Understanding Toothaches: Causes, Symptoms, and Relief

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Person with a toothache holding their cheek in pain.

Introduction:

A toothache is a pain in or around your tooth, caused by various issues like cavities, gum disease, or infected teeth. It can range from a mild discomfort to a throbbing pain and can be triggered by chewing, biting, or hot and cold temperatures.

In this blog we’ll discuss these topics:

What is a toothache? 

Tooth pain is tough to ignore, whether it’s sharp and sudden or dull and constant. It happens when the nerve in the root of a tooth or around a tooth gets irritated. Common causes include:

  • Tooth infection
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth injury
  • Losing a tooth

Pain can also happen after a tooth is pulled. Sometimes, pain from other areas like the jaw joint (TMJ), ear, sinuses, or even the heart can feel like tooth pain.

Bacteria in your mouth can cause gum disease and tooth decay, leading to pain. However, gum disease often doesn’t cause pain.

How do you feel when you get teethaches?

When you have a toothache, it can feel very uncomfortable and distressing. Here are some common sensations:

  • Sharp, Sudden Pain: This can occur when you bite down or come into contact with something hot or cold.
  • Throbbing Pain: A constant, pulsing pain that can be felt in the tooth or jaw.
  • Dull, Aching Pain: A lingering discomfort that might make it hard to concentrate or sleep.
  • Sensitivity: A heightened reaction to hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks.
  • Pressure: A feeling of pressure or fullness in the jaw or tooth.
  • Swelling and redness: Inflammation in the gums or around the affected tooth.

A toothache can make you feel irritable, anxious, and tired, especially if the pain interferes with your sleep or daily activities. If the pain persists or is severe, it is important to see a dentist.

Reasons behind toothaches 

Common Causes of Toothaches

  • Tooth Decay: This is the most common cause. If not treated, it can lead to an infection called an abscess, which is a painful infection near or inside your tooth. An untreated abscess can be very dangerous and even life-threatening if it spreads to the brain, so see a dentist right away if you think you have one.
  • Impacted Tooth: This happens when a tooth, usually a wisdom tooth, is stuck in the gum or bone and can’t come out. This can cause a lot of pain.

Common Causes of Referred Pain Toothaches

  • Sinusitis: This is when your sinuses get inflamed from an infection. Because your upper teeth are close to your sinuses, sinusitis can make your upper teeth hurt.

Less Common Causes of Referred Pain Toothaches

  • Heart Disease and Lung Cancer: These can sometimes cause tooth pain. In rare cases, a toothache might be a sign of a heart attack. The pain can happen because the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain to your heart and lungs, also passes through your jaw.

Rare Causes of Referred Pain Toothaches

  • Trigeminal Neuralgia and Occipital Neuralgia: These are nerve conditions that cause pain. When the nerves in your face and skull get irritated or inflamed, the pain can feel like it’s coming from your teeth.

signs and symptoms of toothaches 

Toothaches can be caused by a variety of dental problems, and understanding the signs and symptoms can help identify the underlying cause. Common signs and symptoms associated with toothache are:

Common Symptoms

Pain

  • Constant or intermittent pain: constant throbbing or sharp, stabbing pain.
  • Pain on pressure: pain on biting or chewing.
  • Radiating pain: Pain that radiates to the jaw, ear, or neck.

Swelling

  • Gum Swelling: Inflammation or puffiness around the affected tooth.
  • Facial Swelling: Swelling of the face or cheek near the affected area.

Sensitivity

  • Temperature Sensitivity: Pain when consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks.
  • Pressure Sensitivity: Discomfort when touching the tooth or applying pressure.

Redness and Tenderness

  • Gum Redness: Red, inflamed gums around the affected tooth.
  • Tender Gums: Gums that are painful to touch.

