Toothache Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

There are a number of frequently-seen dental issues out there in the world, and perhaps the single most common is the toothache. Caused by several sources and manifesting in a few different forms, a toothache can be experienced by people of all ages, from young children up through older adults.

At Bright Side Dental, we’re happy to provide numerous family dentist services to our Warren and other Michigan clients on a daily basis, including assistance with toothaches for anyone in your family, especially children. If you or anyone else in the family has regular toothaches or had a painful toothache issue recently, you may be looking to learn more about toothaches and why they come about – including how to prevent or remedy them. Here’s a full primer.

toothache causes symptoms treatment prevention

Toothache Basics and Pain Sources

A toothache’s definition is simple and broad: Any pain in or around a tooth in the mouth. Toothaches range from extremely minor and barely noticeable all the way up to significant, painful, and serious issues that may require professional dental assistance.

We’re often asked: Why are toothaches so painful? After all, teeth are just small parts of the overall body, and it confuses some people that they can create so much pain. The answer here is simply how many important nerves, tissues, and blood vessels are inside the pulp of your inner teeth. This pulp is incredibly sensitive, and perhaps more so than any other part of the body. They may be small areas, but their sensitivity makes the teeth prone to high levels of pain if they aren’t cared for properly.

Causes of Toothaches

There are several potential causes of toothaches, including all of the following:

  • Tooth decay over time, including repeated cavities due to lack of brushing and/or flossing
  • An abscessed tooth (a bacterial infection that takes place within the tooth’s interior)
  • A damaged or improperly-made filling
  • A broken or fractured tooth
  • An infection of the gums
  • Repetitive motions like chewing gum or grinding teeth – these wear down the teeth and weaken their defenses against toothache risks
  • Eruption (when new teeth grow into the mouth in children) or removal of teeth (a common example here is wisdom teeth removal)

Common Signs and Symptoms

Here are some of the signs or symptoms that someone experiencing a toothache might feel or exhibit (if you’re a parent, keep an eye out for these signs in any young children who might not be able to adequately communicate their pain issues):

  • Tooth pain: Several forms of pain may take place due to a toothache. The tooth may throb, may be a sharp pain, or could be a constant dull ache. Certain toothaches only hurt when you put pressure on the tooth area from biting; others may be exacerbated by extreme temperatures (particularly cool ones)
  • Swelling around the tooth area
  • Fever or headache with no other identifiable cause
  • Poor odor from the mouth
  • Foul-tasting drainage that comes from the infected tooth itself (you should seek emergency dental assistance immediately if this is happening to you or anyone in your family)
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing along with pain (call for emergency dental assistance immediately if this happens)

Preventing Toothaches

While all the causes we went over above are potential risks for toothaches, by far the most common is tooth decay. For this reason, prevention of toothaches mostly comes down to basic oral hygiene practices, such as brushing twice a day with good fluoride toothpaste, flossing at least once a day, and visiting your general dentist at least twice a year for professional cleaning and care services.

Home Treatment Methods

In certain cases, such as minor gum irritation for instance, toothache pain may go away on its own in about 24 hours or so. If this doesn’t happen, however, or if pain is significant initially, there are some basic home methods for treating toothache pain:

  • Saltwater: Combine some warm water with salt for a solution that will both disinfect the mouth and help reduce any inflammation. In addition, saltwater may loosen any tough debris stuck between your teeth that might be contributing to the toothache. We recommend half a teaspoon of salt for a standard cup of warm water, which you rinse around in your mouth thoroughly a few times a day.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: In other cases, a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution will also help reduce pain and inflammation. Be sure to dilute this with equal parts water, and do not swallow it.
  • Cold compress: If you have swelling in the tooth, hold a cold compress of ice to the area for periods of 15 to 20 minutes at a time, repeating every several hours.
  • Pain medication: Various over-the-counter pain meds will also help with pain and inflammation. If it’s a child under 16 experiencing the toothache, only Tylenol should be used, not aspirin.
  • Natural treatments: Some have also found success with natural or herbal treatments, though these are not necessarily approved by dental organizations and you should consult your dentist first.

Dental Assistance

If you have a toothache that lasts longer than a day or two, or if the pain is extremely severe and is not responding to home treatments, you should schedule an immediate appointment with your dentist. This should also be done if you have a fever, related earache, or specific pain when you open your mouth widely. Finally, call our offices for assistance if you’re experiencing significant swelling in the mouth or face area, as this may require professional care promptly.

For more on toothaches and how to prevent or treat them, or to learn about any of our family dental services, speak to the Bright Side Dental staff today.

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