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What To Do When You Need Immediate Toothache Relief

Toothache and cavity pain can be serious business

By Pete July 20, 2020
Photography by Pete

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Tooth pain is never fun. Even a mild toothache can make it difficult to chew and eat, and it can cause significant discomfort for you at night. Toothaches are huge warning signs that something is wrong with your smile, and it needs urgent attention from your dentist. The pain involved can be acute or throbbing, constant or periodic, depending on the tooth’s condition.

A tooth is composed of 3 main parts: the hard, outer enamel; the softer middle dentin; and the sensitive inner pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels that nourish the whole tooth and keep it alive and strong. When your teeth hurt, it is often caused by bacteria and plaque eating its way to the pulp, infecting and inflaming.

“Why do my teeth hurt?” you might ask. “I brush my teeth every day and take good care of my teeth. There’s no way I should have tooth decay!” It’s not enough to brush your teeth once or even twice a day to keep your smile healthy. Good oral hygiene requires brushing twice and flossing once daily as well as regular visits to your dentist every month for a dental cleaning. This helps remove any bacteria and plaque trying to build up and wear down your teeth.

However, tooth decay isn’t the only reason you may experience toothache pain. Other toothache causes include:

  • Cracked or broken tooth
  • Overhanging or damaged filling
  • Tooth extraction
  • Gum disease and gum recession
  • Dental trauma or accident
  • Sinus infection
  • Wisdom tooth eruption or impaction
  • Chewing or grinding your teeth

You should be careful when eating with a toothache because the foods you eat can cause your pain to flare up or even get worse. This means staying away from cold drinks and spicy or hot foods. It’s also best if you keep as much balanced pressure on your tooth as possible.

There are so many different possible reasons your teeth may hurt. If your toothache persists for more than a day, we recommend that you come into our Houston office for a complete and thorough diagnosis. Our dentists will take 3D x-rays and digital scans to design an accurate clinical picture of your dental health. This allows us to plan your treatment quickly and precisely.

SYMPTOMS OF A TOOTHACHE

As its name suggests, the main symptom of a toothache is pain in and around your tooth. You will feel sharp or dull, severe, or throbbing pain that may be unbearable for some patients. The toothache doesn’t need to be persistent. Some other symptoms that often come with tooth pain, especially when tooth or gum infection is involved, are:

  • Swelling of the gum around the tooth
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Pain when chewing
  • Bleeding or tender gums

TREATMENT

A mild toothache can go away by simply using aspirin or other over-the-counter painkillers. However, this is only a temporary tooth pain relief and doesn’t fix the underlying problem. To treat the root source of your dental pain, your dentist may perform a dental filling, root canal, extraction, dental crown, or any other number of procedures. Which one it is depends on the location and state of the tooth.

If you have wisdom tooth pain, for example, the most likely treatment will be extraction. Most troublesome wisdom teeth are impacted, meaning they can’t fully emerge from the gums. The only way they can be treated is to remove them safely and painlessly with a surgical extraction. If the toothache is caused by a cavity, then dentists often restore the tooth with a filling or root canal with crown.

PREVENTION OF TOOTHACHE:

Toothaches can be prevented by adopting good oral hygiene habits that keep your teeth healthy and plaque-free. You should adapt these cleaning routines to stop your cavities before they ever form:

Brush your teeth twice and floss once daily. Also, clean your tongue daily. Attend a routine checkup every 4 or 6 months, depending on your dental history. Eat a healthy diet, staying away from sweets and starchy foods when you can.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can a toothache go away on its own?

Knowing how to get rid of a toothache depends on the condition of the tooth and the cause of your dental pain. For mild cases, there are some home remedies for toothache pain, such as fluoride toothpastes. However, when dealing with cavity pain of infected dental pulp, you should immediately consult a dentist. If you find your toothache suddenly leaving after it’s hurt for a long time, this isn’t a reason to celebrate. At this point, the tooth’s nerves may have been fully infected down to the root, and your tooth may be in danger of dying.

Why does my broken tooth not hurt?

If you have a cracked or broken tooth, it might not hurt at all, especially if the damage is relatively minor. Cosmetic fractures that don’t reach the sensitive dental pulp should still be treated by a dentist. Jagged and cracked teeth can damage your lips, tongue, and gums, and if left alone, they can worsen into much more severe and painful problems. Early restoration in these cases can be the best solution for preventing future toothaches and dental issues.

How long can a toothache last?

Your toothache can last about a few hours to even days. It may change from sharp to mild pain or even go away for a short time, but it’s consistently present in the long term. If you find that your tooth hurts for one or more days, even if it comes and goes, then you should see your dentist for an emergency exam.

When should you seek a dentist for a toothache?

You should see your dentist when your tooth pain is so severe that it disturbs your routine work and activities or lasts more than a day. Persistent tooth pain is a huge signifier that a cavity or gum infection goes deep to the dental pulp and is destroying the tooth’s structures. Visiting earlier on in the tooth decay process means that more of your tooth can be preserved with less severe treatment needed.

What happens if you leave a toothache untreated?

There can be significant complications if you leave your toothache untreated for too long. In the case of dental decay, some patients only see us when the infection has severely damaged their tooth and gums, and the tooth is on its last legs. If the tooth is still alive, then it’s possible to save it with a root canal. However, if you come to our office too late, the only solution left is to remove the tooth entirely. Without an extraction and removal of all the infected tissue, the infection can spread to the rest of the face or the whole body. It can even prove fatal, so if you find yourself experiencing tooth pain, please see one of our dentists as early as possible.

Why does my toothache hurt so bad?

Toothaches happen when the central core of the tooth, the pulp, becomes infected and inflamed. The pulp is the most sensitive part of the tooth as it’s supplied with the nerves and blood vessels that nourish the tooth. Cavities eating away at the pulp attack those extremely sensitive parts of the tooth, creating aching or intense, sharp pain.

What helps a toothache fast?

The best and fastest toothache remedy is seeing your dentist for immediate treatment. However, if you can’t schedule an emergency appointment, you can use tea bags, garlic, saltwater, and clove oil to soothe your mouth and give you some short-lasting toothache pain relief. They can also reduce inflammation.

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