The human body communicates exceptionally well. It lets you know, for example, when you’re happy, hungry, tired, and scared. The body also tells you when something is physically wrong by allowing you to feel pain. Pain can resonate anywhere in the body, including the mouth. A toothache can be especially painful.
What Is a Toothache?
Tooth pain, commonly referred to as a toothache, is pain that emanates in or around a tooth. Minor toothaches can result from issues such as gum irritation. You can treat an issue like that at home. Major toothaches are more serious issues. They result from a dental or mouth issue that needs to be treated by a dentist as the issue will not resolve itself.
What Does a Toothache Feel Like?
A toothache can feel several ways. It can be a sharp, biting pain that seems to come on in an instant. Toothache pain can also be dull and chronic.
Regardless of how the pain presents itself, the reason toothaches are so painful is due to the pulp.
Tooth pulp is comprised of nerves, tissues, and blood vessels. The pulp nerves are some of the most sensitive in the body. Any type of pulp irritation or infection can lead to severe pain.
Some toothache symptoms are quite common. Jaw pain and sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks are typical. Other symptoms that indicate a toothache that needs a dentist’s attention include the following:
- Tooth or jaw pain that stems from chewing
- Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks
- Tooth or jaw swelling
- Bad breath
- Swollen glands
- Trauma or injury to the mouth
Bleeding or discharge around a tooth or from the gums
Any of those symptoms can be signs of decay or gum disease. Discuss those symptoms with your dentist so they can check you for signs of a more serious problem.
What Are Some Toothache Causes?
There are numerous conditions that can cause a toothache.
- Damaged tooth filling
- Broken tooth
- Abscessed tooth
- Infected gums
- Tooth eruption from the gum
- Tooth extraction
- Tooth sensitivity
- Temporomandibular disorder
- Grinding or clenching teeth
- Repetitive mouth motions such as chewing
- Accumulation of food particles between teeth
A dentist needs to determine the exact cause of the toothache before deciding on a course of treatment.
Can a Toothache Cause a Headache?
More than one billion people worldwide suffer from migraines – the severest form of a headache. A migraine can be caused by any number of orofacial conditions, meaning, the face, teeth, gums, jaw, and neck.
Severe pain and stress from a toothache can bring on a migraine. That pain is caused by the injured nerve in the tooth. The greater the injury, the more severe the tooth pain will be. The more severe the tooth pain, the more powerful the migraine.
Can a Toothache Cause a Fever?
A tooth infection will not resolve itself. If it isn’t treated relatively soon, the infection can spread to other parts of the body.
Coming down with a fever can be a sign that the infection has spread. Watch yourself for the chills, sweating, and flushing of the skin.
Can a Toothache Cause Ear Pain?
A toothache accompanied by ear pain can be a sign of a couple of different issues. The first being a sinus infection. Ear infections can also result from a toothache. Consult your doctor if you suspect you have either a sinus infection or an ear infection.
When Is Tooth Pain Serious?
Sometimes tooth pain is more than just simply pain. There are specific symptoms when present with a toothache necessitate that you seek immediate medical attention.
- Fever symptoms – A high fever or chills potentially means you have an infection that will require an antibiotic.
- Facial rash – A rash on your face that’s caused by a toothache will require some sort of medication that should be determined by a physician.
- Head or face injury – Any head or facial injury that brings about nausea, vomiting, a headache, or lightheadedness can be signs of a more serious injury.
- Medical history – A history of chest pains, heart disease, or physical trauma should be brought to the attention of a medical professional immediately.
- Jaw pain and chest pain – These two symptoms together can signify a heart attack or angina as the jaw pain can be referred pain.
- Difficulty swallowing or bleeding gums – People with weakened immune systems, diabetes, or steroid use could be suffering from a serious infection.
- Broken or lost teeth – Any injury that results in broken or knocked-out teeth is considered serious. A swallowed tooth or a permanently lost tooth are classified as dental emergencies.
Any of those conditions should be considered serious enough to require immediate attention.
When Should I See a Dentist About a Toothache?
There are certain criteria that determine when you should schedule an appointment with a dentist about your toothache.
- If the toothache lasts longer than one to two days
- The toothache pain is severe
- Your face or mouth becomes swollen
- You develop a fever or earache
- Opening your mouth wide is painful
- You have a broken tooth
Make note of any of these symptoms so that you can tell your dentist. An accurate diagnosis of what’s causing the toothache will not only bring you faster pain relief, but it will also stop a potential infection from spreading to other parts of your body.
The treatment option for a toothache depends on what type of toothache you have.
If the pain is excruciating enough that you need to dental treatment, your dentist has several treatment options. The toothache cause will have to be diagnosed prior to treatment though, so a dentist will first perform an oral exam. Take note of any specific symptoms to help your dentist determine the cause.
Once your dentist knows what is causing the tooth pain, there are several treatment options.
A cavity can be remedied either by a filling or, if necessary, a tooth extraction. An extraction is also an option if the patient still has primary teeth.
A root canal might be necessary if the tooth’s pulp is infected. Bacteria that penetrates a tooth’s nerve can bring about the need for a root canal.
Your dentist might prescribe an antibiotic due to jaw swelling or if you have a fever.
If the pain is tolerable, you can try an at-home treatment for temporary relief. There are multiple at-home treatment options to choose from.
- Cold compress – Hold an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the pained area. This will reduce swelling. Ice for 20-minute periods every few hours.
- Medications – Try an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen. These medications possess anti-inflammatory properties.
- Rinses – There are a couple of options for rinsing. Warm salt water will loosen tooth debris while reducing inflammation. You can also rinse with hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) to reduce inflammation and minimize pain.
You can also opt for natural or herbal at-home treatments.
- Garlic – Apply a crushed garlic clove paste to the affected area. Garlic relieves pain and kills bacteria.
- Vanilla extract – Vanilla extract contains antioxidants for healing and alcohol to numb the pain. Apply it several times each day.
- Peppermint tea – Apply a warm peppermint tea bag to the affected tooth and gum. The soothing qualities of peppermint will provide pain relief.
- Clove oil – Clove oil is a natural antiseptic that reduces inflammation while numbing pain.
What Happens When I See a Dentist About a Toothache?
Seeking dental treatment is necessary when toothache pain is severe enough. So start by scheduling a checkup with your dentist.
You’ll need to provide a medical history to your dentist before they perform an exam. They’ll ask questions about the pain: when it started, where is it located, how severe is it, what conditions exacerbate the pain, and what conditions relieve the pain.
Your dentist will need to examine your teeth, gums, jaw, tongue, and the rest of the head. They might take x-rays too. Once a dentist ascertains the cause of the toothache, they can determine the correct treatment.
Toothache prevention starts with practicing a healthy oral care regimen. That means brushing multiple times each day complemented by flossing. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride and rinse with an antiseptic mouth wash. Don't forget to schedule regular dental cleanings too.
Visit a Dentist Near You for Toothaches
Consult your dentist to discuss the best methods for cavity prevention or if you’re suffering from cavity symptoms. Or, check out The Smile Generation to find a dentist near you for your toothache prevention and treatment needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.