Toothache

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Definition

What is toothache?

Toothache refers to pain in and around the teeth and jaws that’s usually caused by tooth decay.

Toothache pain can be constantly throbbing or may be set off by food or drink.

How common is toothache?

Toothache is extremely common. It commonly affects more females than males. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of toothache?

The common symptoms of toothache are:

  • Tooth pain that may be sharp, throbbing, or constant. In some people, pain results only when pressure is applied to the tooth
  • Swelling around the tooth
  • Fever or headache
  • Foul-tasting drainage from the infected tooth

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You have a toothache that lasts longer than one or two days
  • Your toothache is severe
  • You have a fever, earache, or pain upon opening your mouth wide

Correct identification and treatment of dental infections is important to prevent their spread to other parts of the face and skull and possibly even to the bloodstream.

Causes

What causes toothache?

Tooth decay is the primary cause of toothaches for most children and adults. Bacteria that live in your mouth thrive on the sugars and starches in the food you eat. These bacteria form a sticky plaque that clings to the surface of your teeth.

Acids produced by the bacteria in plaque can eat through the hard, white coating on the outside of your teeth (enamel), creating a cavity. The first sign of decay may be a sensation of pain when you eat something sweet, very cold or very hot. Sometimes decay will show as a brown or white spot on the tooth.

Other causes of a toothache can include:

  • An accumulation of food and debris between your teeth, especially if your teeth have spaces between them
  • Inflammation or infection at the root of the tooth or in the gums
  • Trauma to the tooth, including injury or grinding your teeth
  • Sudden fracture of the tooth or tooth root
  • A split in the tooth that occurs over time
  • Teeth that start to appear (erupt) through the gums, such as with teething or wisdom teeth that don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally (impacted wisdom teeth)
  • A sinus infection that can be felt as pain in the teeth

A toothache often requires some sort of treatment by your dentist.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for toothache?

Discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is toothache diagnosed?

Your dentist will first obtain a brief medical history and conduct a physical examination. He or she will ask questions about the pain, such as when it started, how severe it is, where it is located, what makes it worse, and what makes it better. Your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, gums, jaws, tongue, throat and neck. X-rays may be taken as well as other tests, depending on what your dentist suspects is causing the toothache.

How is toothache treated?

Treatment for a toothache depends on the cause. If a cavity is causing the toothache your dentist will fill the cavity, or if necessary extract the tooth. A root canal might need to be done if the cause of the toothache is found to be an infection of the tooth’s nerve. Bacteria that have worked their way into the inner aspects of the tooth cause such an infection. An antibiotic may be prescribed. Phototherapy with a cold laser may also be used to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with the toothache.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage toothache?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with toothache:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Use dental floss to remove any food particles or plaque wedged between your teeth.
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever to dull the ache, but don’t place aspirin or another painkiller directly against your gums because it may burn your gum tissue.
  • Sparingly apply an OTC antiseptic containing benzocaine directly to the irritated tooth and gum for temporary relief.
  • If the toothache is caused by trauma to the tooth, apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: November 7, 2017 | Last Modified: November 8, 2017

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