Toothache Emergencies

For many people, a toothache is a wake-up call that it’s time to make a dental appointment. Yet while toothaches are extremely common, most of them are the result of problems that could be prevented through good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups. Importantly, tooth, jaw or facial pain can also indicate non-dental health issues, such as a sinus or ear infection, or even something more serious such as a heart attack.

What are the Causes and Prevention of Toothache

Toothache is a painful condition that should never be ignored. While some people think it’s the first indication that a tooth is starting to play up, it’s actually a sign that things have already gone seriously wrong and urgent treatment is needed.

A toothache most frequently occurs when the nerve in the root of a tooth is being irritated by infection or decay that’s occurred due to a fracture in the tooth, a damaged filling, infected gums or other problem.

If toothache persists for more than a day, it’s important to make an appointment to see your Holistic Dental practitioner. If that’s not possible, you should visit your GP. Toothache can indicate any number of problems and early diagnosis is vital. Left untreated, dental infections can spread to other parts of the face and skull or allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where they could trigger the formation of clots leading to a heart attack or even a stroke.

What are the Common Symptoms of Toothache?

The term ‘toothache’ is quite generalised. We tend to use it to describe a wide variety of different pain sensations that seem to have their origins in either the teeth or jaw.

Some of the symptoms of toothache include:

  • ongoing pain around a specific tooth or from the jaw
  • tenderness and pain while chewing
  • pain to pressure, such as when brushing
  • sensitivity to hot or cold stimulus which persists for a while after the stimulus has been removed
  • bleeding or swelling around a tooth, the gums or elsewhere in the mouth
  • a pimple or yellow pus-filled sac around a tooth or on the gums
  • earache or pain in the bones and facial area immediately around the ear
  • difficulty or painful swallowing

How the Toothache Cause can be Diagnosed?

The type of pain and its severity are good indicators of what’s causing your toothache. When you visit your Holistic Dental practice complaining of a toothache, your practitioner will undertake a physical examination of your mouth, teeth, gums, throat, nose, ears and neck. Depending on what this examination reveals, it may also be necessary to take some X-rays.

To assist with diagnosing and determining the cause of your toothache, your Holistic Dental practitioner may take a medical history and ask you some of the following questions:

  • When did the pain start?
  • How severe is the pain?
    • Does it keep you awake at night?
  • Where is the pain located?
    • Does it involve the jaw or ears?
    • Does it radiate to other parts of the body, such as the neck, shoulder, or arm?
  • What makes it worse?
    • Cold foods or liquids?
    • Sweet foods or liquids?
    • After chewing?
    • After drinking?
    • When you touch the area?
    • After physical exertion?
  • What makes it better?
    • Have medications helped, and if so, which ones?
    • Does a heating pad relieve the pain?
    • Does it seem less painful after you’ve rested?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
    • Fever?
    • Nausea?
    • Sweating?
    • Indigestion?
    • Chest pain?
    • Bleeding?
  • Have you been in an accident or has your jaw or face taken a blow or been injured (such as through some sporting activity).

Although many people with a toothache try to put off going to the dentist as long as they can, it’s important to have your symptoms checked out as soon as possible.

What Causes Toothache?

Toothache occurs when the central portion of the tooth called the ‘pulp’, which contains nerve endings that are very sensitive to pain, becomes infected, inflamed and irritated.

Pain and discomfort when consuming hot or cold, sweet or sour food and beverages, which may indicate a loss of tooth enamel (often from incorrect and excessive brushing), receding gums or a deteriorating tooth cavity.A tooth may also be sensitive for a while after a treatment such as a filling or a root canal, however this is usually temporary and may last from just a few days to as long as a couple of weeks.

This is most often the result of bacteria entering the soft pulp, due to a crack or fracture in the tooth, or a loose filling. Dental decay is noticeable by sharp pain when biting on food, and may also produce bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth.

The indicators of a tooth abscess are constant and severe pain that increases with pressure, and/or swollen gums that are sensitive to touch. An abscess can occur when the infection spreads from the pulp of the tooth into the surrounding and tissue, nerve and bone. Untreated, an abscess usually leads to tooth loss.

Also known as gingivitis, gum disease can lead to the gums receding and exposing sensitive areas of the tooth, including the tooth root.

