A toothache may not sound like a huge problem, but it can cripple you throughout the day if you don’t take care of it. Even if it starts as a minor irritation, a toothache can eventually make it difficult to talk, chew, or even sleep, and the accompanying headache turns small tasks into monumental chores. When you start to experience pain, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with your Highlands Ranch dentist to discover the underlying causes of a toothache.
Many toothache symptoms occur from deeper dental health issues that need to be fixed before they create worsening complications.
To put tooth pain in perspective, this article will explore the main reasons we experience it and offer advice on how to get rid of a toothache before you visit the dentist.
1. Tooth Decay
Your tooth is full of pulp, a combination of soft tissue, blood vessels, and a vast network of nerves. These nerves are extremely sensitive, but a healthy tooth creates a shield from the outside elements. That’s why it’s so critical to protect your enamel and gums with healthy brushing habits.
When cavities start to set in and the enamel around your teeth erodes, the middle layer of the tooth is exposed. The layer, called dentin, consists of open chambers leading to the sensitive pulp contained inside. If hot, cold, or acidic foods contact the dentin, it will be felt by the nerves in the pulp and cause a toothache.
Inflammation, throbbing pain, and other symptoms of a toothache from a cavity can be managed with OTC pain-relievers like ibuprofen. You may also get results from DIY toothache remedies. But no matter how you ease the pain in the moment, it’s vital to schedule an appointment with your local dentist as soon as possible.
2. Abscessed Tooth
Avoiding an abscessed tooth is one of the best reasons to talk with your dentist about a cavity. When left to grow, a cavity can expose the pulp in your tooth to bacteria, eventually causing an infection.
A periapical abscess is an infection in the tooth caused by a cavity or crack. The pain can be intense, with sharp or throbbing pain radiating from the tooth and gum to other parts of the jaw and face. It may even be accompanied by an open wound at the gum where blood and pus accumulate.
An abscess needs immediate medical attention, as it won’t go away by itself. The nerve in your tooth may eventually die, causing the pain to subside, but the infection can continue to travel. In severe cases, it can spread to the brain or heart.
3. Gum Disease and Damage
Swollen, red, and bleeding gums are a hallmark of gingivitis, a mild bacterial infection affecting half of all American adults over 30 years old. The condition usually comes from poor brushing and flossing habits.
When you don’t brush, bacteria can thrive and create plaque, a sticky bacteria-filled film that forms on the teeth. Eventually, plaque will turn to a harder substance called tartar, which continues to collect bacteria. The tartar will irritate the area where your gums meet your teeth, resulting in gingivitis.
A dentist will need to remove the tartar on your teeth to treat gingivitis. Over time, the condition will evolve into periodontitis, where a worsening infection spreads to the bone.
4. Broken Tooth
A tooth can crack from general wear as a result of poor upkeep or from an injury. Grinding your teeth or biting down on something hard like a piece of candy can create enough pressure to fracture a tooth as well.
A cracked tooth will cause sudden pain while chewing, or when it’s exposed to extremely hot or cold food. The crack exposes the pulp, which will be activated by sudden shock to the weakened pieces of the tooth. The opening created by a crack is also a clear entrance for bacteria, and you’ll run a higher risk of developing an abscess.
You can use an OTC medicine or oral anesthetic like Orajel to make the pain more manageable. It’s crucial to avoid sugary, acidic, or otherwise irritating foods, as a crack can cause a severe toothache. If you suspect you have a broken tooth, contact your dentist immediately.
5. Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, occurs when you clench your jaw and continuously grind your teeth together. It’s often a response to stress, and if you pay attention throughout the day, you can keep your teeth grinding to a minimum.
A more harmful condition is sleep bruxism, where you grind your teeth unknowingly in your sleep. Not only is it harder to consciously control, but the clenching force is generally much stronger in your sleep, which can cause tooth breaks and severe headaches.
Lifestyle changes can help you manage teeth grinding. Limiting your alcohol intake and managing stress are two effective methods of easing the nerves that lead to bruxism. If you discuss your concerns with your dentist, they may offer a guard to protect your teeth while you sleep.
6. Impacted Teeth
Wisdom teeth that are having difficulty erupting can put pressure on the rest of your teeth. They’re a common cause of toothache under the crown, where you’ll feel a throbbing discomfort.
An impacted tooth will need extraction before it causes the development of cysts, tumors, or infection. In general, even if a wisdom tooth has erupted, you should still schedule an extraction with an oral surgeon. Extracting your wisdom teeth will remove hard-to-reach areas where cavities could develop and take pressure off the rest of your teeth.
7. Other Causes of Toothache
Your teeth are one of the body’s centers for referred pain, where a throbbing tooth is caused by anything from sinusitis to muscle pain. In rare cases, heart and lung conditions can activate the nerve that runs through your jaw to your teeth.
Schedule an Appointment with Your Dentist in Highlands Ranch
You can help a toothache at home with standard anti-inflammatories and OTC oral treatments. But no matter the causes of the toothache, it’s crucial that you follow up with your dentist to catch the problem early. With immediate intervention, you’ll enjoy a speedy recovery and a lower risk of future dental issues.
Are you looking for a dentist in Highlands Ranch to help you get rid of your toothache once and for all? At Meyer Dental, we offer a comprehensive array of services and the latest technology to meet the dental needs of the entire family. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you live pain-free.