Pain is our body’s way of alerting us to danger. If your tooth is yelling at you, even intermittently, it is important that you follow these guidelines and contact us right away. The longer a toothache is ignored, the more serious the consequences can become. The sooner you address it, the better it will be for you, the patient.
It is a potential emergency situation if:
Call your dentist immediately if you have any of the following:
- Pain that persists for more than a day or two
- Signs and symptoms of infection, such as fever, swelling, pain when you bite, red gums or a foul-tasting discharge
- Trouble breathing or swallowing (call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately)
What is causing the toothache?
Typically, the major cause of a toothache is decay for most children and adults. Bacteria that live in your mouth thrive on sugars and starches in the food you eat. These bacteria form a sticky plaque that clings to the surface of your teeth.
The bacteria produce acids that can actually eat through the hard, white coating on the outside of your teeth (enamel), creating a cavity. The first sign of decay may be a sensation of pain when you eat something sweet, very cold or very hot. Sometimes decay will show as a brown or white spot on the tooth.
At first, the toothache may come and go depending on the conditions in the mouth but gone unchecked, if it is a cavity, the pain (and decay) will worsen and the pain may become constant often interrupting sleep with a painful throbbing sensation inside the mouth.
It is important to not diagnose your own toothache or to avoid seeking care. If it is a cavity, it will get worse over time. When a toothache is ignored or self-treated by eating only on one side of your mouth or avoiding foods or temperatures that cause the most sensitivity; it doesn’t mean that you have “cured your toothache”, you are simply treating the symptom (pain) and not the cause.
Other causes of a toothache can include:
- Sudden fracture of the tooth from bumping the mouth or from grinding (Bruxism)
- A split in the tooth that occurs over time allowing access to the sensitive nerves
- Filling falling out which may expose the nerve
- Teeth that start to erupt through the gums, such as is the case in teething or wisdom teeth that don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally (impacted wisdom teeth)
- A sinus infection can sometimes create a sensation of pain in the teeth, jaw, and face
- An accumulation of food between your teeth, especially if your teeth have spaces between them
- Inflammation or infection at the root (where it meets the gum line) of the tooth or in the gums
- Trauma to the tooth, including injury or grinding your teeth
Make an appointment with Nicollet Station Dental right away and try these self-care tips for your discomfort prior to the appointment:
- Use a water pick or rinse your mouth with lukewarm water.
- Use dental floss to remove any food particles or plaque wedged between your teeth.
- Consider taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever to dull the ache, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- If the toothache is caused by trauma to the tooth, apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek.