a man suffering from tooth pain

A painful tooth can be caused by anything from a bit of food stuck in the gums (such as a popcorn kernel) to more serious causes such as an infection or broken or damaged tooth. In some cases, tooth pain is caused by irritation to the gums and can be temporary. However, in most cases, tooth pain will not go away on its own and the affected tooth should be checked by your dentist so that they may identify the cause of the pain, provide an appropriate treatment plan to alleviate the pain, and fix any damage to the tooth or surrounding gums.  

What is a Toothache/Tooth Pain? Why is a Toothache So Painful? 

A toothache is defined as pain in, near, or around a tooth. They can range between minor, moderate, and major in terms of pain and severity. The majority of toothaches are caused by dental or mouth issues that won’t improve on their own and will require treatment by a dentist. The inside of your tooth (called pulp) is a soft material that is filled with blood vessels, nerves, and tissue. These nerves are some of the most sensitive nerves in the entire body. When these nerves become exposed, irritated, or infected by bacteria, they can cause severe pain and sensitivity. 

What Causes Tooth Pain?  

Many things might cause pain in a tooth. Some of the most common of these are: 

  • Gum Infection 
  • Tooth Decay 
  • Abscessed Tooth (bacterial infection inside the tooth) 
  • Fractured or Broken Tooth 
  • A Damaged or Missing Filling 
  • Grinding or Clenching of the Teeth 
  • Eruption or Extraction of a Tooth (Wisdom teeth, for example) 

What are the Symptoms of a Toothache? 

The most obvious symptom of a toothache is tooth pain that is constant, sharp, or throbbing. In some cases, pain is only present when pressure is applied to the tooth such as biting down or chewing. Some of the other symptoms of a toothache are: 

  • Swelling of the gums and tissue around the tooth 
  • Fever  
  • Headache 
  • Foul-tasting pus or drainage from the affected tooth 
  • Particularly bad odor from the mouth / bad breath 

If you are experiencing any trouble breathing and/or swallowing accompanying your pain, seek treatment immediately.  

Will my Tooth Pain go Away on Its Own? 

Sometimes toothaches in which the pain is around (but not within) your tooth could improve on its own without a trip to the dentist. Pain from a minor and temporary irritation in the gums can resolve within several days. It is best to avoid chewing around the painful area during this time. Ideally, you should eat soft foods, such as smoothies, eggs, and yogurt, and avoid anything overly sweet or very hot, or very cold especially if the tooth and affected area are sensitive. 

Even though a toothache on its own may not be dangerous, an underlying infection can cause significant problems and can result in a medical emergency if left untreated. If the pain persists longer than a few days and is within your tooth, seek treatment from your dentist right away.  

How Can I Treat Tooth Pain at Home? 

In most cases, tooth pain needs to be addressed by your dentist. However, there are a few things you can try at home for temporary relief until you are able to visit your dentist’s office.  

  • Rinse with Warm Saltwater 
  • Apply a Cold Compress 
  • Take Over-the-Counter Pain Medications 
  • Apply Clove Oil – Clove oil is a natural antiseptic that can help numb pain and reduce inflammation. The best way to apply it is to dab a small amount on a cotton ball and apply it to the painful area 
  • Drink Peppermint Tea – Peppermint is very soothing and can be drunk as well as applied to the painful area with a cooled-down peppermint tea bag 

When Should I See my Dentist about a Toothache? 

It is important to see your dentist as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the following: 

  • A toothache that lasts longer than two or three days 
  • The pain is severe and constant 
  • You have a fever, earache, or pain when opening your mouth wide 
  • You have swelling of the face or mouth  

The proper diagnosis and treatment of dental infections must be identified and completed in order to prevent the pain or infection from spreading to other parts of the face, head, and in some rare cases even to the bloodstream. 

While toothaches can be extremely painful, the pain can be eliminated as long as it’s treated properly. Your dentist can help to relieve your pain as well as prevent an infection from spreading to other areas in your body.  

How Will my Dentist Treat my Toothache? 

How your dentist decides to treat your tooth pain will depend on the cause of the pain. If a cavity is the source of the toothache, your dentist will properly fill the cavity or in some cases remove the tooth, if necessary. In some cases, a root canal may be needed if the cause of the pain is a bacterial infection within the tooth’s pulp. Your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic if you are experiencing fever or significant swelling. Sometimes a small bit of food gets stuck under the gums and can result in an infection. In this situation, a deep cleaning procedure may be performed or recommended followed by further treatment of the gums if necessary. 

How Can I Prevent Tooth Pain? 

Because most tooth pain is the result of tooth decay, a strong and consistent oral healthcare routine is the best way to prevent tooth pain in the future. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. If you want to learn more about how we can help treat your tooth pain or prevent it altogether, contact our Guelph’s dentist office today!  

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