Toothache – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What Causes Toothache

Toothache refers to pain in and around the teeth and jaws. The pain can come and go, be mild or severe. It may feel like a sharp pain that suddenly hits when eating or drinking hot or cold foods. Toothache can also be a constant dull ache or throbbing, often worse at night. An infected tooth may also cause fever or headache.

It can be hard to pinpoint the exact location of toothache. Pain from lower molar teeth may feel like it’s coming from the ear. Upper tooth pain can seem to come from the sinuses, behind the cheekbones and forehead. The jaw near the sore tooth may also be tender.

Toothache is usually caused by inflammation of the pulp inside the tooth. The pulp contains sensitive nerves and blood vessels. Inflammation occurs due to:

  • Tooth decay – holes in the enamel let bacteria reach the pulp.
  • Cracks in the tooth.
  • Exposed dentine from receding gums.
  • Decay under old fillings.
  • Dental treatments irritating the pulp.
  • Abscesses at the tooth root caused by infection.

Warning Signs Not to Ignore

While toothache is often caused by dental problems, sometimes jaw pain can indicate something more serious. Below are some warning signs that require prompt medical attention:

  • Pain accompanied by swelling of the jaw, neck, or face could indicate a dental abscess. Abscesses should be treated quickly to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Toothache combined with difficulty breathing or swallowing may be a sign of infection spreading from the tooth to other areas.
  • Numbness or altered sensation in the face, mouth, or neck is a red flag for nerve damage. This requires emergency dental care.
  • Unexplained toothache that is not linked to a dental cause needs investigation to rule out heart problems or other underlying medical conditions.

So while common toothaches can often be temporarily treated at home until you see a dentist, any severe, unusual pain or accompanying symptoms should be urgently assessed. Don’t delay in seeking help if tooth pain seems abnormal.

Diagnosing Toothache

The dentist will ask about your pain and examine your mouth. X-rays help identify the problem.

Treating Toothache

Before seeing a dentist, try:

  • Avoid hot, cold or sweet foods.
  • Painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Numbing dental gel (not for under 12s).
  • Toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
  • Salt water rinse for erupting teeth.

The dentist will tailor treatment to the cause:

  • Fillings treat decay and cracked fillings.
  • Protective crowns and veneers for cracked teeth.
  • Antibiotics and possible root canal work for pulp infections.
  • Extraction if the tooth can’t be saved.

Relieving Pain at Home

While waiting to see the dentist, several home remedies may provide temporary relief:

  • Clove oil – A traditional pain reliever, clove oil contains eugenol which numbs nerve endings. Use a cotton ball to apply it directly to the sore tooth.
  • Cold compress – Applying a cold pack or ice wrapped in cloth to the outside of your cheek can reduce inflammation and swelling. Don’t apply ice directly to skin.
  • Salt water rinse – Swishing with a warm saltwater solution helps draw out fluid and reduces swelling. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication – Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or paracetamol help ease pain and discomfort. Follow dosage instructions.

While home remedies can temporarily dull pain, only a dentist can diagnose and treat the underlying cause. Seek prompt professional help for persistent toothaches. But in the meantime, try natural pain relief solutions for fast relief.

Questions for Your Dentist

When you see the dentist about toothache, come prepared with questions:

  • What is causing my tooth pain?
  • Do I need any dental work like a filling or root canal?
  • What treatment options do I have?
  • Are there any oral hygiene steps I should be taking?
  • How can I prevent toothaches in the future?

Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist anything, however minor it may seem. Understanding the cause of your toothache and the recommended treatment will help you feel in control of managing the situation.

Being well-informed is key to proper toothache treatment and prevention. Along with professional dental care, good oral hygiene habits at home will help keep tooth pain at bay.

Photo “Toothache” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Health

Zoom Health is a leading UK supplier of Home Health Tests and Earplugs

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