Erupting wisdom teeth can cause inflammation and infection of the gum area around the erupted crown, which can cause pain that extends from the lower jaw to the ear. In some cases swelling in the area may make it difficult to close the jaw properly, while pain in the throat and floor of the mouth may make it difficult to swallow.

Dental stress caused by a variety of factors such as a poor bite (or malocclusion), teeth grinding (or bruxism), bad chewing habits – and more – can result in a condition that’s known as temporomandibular jaw disorder (TMJ). The pain caused by TMJ can affect the face, jaw and teeth as well as be responsible for chronic headaches.

In other instances, toothache pain is may be the result of referred pain from non-dental health issues such as a sinus infection, ear infection or even a heart attack.

How to Get Treated in Toothache Emergency?

Once your Holistic Dental practitioner has determined what’s causing your toothache, they will implement an appropriate treatment plan. Here are some of the options that may be considered for the most common causes of toothache:

  • A sensitive tooth – Treatment may range from simply using desensitising toothpaste through to a filling, root canal or similar procedure that will rectify the damage caused by decay. If the cause is gum disease, you may require ‘root planing’ (which helps remove toxins and bacteria from the root of the teeth), or even surgery such as a gum graft.
  • Dental decay – If a cavity has formed you may need a filling, while if the pulp of the tooth has been infected you’ll probably require a root canal treatment.If the tooth is broken or badly damaged it may require a crown, and if the decay has severely damaged the root of the tooth and the nerve, it may need to be extracted. The missing tooth will then need to be replaced by something such as a false tooth attached to a bridge or an implant.
  • A tooth abscess – The infectious bacteria in a dental abscess needs to be drained away and the damaged tissue from the tooth pulp removed. A root canal treatment may be performed if the tooth can be saved, however if the abscess has not been treated early enough it may have already infected and killed the nerve of the tooth, in which case the tooth will usually need to extracted.
  • Gum disease – Treatment for gum disease ranges from removing plaque build-up and scaling the teeth or removing the toxins and bacteria from the root surface of the tooth (a procedure called ‘planing’), through to ‘flap’ surgery (lifting back the gums to remove the tartar) or even a gum graft.
  • Wisdom teeth – If a wisdom tooth is impacted (which means there is not enough room in the mouth for the tooth to correctly grow through the gums) it may need to be extracted.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder – The treatment of temporomandibular jaw disorder (TMJ) depends on the underlying cause. You can read more about this disorder and its treatment here.

In addition to the above treatments, here a few things you can do to reduce the pain and provide some temporary relief if you’re not able to visit your Holistic Dental practitioner immediately:

  • If the tooth is sensitive, avoid hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks. If the sensitivity is caused by an exposed root surface, you can try to rub a little desensitising toothpaste over the area with a finger or apply an over-the-counter oral analgesic gel.
  • Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may provide some relief, however you should avoid antibiotics unless these are prescribed by your dental practitioner. While analgesics may reduce the pain, they will not cure or treat the tooth. Even if pain subsides, it’s important to see your Holistic Dental practitioner as soon as possible.
  • Rinsing you mouth with hot saltwater (a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water) may help if the problem is caused by a tooth erupting.
Why you need Treatment for your Toothaches?

Simply ignoring a toothache and taking analgesics to stop the pain is not a solution. Some people are delighted that when they do this, the pain eventually stops, which makes them mistakenly believe that the problem has healed itself. In most cases the pain has stopped because the nerve has died and is no longer sending alarm signals to the brain. However, because the infection hasn’t been treated it’s almost certain that the nerve will get infected and that you’ll develop a dental abscess. In time, this will lead to a new source of pain and almost inevitably result in the tooth being lost.

How can you Detain Your Toothache?

Most toothache is the direct result of tooth decay or gum disease. Both of these can be prevented through good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups that include professional tooth cleaning.

A healthy diet is also a great preventative measure. The harmful bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars and starch, which then enable them to attack the enamel on your teeth. You should be careful to limit your intake of food that sticks to your teeth or between them. On the other hand foods with some roughage such as an apple may act as a natural toothbrush. Rinsing your mouth with water at the end of a meal will also help reduce the growth of bacteria.