Toothache is a pain that everybody experiences at some or other point in their lives. Even babies, as their milk teeth begin to appear, experience toothache. This is called teething.
What is Toothache?
Toothache is when you experience pain in or around one of your teeth or in your jaw. Gum boils, sores or other gum irritations can cause minor or mild toothache that you can treat yourself, at home. However, a really bad toothache that won’t get better on its own, means that you will need to visit the dentist.
What Causes Toothache?
The most common cause of toothache is decaying or rotting teeth. Other causes of toothache include a broken tooth or a damaged filling.
If you are somebody who constantly clenches their jaw and grinds their teeth or even chews gum, over time, these actions can wear your teeth down and cause toothache. When new teeth come out, or erupt, e.g., adult teeth replacing molars in children and the emergence of wisdom teeth in adults can also cause toothache pain. In the case of the latter, the pain can be because there is “no space” in your mouth and on your jaw for the new teeth. This causes pain as will having your tooth pulled out at the dentist.
Finally, infections can cause abscesses in teeth, which is very painful. Bacteria can infect the gums. Gum diseases, like gingivitis and the more serious periodontitis, can cause permanent damage to your teeth, gums, and even your jaw. In severe cases, you could lose some or all of your teeth.1
Symptoms that often occur with toothache
When you have a toothache, the pain can be dull and ongoing or it could be a sharp, pounding pain. Sometimes though, you only know that there is something wrong with the tooth when you bite down on hard food, resulting in painful pressure on the tooth.
In severe cases of toothache, like an abscess, your face may swell up near or around the tooth that is affected, and you could also have a head- or earache and a temperature (fever).
If a tooth is badly decayed, it could release fluid that tastes bad. This, and bad breath can be signs of tooth decay and/or rotting teeth.2
The first thing we automatically do if we have a sore tooth is stop chewing food on that side of the mouth and on that sore tooth. It will also help to relieve toothache pain if you eat soft foods like pap, yoghourt, and scrambled eggs. Adults can also rinse their mouths with saltwater, but this is not recommended for children.
Other ways to relieve the pain include a gel that you can spread on your gums or you (but not children under 16) can take aspirin. Ask your pharmacist about other pain relief pills for toothache, for example, a paracetamol tablet like Cipladon or ibuprofen.
Preventing Toothache and tooth decay
The best way to prevent toothache is to prevent tooth decay, and you do this by keeping your teeth and gums healthy. This means brushing your teeth in the morning, after breakfast, and in the evening before you go to bed. If you can, it’s best to use a toothpaste that includes fluoride, a chemical that strengthens teeth.
After you have brushed your teeth, make sure that you get rid of any bits of food between your teeth, or plaque that may have formed on them. Do this using either dental floss or an interdental brush.
In addition, as with most things, a healthy diet that doesn’t include sugary foods and drinks also helps to keep your gums and teeth healthy, preventing toothache.3
When to go to the dentist for toothache?
IIf you have a serious, severe toothache that lasts longer than one or two days, go to the dentist. If you have some of the other symptoms that we’ve mentioned, together with toothache, like swelling, severe and continuous throbbing pain, or discomfort when you open your mouth, go and see the dentist.4
Disclaimer: The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.
- Periodontal Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Online] Available from <https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html#>25/05/2022
- Frisbee, E., (Reviewer) 2022. Dental Health and Toothaches. WebMD [Online] Available from <https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/toothaches> 24/05/2022
- Toothache. NHS United Kingdom [Online] Available from <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/toothache/> 24/05/2022
- Toothache. NHS Inform. Scotland [Online] Available from <https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mouth/toothache/> 24/05/2022
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