Tooth pain can strike at any time. Unfortunately, pain is often the first noticeable sign of a dental problem. Oftentimes, it is a wake-up call announcing an issue.
What causes tooth pain and what should you do if your tooth hurts?
Understanding Your Toothache
Various dental issues can cause tooth pain. Depending on the underlying cause, you may have additional symptoms. Generally speaking, a toothache is a sign that you need to see a dentist.
Learn more about the common reasons for tooth pain, additional symptoms, and treatment options.
Symptoms and Causes of Tooth Pain
When you have a toothache, you may experience more than just pain. Other common symptoms include:
- Pain that occurs while chewing or putting pressure on the area
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Pain that radiates to the cheek, ear, or jaw
- Bleeding or discharge around the tooth or gums
- Swelling around the tooth or in the jaw
Tooth decay, infection, and gum disease are common triggers for tooth pain and sensitivity. However, medical issues such as sinusitis, ear infections, or a jaw injury can be confused for tooth pain.
Top 5 Reasons For Tooth Pain
If you do experience tooth pain, it is important to consult your dentist. Dental problems do not go away on their own and must be treated. Treating oral health issues earlier increases the likelihood of a positive result. Below are 5 common reasons for tooth pain.
1. Temperature Sensitivity
Most people prefer their foods at a particular temperature – hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Having a sensitivity to temperatures can be limiting at mealtimes. However, it can also signal a dental problem.
Tooth sensitivity can be caused by:
- Worn out enamel
- A cracked or broken tooth
- Loose fillings
- Receding gums
Depending on the cause and severity, tooth sensitivity can sometimes be reversed by simply following good oral habits. Toothpaste or mouthwash designed for sensitive teeth may be recommended. These products help numb nerve endings, reduce pain, and strengthen tooth enamel.
If your temperature sensitivities persist or are severe, schedule an appointment with your dentist. You may have a more serious dental problem that requires attention.
2. Receding Gums
Receding gums are often a sign of periodontal disease.
Healthy gums are light pink and firm. They do not bleed easily. Signs of gum disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums. As gum disease spreads, pockets begin to form around the base of the teeth, the gums recede, and bacteria can cause infections.
When the gums recede, the tooth roots are exposed. This causes pain or sensitivity, especially to temperature changes. In severe cases, the teeth can become loose and may even fall out.
Treatment is necessary for gum disease as it will only get worse without intervention.
Also called tooth decay or caries, cavities are permanently damaged areas on the tooth. They are often caused by sugary foods, poor oral hygiene, and bacteria in the mouth. Dental cavities are one of the most common diseases in the United States, coming only behind the common cold.
Besides pain or sensitivity, additional symptoms of cavities include:
- Visible pits in the teeth
- Dark stains on the surface of the teeth
- Pain when eating sugary substances
Left untreated, the damage from cavities grows larger and affects deeper layers of the teeth. A filling is necessary to prevent the decay from spreading by sealing out further bacteria and restoring the tooth. You can prevent additional cavities by brushing your teeth, flossing, and eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar.
4. Infection or Abscess
A bad toothache is often the first sign of an abscess. When an infection occurs around the tooth root, it can form a pocket of pus called an abscess. It can occur in the tooth root or in the gums and causes severe pain.
Additional symptoms include:
- Temperature and pressure sensitivities
- Facial swelling
- A sudden rush of foul-tasting or smelling liquid as the abscess bursts
- Swollen lymph nodes
An abscess requires treatment to clear up the infection and reduce the swelling. Even if the abscess ruptures and your pain subsides, the relief is only temporary. Dental care is needed to address the underlying problem. Treatment may involve draining the abscess, a root canal, or a tooth extraction.
5. Cracked Tooth
A broken or cracked tooth requires help from a dental professional. It is usually the result of serious tooth decay, a large filling that weakens the tooth, biting down on hard foods or candies, or a physical injury.
Symptoms of a crack include pain when chewing, temperature sensitivity, pain that comes and goes, and swelling around the affected tooth.
When a crack occurs, it can appear as a small line in the enamel, fractured cusp around a filling, crack to the gum line, split tooth, or root fracture. Smaller cracks can often be repaired with little treatment. A tooth with a larger break that splits the tooth or affects the root may not be salvageable.
Prompt treatment is important to preserve your natural teeth. The severity of the problem will determine the treatment used. Treatments may include restorative procedures such as a filling, bonding, or crown or emergency dental care such as a root canal or extraction.
What to Do When Your Tooth Hurts
When tooth pain strikes, you want the pain to go away quickly. Contact your dentist first. While you wait, you may try home remedies to ease your symptoms until you can be seen.
Try the following tips to help ease your toothache at home:
- Use a saltwater rinse.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease your discomfort.
- Apply ice packs to reduce swelling.
The important thing to remember when tooth pain structures or in an emergency situation is to remain calm. Contact your dentist for an appointment or additional pain relief tips. Once you have an appointment, your dentist will work to ease your toothache, assess the issue, and treat the underlying problem.
As mentioned above, treatment will depend on the exact reason your tooth hurts. Your dentist may recommend fillings, bonding, root canals, crowns, or extractions.
Contact Aten & Garofalo Dentistry
If you experience tooth pain in Ballantyne, NC, contact Aten & Garofalo Dentistry for emergency dental care.