If you ever had a toothache, then you know the pain. It can be tough to eat, you might avoid hot or cold foods, and even talking could be problematic. Toothaches are common, and they can be caused by underlying dental issues or non-dental conditions.
Determining the cause of your tooth pain is the first step in treating it, so let’s look at the causes of toothaches. Then we’ll discuss treatment options, including some home remedies that offer temporary relief.
Dental Causes of Tooth Pain
There are several types of tooth pain that can mean different things. Understanding the root of your tooth pain can give you a good idea about the underlying cause and what type of treatment to expect. Remember, tooth pain generally doesn’t resolve on its own, you need to address the underlying problem.
1. Tooth Decay
When bacteria builds up and damages your tooth enamel it can cause pain. You may also notice small spots on your teeth.
2. Cracked or Fractured Tooth
If you notice pain when you drink a cup of hot coffee or tea, it can be an indicator of a crack in the tooth. In some cases, it can also signal a leaking dental restoration, like a crown or filling.
When a tooth is cracked or fractured, you may experience throbbing pain caused by bacteria in the tooth. Bacteria present inside the tooth produce gas as a byproduct. When the bacteria release gas inside the tooth, there is nowhere for the gas to escape and instead the pressure inside the tooth builds and applies to the nerve tissue within the cracked tooth pain ensues.
3. Tooth Abscess
Damaged teeth can lead to tooth abscesses. The pulp inside the tooth dies and creates a pocket of bacteria and pus.
Suggested treatment: depending on the location and severity of the abscess, you will need antibiotics to kill the bacteria, draining and cleaning of the abscess as well as the surrounding teeth and gums. You may require a root canal or a dental implant.
4. Exposed Dentin
From ice water to a candy bar, if you experience pain when eating sweets or drinking cold beverages, you may have exposed dentin. Dentin is the secondary layer of the tooth which has an osmotic property that allows fluids to move in and out of the tooth. These liquids flow through the dentin and can irritate the nerves inside the pulp of the tooth.
5. Chronic Bruxism
Commonly known as tooth grinding, can cause tooth sensitivity and facial pain. Many people grind their teeth in their sleep and may not even be aware of the habit until they notice tooth, gum, and jaw pain.
Suggested treatment: wearing a mouthguard overnight can limit the effects of grinding, and practicing relaxation techniques during the day can help. If you suspect that you are grinding your teeth, it’s important to see a dentist for a full exam to identify any damage to your teeth.
6. Gum Disease
Receding or inflamed gums can cause pain by leaving multiple tooth roots exposed. When gums recede and expose the roots, bacteria settles in and builds up around the tooth roots and can even break down the bone that stabilizes your teeth. The teeth loosen and cavities can develop.
Suggested treatment: a gum infection requires antibiotics to clear up the infection. It’s necessary to see a dentist for a full exam, even if just one tooth bothers you.
Your dentist can identify the extent of damage and determine the best course of action. Treatments for gum disease include regular dental cleanings, medicated mouthwash, deep cleanings that involve scaling and root planing, or dental surgery.
7. Wisdom Teeth Pain
Pain from wisdom teeth can vary, but it’s most common in people with impacted wisdom teeth, teeth that have not erupted yet. Many people experience wisdom tooth growing pain and gum pain. If you experience pain in erupted wisdom teeth, it could signal a cavity or infection in or around the tooth.
Suggested treatment: wisdom tooth pain relief only comes with extraction of the teeth. If you have tooth and/or jaw pain and haven’t had your wisdom teeth removed, it’s a good idea to see your dentist for a check-up. Given the location of wisdom teeth, your dentist can determine if they are causing your pain and what steps to take next.
Non Dental Causes of Tooth Pain
You may be surprised to learn that not all tooth pain comes from dental conditions. Many people experience tooth pain without having any of the above issues. It doesn’t mean their tooth pain is any less painful!
- Sinus inflammation or infection can trigger significant pain in your teeth and jaw.
- Diabetics who have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels are at higher risk for tooth decay and related pain.
- Cluster headaches can radiate pain into the teeth and jaw.
- Viral infections, like shingles, can also trigger tooth pain.
- Trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve disease, presents as sharp pains on one side of your face.
- Some people experience jaw pain when they have a heart attack.
- A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause tooth pain.
Treatment of these conditions should be discussed with your medical doctor. Maintaining regular appointments with your dentist can help manage any issues with your teeth and gums. You can also use some of the home remedies listed below to temporarily ease the pain.
Home Remedies for Toothaches
What happens when you wake up with a toothache in the middle of the night? It’s not like you can rush over to your dentist’s office at two in the morning. You still need sleep, right? Try some of these home remedies to ease the pain so that you can get some rest.
- Over-the-counter medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can reduce your pain. You could also try a numbing agent with benzocaine to numb the affected area.
- Cold compresses, like ice cubes in a towel, applied directly to your face for fifteen to twenty minutes can reduce pain.
- A salt water or hydrogen peroxide rinse could alleviate pain. Salt water rinses protect against infection, remove debris, and act as an antibacterial. Food-grade hydrogen peroxide diluted with water can help as well.
- Peppermint tea has antibacterial and antioxidant compounds. Swish the tea around your mouth or suck on the tea bag to reduce pain.
- Clove paste (made from ground cloves and water) can reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area. You can also chew on a single clove.
- Chew on a clove of garlic to relieve pain and take advantage of the strong antibacterial effects.
When to See a Dentist for Your Tooth Pain
Some people treat their tooth pain with over-the-counter medications or home remedies, which may do the trick – temporarily. However, if your toothache stems from an underlying dental issue, no home remedy is going to permanently solve your problem and the pain will return in full force. Ouch!
If you have tooth pain, make an appointment with your dentist for a full exam and manage the discomfort with home remedies until then. However, should you experience any of these conditions, contact your dentist for an emergency visit:
- If you have a toothache that lasts more than a few days, you should see your dentist as soon as possible because this indicates a bigger problem.
- Persistent or severe pain is another reason to see your dentist – wouldn’t it be nice to have relief?
- A fever, earache, or jaw pain when you open your mouth are all indicative of a much larger problem.
Tips for Preventing Toothaches
It’s impossible to prevent every cause of a toothache because accidents happen, but maintaining good oral care routines is your best line of defense. Since most of the causes of toothaches on our list relate to tooth decay and gum disease, start with brushing and flossing properly each day.
It’s equally important to see your dentist for a professional teeth cleaning and check-up twice per year. Your dental team can identify potential issues before they develop into problem areas. If you’re due for an appointment, book an appointment at the Jefferson Dental and Orthodontics office nearest you. Our friendly, dedicated team is here for you!