The soft material inside the tooth, known as the pulp, is filled with nerves, tissues, and blood vessels. These nerves are some of the most sensitive in the body, and when they become irritated or infected by bacteria (abscess), they can cause severe pain, referred to as toothache.
A toothache is a common symptom of an underlying dental or oral problem typically characterized by pain in or around a tooth. Minor toothaches can result from temporary gum irritation, which can be treated at home. However, more severe toothaches may require professional intervention. If left untreated, toothaches caused by tooth decay can worsen over time. Although usually not life-threatening, in some cases, toothaches can be referred from another part of the body, indicating a more serious medical condition that requires urgent medical attention.
Causes of toothache
Toothache is a common problem caused by various issues, ranging from a cavity to a sinus infection. The most common reasons for a toothache are decay, an infection, a cracked tooth, gum disease, and grinding or clenching the teeth.
Other causative factors may include exposed nerve endings in a tooth, damaged fillings, trauma or injury, or a foreign object lodged between the teeth. Sometimes sinus infections, jaw joint problems, and even certain foods can cause toothache. It is crucial to see a dentist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Toothache can be a warning sign of heart and lung disease due to its connection with the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the heart and lungs and passes through the jaw. In addition, certain neurological conditions can cause inflammation or irritation of nerves triggering toothache.
Symptoms of toothache
Toothaches can manifest in many forms and intensities. Pain may be transient or persistent and can worsen upon consumption of hot or cold food and beverages. The sensation may be described as sharp and abrupt in onset and often intensifies during the night or when lying down. Common symptoms of toothache include:
Sometimes, a person may also experience fever, headache, earache, facial swelling, and lymph node swelling.
Treatment for toothache
Temporary relief from a toothache can be achieved by:
In case of progressive toothache, temporary remedies will not be helpful and may require professional assistance. The clinical treatment module largely depends on the toothache's causative factor. The doctor may perform diagnostic procedures such as physical examination and imaging tests to detect and examine the cause and severity of the condition and may recommend one of the following treatment procedures:
Medication – Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen can be advised to reduce the pain. If the toothache is accompanied by a fever or swelling of the jaw, an antibiotic may be added as part of the treatment plan.
Filling the cavity - If a toothache is caused by tooth decay, the dentist will remove the decayed area and replace it with a filling. Alternatively, if a loose or broken filling causes toothache, the dentist will take out the filling, remove any decay present in the tooth, and replace the filling with a new one.
Root Canal - For treating infected tooth pulp, you may need root canal treatment, which entails the removal of the infected pulp and inserting a special filling to seal the tooth and prevent re-infection.
Dental extraction - If the toothache cannot be treated using these methods, or if the tooth is impacted between another tooth and jaw, it may need to be extracted.
Tips to Prevent Toothache
Preventing toothache is essential and can be achieved by following simple steps.
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