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The A-Z Toothache Guide

Senior man suffering from toothache symptoms

What is Toothache

A toothache, also known as odontalgia, is pain around or in the tooth. It can be caused by anything from a stuck popcorn hull between your teeth to a bacterial infection a broken tooth. Less serious or mild toothache usually cause temporary irritation to the gums. But more serious toothaches need to be treated by a professional dentist.

Symptoms of a Toothache

The main symptom of a toothache is a pain in your tooth, around it, or in your mouth. However, the pain can present itself in multiple ways, and it can vary. Symptoms of toothache include:

  • Pain that only occurs when pressure is applied to the tooth
  • Constant, throbbing and sharp pain
  • Teeth sensitivity changes in temperature 
  • Painful and swelling gums
  • Bleeding or discharge of gums
  • Headache of fever
  • Bad taste in the mouth (if a tooth is infected)
Persistent toothache pain

Causes of Toothache Pain

Toothache is most usually the result of trauma or injury that cavity causes. Dentin is the softer layer underneath the enamel, and trauma or injury is caused if the decay gets into the dentin. Other causes include the following: 

  • Fractured or damaged tooth – Another thing that can expose the sensitive dentin is the fracture of a tooth. Fractures don’t have to be obvious, because sometimes the fracture line can be deep into the tooth and cause toothache every time pressure is applied with chewing or biting. This is also known as cracked tooth syndrome. 
  • Tooth abscess – A pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection can be the cause of toothache. 
  • Losing a filling – The nerve inside the tooth can be exposed if you lose a filling.
  • Debris stuck in your teeth – Inorganic and organic matter stuck in your teeth can cause pressure between the teeth. 
  • Teeth grinding or clenching – This habit which is usually done unconsciously at night can irritate the nerves to the point where you experience a toothache.
  • Gum disease or gum infection – Gum disease like periodontal disease or gingivitis can cause pain or toothaches.  
  • Dental work – The tooth can be more sensitive after getting a crown or a filling. This is also the case if the tooth decay you got removed was deep or large. Although necessary, dental work can sometimes irritate the nerve. If the teeth are healthy the sensitivity will resolve by itself. 
  • Jaw or mouth injury – Toothache can be caused by jaw or mouth injury that is a result of blunt force trauma on the facial area. 
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders – Temporomandibular joint disorder is a pain in the jaw joint, but sometimes it can also affect the teeth. 
  • Exposed root surfaces – If there is no gum or bone that covers the root of the tooth, it can be sensitive to stimuli like temperature changes or brushing teeth. 
  • Wisdom teeth – Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are the last set of teeth to appear in your mouth. Sometimes, there isn’t enough space for them and they become partially or fully trapped below the gum and in the jawbone. Because it is difficult to clean them, they can cause several problems like dental decay or gum infection.
Toothache pain relievers and home remedies

Home remedies for toothache

There are a number of remedied that help people in relieving toothache. Some of them are: 

  • Cold compress. Wrapping a bag of ice in a towel and applying it to the affected side of the jaw or face helps in constricting the blood vessels and reduces the pain. You should apply a cold compress to the area for 15 to 20 minutes every few hours. 
  • Saltwater rinse. A common remedy for toothache is a simple saltwater rinse. All you have to do is mix ½ teaspoon of table salt and 8 ounces of water, swish it around in your point and spit it out. Saltwater reduces inflammation because it is a natural antibacterial agent. Using a saltwater rinse also helps in removing any food debris stuck in the gums or teeth. 
  • OTC pain relievers. For children, dentists suggest acetaminophen, and for adults they recommend aspirin or ibuprofen. 
  • Elevation. Additional inflammation and pain can be caused by pooling blood in the head. Some people feel pain relief when they elevate their head with an extra pillow or two. 
  • Clove oil. Clove oil is a natural remedy that contains eugenol which reduces tooth pain. Make a paste from ground cloves by soaking them in water. Then, apply the paste to the affected area directly or by putting it in an empty tea bag. What also works is sucking or gently chewing a single clove and then letting it sit near the affected tooth. 
  • Garlic. Some people use this common household ingredient in order to relieve toot ache pain. The main compound in garlic called allicin has an antibacterial effect that helps in killing the bacteria in your mouth. Allowing a clove of garlic to sit near the tooth or chewing on it can relieve the pain.

When to see the dentist

You should monitor your toothache over the next 48 hours. In case it lessens, it might have been just an irritation. However, if the pain is severe, if you have trouble swallowing or breathing, if you have a headache or a fever and if the toothache lasts longer than two days, you should make an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will determine what is the best treatment for your condition, depending on what caused the pain and how much damage is present. The outcome is best if the toothache is treated as quickly as possible in order to avoid the risk of spreading infection or further damage.

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