Toothaches are characterized by pain either in or around a tooth. Some minor aches are caused by temporary gum irritation and can be treated at home. On the other hand, more severe toothaches are caused by dental or mouth issues that only a dentist can effectively treat. Regardless of its cause or severity, a toothache is uncomfortable and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Several factors determine the root cause of a toothache, but the common result is some form of pain. The pulp inside your teeth is soft and filled with nerves, tissues, and blood vessels. When the pulp’s nerves, the most sensitive in the body, are irritated or infected by bacteria, they can create severe pain. Common causes of toothaches include:
- Tooth decay: When damage to the tooth’s surface occurs, cavities can form, which can be painful.
- Abscessed tooth: A bacterial infection inside the tooth’s pulp.
- Tooth fracture: A crack in your tooth can cause discomfort.
- Repetitive motions: Actions such as chewing gum or grinding the teeth can wear down the enamel, increasing the risk of irritation and infection.
- Eruption: Teeth that break through the gums can be a temporary yet painful experience.
- Infected gums: Also called periodontitis, gum disease damages the soft tissue, and if left untreated, the bone underneath as well, causing pain and tooth loss.
Additionally, toothaches can be the result of an issue elsewhere in your body, called referred pain. An example of this phenomenon is sinusitis, a condition in which your sinuses become inflamed due to a fungal, viral or bacterial infection in your sinus cavities. Since the roots of your upper teeth are located close to your sinuses, it’s possible you may experience a toothache as a result.
Besides pain, toothaches can bring about additional symptoms. Depending on the severity, some cases can disappear after a couple days. For instance, if the cause of your toothache is from mild gum irritation, you can simply avoid chewing in the affected area and eat soft foods until the pain subsides. However, if you experience the following symptoms for a prolonged period of time, it’s important to receive dental treatment as soon as possible:
- Sharp, throbbing, constant pain
- Pain resulting from pressure on the affected area
- Fever or headache
- A bad odor from the mouth
- Foul-tasting drainage from an infected tooth
Treating Toothache at Home
Mild toothaches typically improve after a few days. In the meantime, certain at-home steps can be implemented to ease the pain, such as:
- Rinsing with saltwater: Stirring ½ teaspoon of salt into a glass of water and rinsing your mouth thoroughly can loosen debris between your teeth, reduce inflammation, and act as a disinfectant.
- Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide: Dilute the hydrogen peroxide (3%) with equal parts water and swish thoroughly in your mouth, being careful not to swallow it. The solution helps to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Pain medications: Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as Tylenol or Advil, can work to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Cold compress: Holding a cold compress of ice wrapped in a towel to the affected area for 20-minute periods every few hours can numb the tooth.
If you’ve tried several different home remedies and still experience painful symptoms after a few days, it’s in your best interest to visit the dentist. The trained professionals, such as the team at Lake Pointe Dental Group, are trained to treat a variety of dental conditions. They know the best practices for ensuring comfort and will work to relieve your toothache.
When to See the Dentist for a Toothache
Temporary, homemade pain relief won’t be enough if your symptoms are progressing. Call your dentist when it’s clear your issue isn’t getting any better despite your efforts. When you visit our dentist office in O’Fallon, IL, for a toothache, we’ll first review your medical history. Then, we’ll identify where the pain is located, when it started, its severity, and what helps.
In addition, our team will take an X-ray of your mouth to picture the affected area and assist us in determining the next best steps. Once the cause is determined, a treatment plan will be given. You may receive definitive treatment, temporary antibiotics, a referral, or other palliative care, depending on the diagnosis.
Treatment differs depending on the specific cause. For example, if a cavity is causing your toothache, Dr. Greiff or Dr. Bean will restore the tooth. In some cases where the pulp is infected or an abscess is present, a root canal would be the route taken. The dentist will remove the infected pulp and replace it with sealing material.
If you have a fever or are suffering from a swollen jaw, antibiotics will likely be recommended. Minor infections can arise from pieces of food being lodged in the gums, so an antibiotic will help to reduce swelling. Further periodontal procedures, like deep cleaning, can also be performed or recommended depending on the severity of your gum disease.
How to Prevent Toothache
Since a majority of toothaches are caused by tooth decay, good oral hygiene practices are highly effective in prevention. Be sure to brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once each day, rinse with a quality mouthwash, and visit your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning. Avoiding foods high in sugar can also help prevent toothaches.
Receive Care from Our O’Fallon, IL Dentist
No matter how severe, toothaches can be extremely uncomfortable. However, your pain is not permanent so long as it’s treated. If you experience pain, fever, bad odors or foul tastes and have attempted home remedies to no avail, contact our O’Fallon, IL dentist office right away. Untreated toothaches can significantly worsen as time passes, and may indicate another condition elsewhere in your body. Schedule an appointment today to relieve your symptoms and prevent further issues.