Regardless of how particular you are about your oral health, there is a good chance that you have experienced the excruciating pain of a toothache. And whether it is a constant dull ache or a sharp jolt of pain, toothaches can be a major cause of concern.
- Swelling of the gums
- Pain while pressure is applied on the jaw
- Bad taste in the mouth due to drainage from the infected tooth
It is vital that you don’t ignore the pain and consult your dentist to identify the cause of the toothache and begin treatment. Below are a few signs that you should make an appointment as soon as possible:
- You’ve had a toothache for longer than two days
- The pain is extremely severe
- If it is accompanied by fever or an earache
- If it hurts when you open your mouth too wide
While the most common cause for toothaches is dental caries or cavities caused by tooth decay, it is possible that your toothache is caused by another ailment. We have listed the most common problems (other than tooth decay) that may be causing your tooth to ache:
1. Tooth Sensitivity
If you experience pain in your tooth while eating something hot or cold, then tooth sensitivity may be the reason for your tooth woes. Tooth sensitivity, or as medically referred as dentinal hypersensitivity, is a condition where dentin, the inner layer of a tooth is exposed.
Dentin contains numerous pores that connect it to the nerve endings. When these pores are exposed to stimuli like temperature or touch, it causes a sharp pain. Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of factors such as enamel erosion, gum recession, or even dental procedures like bleaching.
Your dentist may recommend a sensitivity toothpaste like RA Thermoseal or a root canal depending on your condition.
2. Tooth Abscess
Tooth abscesses are pockets of pus that occur in the tooth. They are caused by bacterial infections as a result of untreated cavities or dental injuries. A tooth abscess is a very serious condition that infects not only the tooth but also the root and the surrounding tissue. It is characterized by severe throbbing toothache, pain while chewing or biting, sensitivity, and swelling.
An untreated tooth abscess can lead to serious and even life-threatening complications. Hence it is crucial to visit a dentist immediately if you are experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms. The treatment for tooth abscess involves draining the abscess and properly cleaning out the infection. Once the cleaning is done, the dentist may perform a root canal. Depending on how severe the infection is, the tooth may be saved. Otherwise, the tooth is extracted.
3. Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
Gum disease or gingivitis is the inflammation of the gum tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. Gum disease is usually painless and that’s why it goes untreated for a long time. However, when the condition worsens, it may lead to deterioration of the supporting tissues and bone. Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis, which is a major cause of tooth loss.
Moreover, at this stage, you may feel a dull pain in the mouth, red and bleeding gums, and toothache. Ignoring gum disease can lead to loss of or extensive damage to teeth, gums, and bones. In the early stages, gingivitis can be reversed by following a strict dental hygiene routine. However, in severe cases, surgical measures are needed to clean out the infection.
4. Tooth Fracture or Cracked Tooth
A tooth fracture can occur due to a variety of reasons like accidents, playing sports, injuries, or chewing hard foods. A minor crack in the enamel can be painless. However, it’s important to seek medical attention right away as the fracture could deepen causing excruciating pain.
Depending upon the condition of the fracture, your dentist may recommend:
- A Crown: In some cases, the crack can be repaired using filling material and a crown. The crown protects the tooth from further damage and helps in restoring the tooth’s functions and appearance.
- A Root Canal: If the crack has damaged the soft tissue inside the tooth, then a root canal is done to remove the damaged tissue.
- An Extraction: If there is too much damage to the root and the tooth cannot be saved, then an extraction is performed.
5. Teeth Grinding
Tooth grinding or bruxism is a condition in which a person grinds the upper and lower teeth against each other. People suffering from bruxism usually grind their teeth in sleep or during stressful situations. Common symptoms of tooth grinding include:
- Sore jaw bones and joints
- Chipped teeth
The most widely accepted form of treatment for bruxism is using custom-made mouthguards before sleeping. These mouthguards reduce the jaw pain and protect your teeth from enamel erosion.
6. Damaged Fillings or Sealants
Sometimes, the dental fillings used to cover tooth fractures, pits, or grooves can get damaged due to wear. Once damaged, the sealants or fillings leave the sensitive parts of the tooth exposed to food particles, bacteria, and hot or cold temperatures. This results in pain ranging from a dull ache to a sharp sensation.
If you suspect that your dental filling or sealant is damaged, make an appointment with your dentist. If the sealant or filling is left untreated, then it exposes the inner parts of your tooth to acid attacks by mouth bacteria. As a result, it causes decay and can even lead to loss of a tooth.
7. Misaligned or Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When teeth are misaligned, they can press against other teeth and push them out of line, causing toothache. Similarly, some wisdom teeth fail to break through the gum line or push against the other teeth. This can be extremely painful and a dentist must be consulted for treatment.
For misaligned teeth, your dentist may suggest an orthodontic solution like braces. On the other hand, a surgery might be required to fix an impacted wisdom tooth
How Can You Prevent Toothaches?
The most common and prevalent cause for toothaches is tooth decay. So, if you want to prevent toothaches, following a regular oral hygiene routine is a must. Here are some steps to lower the chances of getting a toothache:
- Brush at least twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoridated toothpaste. Make sure that you clean all the surfaces and spend at least two minutes each time you brush.
- Floss at least once a day to clean the spaces between teeth and to get rid of the plaque responsible for oral ailments.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash regularly to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth.
- Use a fluoride rinse or varnish to provide extra protection to your teeth. Fluoride treatment is proven to reduce tooth decay and tooth sensitivity.
- Visit your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning. He or she can also examine any signs or decay or other dental problems that might cause a problem.
Now that you know the possible causes of toothaches, you know how important it is to seek medical attention even if the pain isn’t severe. Moreover, it is not a good idea to pop painkillers or wait for the pain to become intolerable. So, make sure that you visit your dentist as soon as possible and consult him or her before trying any remedy or dental product.