Toothaches are a very common affliction, and pain can range from mild to very severe and even debilitating. It’s important to watch out for fevers, headaches and earaches, pain when opening the mouth wide, and toothaches that last more than a day or two. Your dentist or doctor may have to refer you to a specialist for further care if the treatment is beyond their abilities.
Cavities and Decay
Decay is the most common reason for having a toothache. Tooth decay is caused when carbohydrates (bread, soda, fruit and fruit juice, or candy) stays on your teeth too long. Bacteria in your mouth feed on the carbohydrates in your mouth and release acid that cause the enamel of your teeth to break down. Brushing your teeth after a meal or snack can help prevent this. If tooth decay is causing your toothache, the dentist will drill out the affected area and fill it in with a composite resin, silver fillings, gold, or amalgam.
Infection of the Gums or Teeth
Infections in the gums can cause toothaches. Infections can be caused by decay, injuries to the gums, and gingivitis. It is important to brush and floss regularly, and using antibacterial mouth rinses can help tremendously in ensuring that infections do not occur.
Grinding of the teeth, also known as bruxism, is a very common cause of toothache. Usually tied to stress and anxiety, most people actually grind their teeth at night in their sleep. Mouth guards can help alleviate the problem by cushioning the teeth at night while the patient is asleep. Mouth guards can be made specific to the individual.
Occasionally, fillings can become damaged due to normal wear and tear. Make sure you go to the dentist every six months or whenever you experience tooth pain to have your fillings checked for damage from chewing, grinding (bruxism), or nerve damage that would require a root canal. More extensive tooth damage can also be a cause that could require a crown rather than a filling.
What to Do If You Have a Toothache
If you have a toothache, see the dentist as soon as possible to prevent worsening of the condition that is causing the pain. Rinse your mouth out with saltwater or saline and take an over the counter painkiller like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Proper dental care is essential to protect teeth from damage and to prevent toothaches from becoming chronic and disruptive. Make sure you regularly schedule dentist appointments for exams and cleanings, always brush at least twice a day or after every meal, and floss twice a day.