Bad Taste or Smell

  • Bad Breath: Foul odor from the mouth.
  • Unpleasant Taste: Persistent bad taste in the mouth, which might indicate an infection.
Cartoon tooth with a frown and sweatdrops, holding a cold compress to its cheek.

The management of toothaches 

Controlling a toothache involves two main steps: immediate pain relief and correcting the problem causing the pain. Here’s a simple guide to dealing with a toothache:

Immediate Relief

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

  • Ibuprofen: Helps reduce pain and swelling.
  • Acetaminophen: Helps relieve pain, especially if you can’t take ibuprofen.
  • Aspirin: Can help with pain, but don’t apply it directly to your gums or teeth.

Cold Compress

Place a cold pack or ice wrapped in a cloth on the outside of your cheek near the painful area for 15-20 minutes. It helps reduce swelling and reduce pain.

Rinse with salt water

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and rinse your mouth for 30 seconds. It helps clean the area around the tooth and can reduce swelling.

Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse

Mix equal parts of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water. Use it as a mouthwash but don’t swallow it. This can help reduce bacteria and swelling.

Clove Oil

Put a small amount of clove oil on a cotton ball and apply it to the painful area. Clove oil has natural pain-relieving and germ-fighting properties.

Dentist examining a patient's teeth with dental tools.

Home Care

Oral Hygiene

Keep brushing and flossing your teeth, but be gentle around the sore area.

Use a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

Avoid Certain Foods

Don’t eat very hot, cold, sugary, or acidic foods and drinks that can make the pain worse.

Elevation

Keep your head raised while lying down to reduce blood flow to the tooth area, which can help lessen the pain.

Professional Dental Treatment

Dental Examination

Visit a dentist to find out what’s causing the toothache. They may need to take X-rays to see what’s wrong.

Dental Procedures

  • Fillings: To fix cavities causing the toothache.
  • Root Canal: To treat severe decay or infection that has reached the tooth’s nerve.
  • Tooth Extraction: To remove teeth that are too damaged to save or severely infected.
  • Abscess Drainage: To drain pus from an infected area.

Antibiotics

If there is an infection, especially if there is swelling, fever or the infection is spreading, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics.

Dental sealants and fluoride treatments

These are preventative treatments to protect your teeth from decay and reduce the chances of future toothaches.

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How to avoid getting a toothache

Because most toothaches are caused by tooth decay, maintaining good oral hygiene can prevent them. Effective oral hygiene includes brushing your teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, rinsing with antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day, and visiting your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings. Additionally, consume foods low in sugar and consult your dentist about sealants and fluoride treatments.

Faq’s 

Q1. How to Make Tooth Pain Go Away?

A1. Tooth pain can come from tooth decay, an infection, loose or broken fillings, or receding gums. Here are some home treatments you can try:

  • Use a cold compress on the side of your face.
  • Rinse your mouth with salt water.
  • Drink peppermint tea.

If the pain lasts more than 1 or 2 days, see a dentist right away.

Q2. What to Do If Your Teeth Hurt?

A2. If you need quick pain relief at home, try these tips:

  1. Prop your head up on a pillow. Lying flat can make the pain worse.
  2. Rinse your mouth with salt water.
  3. Use a cold compress on the side of your face.

Q3. Best Medicine for Tooth Pain

A3. For minor toothache pain, try these medicines:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Aspirin

Numbing gels or pastes with benzocaine can help dull the pain enough to fall asleep.

Q4. How to Stop Toothache Fast at Home

A4. To quickly reduce a toothache, try these steps:

  • Rinse with hydrogen peroxide, salt water, or wheatgrass.
  • Apply clove oil, vanilla extract, or garlic paste to the painful area.
  • Use a cold compress or ice pack.

If the pain doesn’t go away or is very severe, see your dentist.

Q5. How to Treat Tooth Nerve Pain

A5. To stop nerve pain in your teeth, try these tips:

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Avoid chewing on the sore tooth.
  • Eat soft foods.
  • Stay away from very hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks.

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