Toothache is caused by an irritation to the nerves near or in the root of a tooth, and may go away without treatment. In more serious cases, the irritation may be caused by tooth decay, an abscess, fracture, damaged filling, infection, or even a loose tooth.
The most obvious symptom of toothache is the associated pain. Other symptoms can include swelling around the tooth, bad breath, and a bad taste in your mouth. In severe cases you might even have a fever, headaches, and difficulty swallowing or breathing; if this is the case, you will need to see a dentist as soon as possible.
How do I manage a toothache?
If the pain is from the surrounding tissue, you may opt to treat yourself at home. Following your usual oral hygiene routine. Try rinsing your mouth with salt water to help loosen debris and reduce inflammation, taking over-the-counter pain medication may also help relieve some symptoms.
If your pain is from the nerves within the tooth, you will need to see your dentist. Your dentist will ask a few questions about the source of the pain, when it started, how painful it is, and what makes it worse.
Your dentist will then conduct a thorough examination of your teeth, gums, jaw, and possibly your nose, throat, and sinuses. They will likely take an x-ray to see the inside of your teeth.
The treatment will depend on the cause of pain and its severity. It may involve taking a course of antibiotics to fight an infection, filling a cavity, or even root canal therapy if the tooth becomes irreversibly inflamed.
Cavities and tooth decay
Caused by poor oral hygiene and bacteria in the mouth, cavities start as a small hole in the tooth and grow bigger with time. Regular brushing, flossing and dental visits can prevent or catch cavities before they grow.
A tooth abscess occurs when a cavity reaches the pulp chamber of the tooth and it becomes infected with bacteria. Symptoms often include swelling of the gums and throbbing pain from inside the tooth.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are diseases which affect the gums and hard tissues of the teeth, most often caused by poor dental health. After plaque builds up on the teeth, bacteria infect the gums on the surface and below the gum line. Causing redness, swelling, and bleeding due to the infection
Even accidents which don’t cause your teeth to be obviously broken or missing can cause toothache. A hard-enough bump can damage the underlying root or nerve without causing visible damage at the surface level.
Pain caused by the arrival of your wisdom teeth is normally best resolved by removing them. As well as the initial discomfort, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to infection and overcrowding if left untreated.
Grinding your teeth (bruxism)
Many people grind their teeth subconsciously when stressed or while sleeping, which can cause noticeable pain if left unaddressed. Your dentist may advise you to wear a night splint while sleeping to protect your teeth and prevent further pain.
Do I really need to see a dentist?
If you are not sure if your toothache justifies a visit to the dentist, then you can use our guide…
- If your toothache lasts longer than a day or two – see a dentist.
- If the toothache pain is severe – see a dentist.
- If you have a fever combined with an earache and jaw problems – see a dentist.
- If your mouth or face is swollen – see a dentist.
Remember: prevention is better than a cure
You can look after your teeth – and avoid toothache – by brushing regularly, flossing daily, and going for regular dental check-ups. Reducing your intake of sugary foods and drinks can also help your teeth last as long as possible.
Our dentists at Ashfield Dental Centre can treat all common causes of toothaches, offer advice on how to manage your pain at home, and prevent further pain in the future. If you’re in the Ashfield area in Sydney, give us a visit to see how we can help.
Book online or call us on 02 9798 4111 to make an appointment today.