Worried about a toothache? Your family dentist can help.
Toothaches can come on suddenly and might have no obvious cause. If you have a toothache, you could be tempted to “wait and see” how it feels in a few days. Sadly, though, a toothache always means that there’s an underlying problem that needs to be figured out!
Where Do Toothaches Come From?
Teeth might seem like simple, solid things that don’t have very many parts. In truth, though, they are part of a complex system that interacts with everything else in your body. Beyond all the familiar enamel of your teeth is the dentin, the pulp, and of course, the nerve.
The pulp is responsible for maintaining blood flow to the tooth and is a key part of the loop between each tooth and the gums. The nerve helps you sense hot and cold, which is why people who have had a root canal procedure done do not have this sensation in the affected teeth.
Tooth decay is the most likely cause of any given toothache. You can have tooth decay even if you have been very diligent about brushing your teeth – dental caries (also known as cavities) start out microscopically and can develop over a very long period of time.
Tooth decay starts with sticky biofilm, which forms on teeth as bacteria use the sugar and other chemicals in food particles as fuel. Within a short time, biofilm that hasn’t been disrupted by brushing hardens into plaque, starting the process of tooth decay.
A toothache usually indicates that decay is progressing to a more advanced state.
Some other problems can also cause a toothache:
- Gingivitis or periodontal disease, the infection process that attacks gum tissue;
- An infection – caused by the same “tooth decay bacteria” settling into the tooth;
- Trauma to the jaw, face, or even the neck, which can loosen or damage the tooth.
Toothaches can cause a wide variety of other symptoms that can range from distracting to severe. For example, toothaches in the upper teeth often lead to pain in the ear. It’s important to get any toothache checked out: Minor symptoms can actually signal the spread of a serious infection.
What Can I Do About a Toothache?
If a toothache has any of the following symptoms, it should be considered an emergency:
- Swelling in the jaw or the face;
- Discoloration in the gums near the affected tooth, especially if black;
- Bleeding or other discharge in the gums;
- Chest pain or shortness of breath;
- Pain in the ear that persists or gets worse.
Even if the toothache is minor, set an appointment with a trusted family dentist within three days. Continue to brush daily, being especially careful and gentle with the problem tooth, or avoiding it if light brushing causes pain. Use warm saltwater as a mouthwash. You may use pain relief gel from your pharmacy, such as Orajel.
Contact your family dentist at Landmark Dental Group for prompt, caring help with your toothache!