Regardless of its severity, pain in your teeth is a symptom that requires prompt dental attention. Even if the pain subsides on its own, that doesn’t mean the issue has resolved itself. Toothaches often come back (and sometimes with a vengeance!). If your tooth or jaw is hurting, there’s a good chance that your body is telling you that something is wrong – don’t ignore it.
Not only can we find the cause of the toothache, but we can treat it and give you instructions on how to prevent unbearable toothaches in the future.
What causes toothaches?
There isn’t one single cause of toothaches, and because dental pain is usually a symptom of a more serious problem, it’s important that you see your dentist as soon as possible.
The most common causes of dental pain include:
- Tooth decay – if bacteria in plaque erodes the enamel surface of your tooth, this can expose the sensitive nerve endings within the underlying tooth structure (dentine) and can continue to infiltrate into the centre of the tooth reaching the pulp.
- Gum disease – if plaque remains beneath the gum, it can damage the bone that supports your teeth and the roots of your teeth as well. This causes teeth to loosen and ache.
- Abscesses – tooth decay and gum disease can cause an abscess to form below or alongside the tooth root, which causes pain and spreads infection.
- Trauma – if your tooth gets chipped or cracked, this can also expose the pulp and put you at risk of infection.
- Impacted teeth – if a tooth doesn’t emerge fully from the gums, it can irritate the surrounding teeth and tissues, causing pain. This is most common with wisdom teeth and other molars.
- Bruxism (teeth grinding) – if you grind your teeth at night or during the day, this causes the teeth to wear down over time exposing the sensitive middle layers of teeth and can also strain the surrounding supporting structures.
- Misaligned teeth – if your teeth are crooked or not properly aligned, this can cause uneven pressure in the mouth
- Sinusitis – The roots of your upper back teeth, in particular the molar teeth, are often in close relation with your maxillary sinuses. As such, when you have the flu or sinus-like symptoms, your teeth can start to ache on one or both sides.
How to ease discomfort
Ideally, if you have a toothache, you’d be sitting in our dental chair right away. But the reality is that toothaches don’t always strike at a convenient time. If you need some relief straight away here are few remedies that may help with discomfort in the meantime.
Saltwater helps to remove bacteria from the mouth and can reduce swelling. Add one teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and gargle for at least five seconds, then spit out without swallowing. Repeat as often as necessary.
Take a painkiller
For short-term pain management, you can also use over-the-counter pain medication that can reduce inflammation and/or pain at the site of the toothache. Always consult a pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medication.
Cold compress or ice pack
Placing a cold compress or ice pack against your cheek can help by reducing swelling. The cold can also cause numbness, offering temporary relief. We suggest taking an ice pack and holding it against your cheek or jaw where the discomfort is worst. Place a paper towel or washcloth between the cold pack and your face to keep from irritating your skin. Don’t apply ice directly to your tooth, as toothaches often cause heightened sensitivity to temperature.
Clove oil contains a chemical called eugenol which is a natural topical anesthetic. You can buy clove oil at most pharmacies. To apply, take a cotton swab or cotton ball, dip it in clove oil, and gently dab it onto the location of the toothache.
These home remedies offer quick relief from toothaches but the effect is only temporary. To eradicate the pain for good, your dentist needs to treat the cause, not the symptom.
How to prevent a toothache
When you’ve gone through the discomfort of a toothache, the last thing you want is to experience it again.
These recommendations will help, however, it is critical that you get in to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Ultimately, we can only properly address toothache causes and treatments once our dentist thoroughly examines your tooth and the area around it. If you have a toothache, please contact us immediately! The sooner we see you the sooner you’ll have relief.