Toothaches range in intensity of pain and may be caused by various oral health problems. Tooth pain may be treated temporarily by first aid means, but should be followed by a visit to your dental professional. It is possible that your toothache may signify a more serious problem. Treatment for toothaches depends on the cause and may range from application of tooth desensitizers to procedures such as fillings or dental veneers. As dental technology becomes more advanced, the treatment for tooth pain has become more comfortable and may not necessarily involve tooth extraction.
Toothaches and Other Health Problems
Toothaches should not be ignored and should prompt you to make a trip to your dentist. A major reason for this is that sometimes toothaches are indicative of other serious health problems. For instance, researchers have found that pain on the left side of the jaw may precipitate a heart attack. Pain in the jaw and cheekbones or difficulty in chewing may also be the first sign of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a disorder that affects the jaw and surrounding facial muscles. Another instance in which toothaches may indicate a health problem is with sinus infections. Sinus infections may be accompanied by pain in the upper molar teeth.
If the fear of tooth extractions prevent you from seeing a dentist for a toothache, be assured that dentists now have more advanced methods for determining the cause of toothache pain. Newer treatments that are relatively comfortable and greatly effective are available to remedy oral health problems and preserve teeth.
Toothaches Types and Possible Causes
Toothaches come in different degrees of pain and experiences of other effects. Your particular type of toothache may point to a particular oral health problem. A dental professional can help you identify what type of toothache you have and its source.
- Sharp, Intermittent Tooth Sensitivity or Pain: If you experience tooth sensitivity to cold, this may indicate gum recession, enamel loss from over-brushing or aging, or a small dental cavity. If your teeth are sensitive to heat, it may indicate a small dental cavity aw well, or the presence of a crack, abscess, or severe decay.
- Chronic Toothache: Nerve damage is a possible cause of chronic toothache. Nerve damage may be a result of teeth grinding, severe tooth decay, or trauma to the teeth through injury.
- Intense, Throbbing Pain: Pain that is severe and throbbing is often an indication of an infection or abscess. It may be accompanied by a swollen face.
- Painful Eating: If you find it painful when you eat, this may point to tooth decay, or a slight fracture or crack in a tooth.
- Back-of-the-Jaw Pain: If you experience pain that is primarily located in the back of the jaw, there are a few possible explanations for it. Back-of-the-jaw pain may be related to problems with the wisdom teeth, or a sign of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) or teeth grinding. TMD and teeth grinding can also cause pain in other facial bone areas.
Regardless of whether your toothache causes sharp sensitivity or intense pain, you would do well to go to your dental professional for evaluation through an oral examination.
Toothache Causes and Applicable Solutions
The treatment prescribed by your dentist for your toothache will vary depending on the cause of the toothache. Below is a list of problems that occur in the teeth and gums and the applied treatment for each problem that your dentist may use.
Gum Recession: To treat gums that have pulled away from the teeth, a gum graft procedure is used, whereby the exposed surface of the tooth root is covered and the gums are restored to health. The gum graft procedure may be done according to any of three approaches. The first involves removing oral tissue from the palate and grafting it to the root area. The second approach requires placing an allograft (synthetic gum tissue) over the root. The third approach, known as a sliding graft, removes gum tissue from adjacent areas to cover over the root.
Tooth Sensitivity: Tooth desensitizers relieve pain in the tooth. Your dentist may apply a professional grade desensitizer, which requires reapplication over time. There are desensitizers that can be purchased over the counter and used at home when the need arises. Some toothpastes conveniently contain desensitizers that are useful in relieving tooth pain.
Enamel Loss: Enamel loss results from over-brushing, natural wear and tear, or an acidic diet. Enamel loss exposes the inner surface of the tooth, causing sensitivity or pain. To treat such pain, desensitizers can be used.
Wear and Tear: The wearing of teeth is indicated by the loss of the protective enamel, unevenness in teeth, or tiny chips and cracks, all of which can cause sensitivity or pain. Tooth filling is a method of evening out the surfaces of the teeth. Restoring the tooth with a crown or veneer is another popular way of treating wear and tear.
Tooth Decay: Tooth decay results from an imbalanced diet and poor dental hygiene. According to the amount of tooth decay you have, your dentist may treat it with a composite or amalgam filling, or perform a root canal if the tooth decay involves nerve damage or exposure of the root pulp. A dental filling is an inefficient solution when multiple tooth surfaces are affected; in this case your dentist may choose to use a dental crown or veneer.
Infection or Abscessed Tooth: An infection or abscess is caused by tooth decay or trauma. Initial treatment involves a prescription of antibiotics and pain treatment, followed by a visit for root canal treatment. The final restoration of the tooth is carried out by strengthening it with a dental crown or veneer.
Crack or Fracture in Tooth: Cracks or fractures may occur from trauma to the tooth, teeth grinding, or the result of years of wear and tear. A cracked tooth is most often treated with a protective covering such as a dental crown or veneer.
Teeth Grinding: Mouth guards may be used during sleep to help protect teeth from teeth grinding. Teeth grinding can result in self-imposed injury, and over time may result in tooth fractures, unevenness, and misalignment of teeth.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Impacted wisdom teeth are back molars that do not surface, and as a result, crowd and shift other teeth. Oral surgery to remove impacted wisdom teeth is often the solution for this problem.
First Aid Relief for Toothaches
In the case that you experience severe toothache and are unable to see a dentist immediately, there are a few ways to relieve the pain in the meantime. Medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin may be used to treat the pain, as well as medications containing benzocaine which do not require a prescription. Be advised that you should not apply aspirin directly to the tooth, as it can burn the gums or cheek. Swelling in the mouth can be reduced by swishing warm saltwater in the mouth once in a while throughout the day. Applying an ice pack to the area also reduces swelling.