache?
Toothache doesn’t “just happen.” Toothache is often the result of poor dental hygiene, or dental injury or infection. But, it can also be a symptom of other health conditions like heart disease. So, if you find yourself having one, then you should be a little curious about your health. It could be something as minor as a cavity or as serious as a heart attack (being literal here).
Dental Cavities – Very often, the cause of toothache is just a cavity. A dental cavity is a hole within the outer layers of the tooth, and it is only when a person suffers from toothache that they realize that something might be wrong. In the early stages of a cavity, toothache is generally caused by sensitivity of the tooth to hot and cold, or irritation from bacteria. As the cavity grows, so does the toothache, and it can get to the point where the pulp of the tooth actually becomes infected.
Gum Disease – Gum disease also causes toothaches. Characterized by inflammation of the gingiva (soft tissue) and bone loss around the teeth, gum disease is caused by the excess buildup of plaque around the gum line. The bacteria in plaque releases toxins which are harmful to the gums and eventually, it leads to infection. Sometimes, toothache can signify a more advanced stage of gum disease in which gum pockets have actually formed around the teeth because of such severe bone loss. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to the loss of otherwise healthy teeth, and eventually, it will cause your overall health to deteriorate.
Impacted or Erupting Teeth – If the teeth are pressing together (impacted), the resulting pressure against them can result in toothache. This is very common in the molar teeth, specifically the wisdom teeth. When teeth begin to “erupt” from the gums, this can also cause toothache. The gums around the erupting teeth become swollen and sore, and the pain can be much worse in cases where the erupting teeth are impacted.
Other Causes – There are several other instances in which toothache can occur. These include cracked tooth syndrome, temporo-mandibular joint syndrome, damaged fillings, and abscess. While these are common causes of toothache, they are in no way inclusive of all causes of toothache.
How to treat toothache
In order to be able to treat toothache, it is important to find out the cause of it. Obviously, a dental exam will be necessary to get the proper diagnosis. There are, however, a few things that can be done to treat toothache, or rather, relieve the pain of it, while at home.
Before doing anything else, you should brush your teeth and floss them thoroughly. Proceed by gargling with salt and warm water, as this will help to cleanse away any debris that remains in your teeth and it helps to soothe swollen gums. You may also want to try biting a cotton ball that has been soaked in clove oil. These remedies may work to relieve the pain of toothache, but only temporarily. You may also want to try taking over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or Advil to help ease the pain.
Home treatment of toothache should, in no way, however, be a substitute for seeing your dentist. There may be a problem with your teeth that only your dentist can identify. For this reason, it is always important to see a dentist about your toothache as soon as possible.
Your dentist will be able to provide treatment for your toothache based upon the cause of it. Cavities are usually treated by filling them, and only in certain cases are other remedies necessary. If a cavity goes untreated for too long, it will get larger, and it can progress to a stage where the tooth actually becomes infected; at this point, a root canal is needed to save the tooth or it can be extracted otherwise.
If the cause of toothache is gum disease, the treatment becomes a little more complex. In the early stages of gum disease, treatment is very simple, and includes the removal of bacterial plaque along with good dental hygiene practice. If gum disease has progressed to one of the latter stages, this treatment is combined with more advanced procedures in order to try and restore oral health. Not only is a thorough dental cleaning required, but the teeth roots must be cleaned as well.
This cleaning is a two-part process that includes root planing and subgingival curettage. During root planing, the plaque and tartar buildup around the exposed teeth roots is removed; subgingival curretage is the process of removing the surface of the inflamed layer of gum tissue. Following these dental procedures, a round of oral antibiotics is usually required to fight any gum infection or abscess. If needed, further gum surgeries will be performed as a followup. Teeth splinting or extractions are usually required when gum disease has advanced to the point of bone deterioration and loosened teeth.
Treatment for impacted or erupting teeth may require antibiotics before any further procedures can be completed. Sometimes an infection may be present and this will cause extreme pain if not treated properly. Once the infection has been cured, the dentist may proceed by extracting the affected teeth. The jaw may not be large enough to support the addition of teeth, hence, this is where the problem lies in the first place.
Prevention of toothache
While nothing is a guarantee against toothache, good dental hygiene practices can help to prevent it. Brushing and flossing daily are a start. You should also see your dentist on a regular basis for professional cleanings and fluoride treatments. These steps, in addition to limiting your intake of foods that are high in sugar, will help to lower the chances of you experiencing toothache.