What Causes Tooth Pain? 7 Types of Toothaches and Their Solutions
What Tooth Pain Can Tell You
Few things can ruin an otherwise enjoyable day as quickly as a toothache. But before you take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication or slather your tooth with a numbing ointment, consider that every toothache has a hidden message.
Tooth pain isn’t normal or something that should be ignored. Tooth enamel is made of a mineral called calcium phosphate, which means it doesn’t have any feeling. What can trigger sensitivity and pain are the dentin and pulp layers of the tooth, hidden behind the protective enamel. Therefore, toothaches mean that your enamel layer has already experienced some sort of damage that has left the inner layers of your tooth exposed.
Here are seven common causes for toothaches and how your dentist can stop tooth pain fast.
1. Temperature Sensitivity
Do your teeth only seem to hurt when you eat or drink something very hot or very cold? Temperature sensitivity is a common form of tooth pain that can be frustrating to live with, especially when it stops you from enjoying your favorite hot coffee or ice cream flavor.
The pain it causes can also vary quite a bit, from only a brief sharp jolt of pain that diminishes in a few minutes to more mild pain that lasts for hours. A few things can cause sensitivity, but enamel erosion is one culprit that can cause issues even if there isn’t any decay or gum disease.
Enamel erosion is the wearing down of tooth enamel, often from poor oral hygiene habits, brushing too hard, poor bite alignment, or bruxism (teeth grinding). Using a sensitivity toothpaste, like Sensodyne, can alleviate sensitivity, but it’s important to first have your dentist take a look at your teeth to ensure there isn’t a more complicated issueat play.
2. Receding Gums
Receding gums are often caused by gum disease or brushing too hard. You might even notice that your teeth appear to look longer because of the recession.
If your receding gums are caused by brushing too hard, your dentist can help you relearn proper brushing techniques. You might even consider upgrading to a powered toothbrush with a built-in pressure sensor if you find it difficult to break the habit.
If your receding gums are caused by gum disease, like gingivitis or periodontitis, your dentist will evaluate the situation and prescribe a treatment plan. Improving your oral care habits can stop gingivitis, but more advanced gum disease may require regular periodontal therapy, cleaning visits, antibiotics, or other care.
3. Tooth Decay
Tooth decay and cavities often cause classic toothache symptoms, but the severity of pain can vary wildly. In fact, even quite deep cavities can be painless, while superficial cavities you can’t even feel with your tongue can be terribly sensitive and painful. Usually, you can feel a cavity with your tongue or see a small patch of discoloration from the decay if the tooth is visible.
Tooth decay always requires help from a dentist to stop the problem because there’s nothing you can do at home to solve the issue permanently. The decay will only continue to spread deeper within your tooth, leading to more pain, more frequent toothaches, and an increased risk of a dangerous oral abscess.
If you feel or see a cavity, or your toothache symptoms point to decay, OTC pain relievers can bring some relief, but you must call your dentist immediately. They’ll be able to remove the decay and any crumbling enamel and restore the tooth with a filling, crown, or similar solution.
4. Dental Abscess
As mentioned, when tooth decay is left untreated it can lead to a dental abscess. An abscessed tooth is very painful, and it is typically accompanied by mouth or face swelling, a high fever, dizziness, and nausea.
Unlike cavities or gum disease, abscesses are categorized as potential medical emergencies. It’s vital you get help from your dentist immediately, and if your symptoms are severe, a trip to the closest emergency dentist or ER may be necessary.
5. Dental Trauma
Dental injuries include cracks, chips, fractures, and completely broken or knocked-out teeth. Trauma to the teeth can happen due to untreated tooth decay or injuries impacting the face. Even biting down on something like an unpopped popcorn kernel in just the right way can crack a tooth.
Pain from dental trauma is usually fairly obvious because it happens during the injury, and there’s often visible damage to the tooth. If the molar is damaged, you can probably feel a sharp edge or crack with your tongue. Superficial cracks or chips may be painless, with only your tooth feeling sore from the impact. A broken or fractured tooth can be extremely painful if it exposes the nerves in your tooth’s pulp.
Here’s what to do if you’ve knocked out a tooth entirely. For other dental trauma, swish your mouth with a salt water solution to clean the tooth. See if you can tell what happened to the tooth, and call your dentist for guidance. Dental crowns are a common treatment option for cracked or broken teeth.
6. Sinus Infection
Many people don’t know that a sinus infection can cause tooth pain. If your teeth were healthy during your most recent six-month checkup, and you happen to have a head cold or even the flu, your generalized tooth pain or tenderness could be linked to your sinuses.
Your primary care physician (PCP) can recommend or prescribe medications to fight the cold or sinus infection, which should also reduce the referred pain symptoms in your teeth. However, if your cold or sinus infection goes away and your teeth still feel painful, you should contact your dentist.
7. Stuck Food
A piece of food lodged under the gums can be surprisingly irritating and painful. The usual symptoms are very localized discomfort and swelling under the gums. You might even see or be able to feel the edge of the food debris with your tongue.
If you’re certain it’s a piece of stuck food, you can attempt to dislodge it with your toothbrush or dental floss gently. A flosser can be useful to remove stuck food if you’re having difficulty maneuvering string floss. A water flosser system, like the WaterPik, or swishing vigorously with mouthwash or a salt water rinse, can also loosen it.
If the food isn’t easily dislodged, don’t attempt to force it loose with something like a toothpick or another object. It’s best to call your dentist for assistance rather than risk harming your gum tissue or pushing the debris further into the gum pocket.
Toothaches always need to be evaluated by a dentist.
While safe home remedies for toothaches can bring some relief, they are not a permanent solution. Call your dentist first, and only use OTC pain relievers, diluted salt water rinses, and ADA-approved topical ointments temporarily while you wait for your appointment. If the pain subsides, keep your appointment date because even severe damage can cause infrequent toothaches.
If you’re experiencing any level of tooth pain, general oral discomfort, or tenderness in your gums, take a moment right now to schedule a visit at Orchard Dental Associates.