Tooth pain often presents as soreness, throbbing, or sharp pain that varies in intensity from minor annoyance to unbearable. Toothaches can come on suddenly, though the underlying causes may have been present for some time. A dental exam is necessary whenever you experience prolonged discomfort in or around a tooth.
What Causes Tooth Pain?
There are several reasons you may be experiencing tooth pain:
Tooth decay: Among the most common culprits, tooth decay (or cavities) are tiny holes caused by bacteria that eat away at enamel over time. Checking for cavities is a part of any standard dental exam.
Root canal infection: In some cases, tooth pain could indicate an abscess. This is when the pulp inside the tooth dies and harmful bacteria thrive, prompting your immune system to fill the area with pus. Inflammation and pain are common side effects of an abscess.
Gum disease: When mild known as gingivitis, or when severe known as periodontitis. Infected gums can result in tooth pain. Gums become hot and swollen when an infection occurs and may recede, exposing tooth roots to plaque and irritation from food and drinks.
Tooth grinding: Grinding or clenching your teeth is another possible cause of tooth pain. This can lead to fractures in the teeth or enamel erosion resulting in cavities.
Damaged fillings or cracked teeth: Physical damage to a tooth can cause severe pain and allow bacteria into the root canal, and that’s never a good thing.
Toothache Home Remedies and Temporary Pain Relief
There are tooth pain home remedies that may offer temporary relief until you’re able to see a dentist. Some of these include:
- Rinsing with saltwater: Saltwater is a natural disinfectant that can assist with inflammation and oral wounds as well as loosen any food particles that might be stuck in between teeth. Add less than a tablespoon of salt to a glass of water, swish it around your mouth, and spit.
- Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide: Mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water in a glass, swish around in your mouth and spit it out. This will help reduce swelling and plaque, kill harmful bacteria, and heal gums.
- Peppermint tea bags or peppermint oil: Apply a cool or lukewarm teabag to the tooth to soothe sensitive gums and numb pain. Alternatively, a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball applied to the area can also ease the pain.
- Garlic: Garlic is an excellent combatant for harmful bacteria as well as pain relief. For best results, chew a clove of fresh garlic or crush it into a paste and administer it on the painful area.
- Cold compress: A cold compress can constrict the blood vessels in the area around the tooth, reduce swelling and inflammation, and relieve tooth pain temporarily. For best results, apply a cold compress to the area for 20 minutes at a time, continuing as needed.
- Clove oil: Clove oil contains a natural anesthetic known as eugenol that acts as a temporary pain reliever by numbing the area.
Remember, home remedies aren’t a substitute for proper dental care. Persistent or severe tooth pain requires a dentist’s help to diagnose and treat.
When to Call Your Dentist
Consult your dentist right away if you’re experiencing severe tooth pain, a fever, swelled gums, drainage, or a pocket of pus as a result of a toothache. Any tooth discomfort, whether it’s caused by dental sensitivity, lose or cracked teeth, damaged fillings or crowns, bleeding or swollen gums, or gum recession are signs that it’s time to visit your dentist.
Common Toothache Treatments
A trip to the dentist to alleviate a toothache does not need to be as daunting as it sounds. The first thing a dentist will do is conduct a physical examination to locate the origin of the pain. They may ask you when it started, how severe it is, and what makes it feel better or worse. A dental X-Ray or other tests may then be conducted to determine the cause of the pain.
If the source of the pain is from a cavity, the dentist will fit you for a filling to seal the tooth and prevent bacteria from attacking the dentin. For larger cavities, a crown may be required. In more extreme cases, root canal therapy might be required to clean out the bacteria and pus.
Developing good oral health practices at home is the most surefire way to avoid surprise trips to the dentist. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing in the evening can minimize the harmful bacteria in your mouth that lead to tooth decay and infection.
Be sure to change your toothbrush every 3-4 months or sooner. Avoid smoking and sugary and acidic products. If you do enjoy a soda or candy bar, rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
Finally, schedule regular dental cleanings so your dentist or hygienist can get rid of stubborn plaque and spot any brewing concerns that could result in a toothache.