Toothaches are one of the most common oral health concerns and can have a few different causes. Sometimes a toothache is reason for concern and should be looked at by a dentist. Other times, a toothache is simply a mild discomfort that can be resolved at home. The most common cause of toothache is tooth decay, tooth fracture, or a damaged filling. The pain can be sharp, throbbing, constant, or only when pressure when is applied. In this case it is important to see your family dentist to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. Leaving the tooth untreated can lead to further decay and infection.
If your toothache feels like mild sensitivity when eating and drinking food and drinks that are hot, cold, sweet, or sour. This can be due to minor gum recession and can often be resolved with gentle brushing using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and with regular flossing.
Some mild toothaches are actually caused by sinus pain that can easily be mistaken for an oral health issue. If you have a cold or other virus that includes symptoms of congestion and runny nose, and suddenly you feel an ache above your teeth, it is likely do to sinus pressure in the passages just under the cheek bone. If the toothache continues after the other symptoms subside, be sure to have your dentist check it out.
If a toothache is accompanied by a red, swollen, or painful bump on the gums, this is likely an infection around the tooth called an abscess. Another indicator of an abscess is if the tooth hurts more when you bite down on it, or if you have a bad taste in the mouth due to the abscess draining. It is important to see your local dentist when you notice these symptoms. If the abscess is not treated, it can lead to a serious infection in the jaw bone, teeth and surrounding tissues. While you wait for your appointment, a warm salt water rinse can help clear bacteria from the gums. You may also wish to hold an ice pack to the side of the cheek to reduce swelling.
When Should I See a Dentist About a Toothache?
You should see your dentist about a toothache if the pain is severe, is accompanied by fever or pain when opening the mouth, or if the symptoms have lasted longer than one or two days. Your dentist can help identify the cause and recommend the best treatment.
Treatment for a toothache depends on the cause. A cavity requires scheduled treatment for a filling. If the cavity is too severe, a root canal or extraction may be needed. An abscess can be treated with various methods, depending on the severity of the infection, including drainage, antibiotics, or cleaning around the gum line.
Since most toothaches are the result of tooth decay, practicing good oral hygiene is the best prevention, including regular brushing with a dentist recommended toothpaste, flossing, rinsing the mouth between meals, and regular dental check-ups. For best results, avoid eating and drinking too much sugar. You can also ask your local dentist about sealants and fluoride treatment.