What is a Toothache and What Are Some Causes?

A toothache is a sharp pain that is felt in and around a tooth. The pain varies from person to person, but is usually a sign of a problem with the gums or teeth. The most minor toothache is pain caused by sensitive teeth. A slight tingle or pain may be felt by eating or drinking something hot, cold, sweet or sour.

Sometimes pain in the teeth can be caused by sinus problems. This may be the case if the pain is limited to the maxillary (top) teeth and occurs in several teeth at one time. Decay also can cause toothaches and pain.

Another cause of toothaches is bruxism, or grinding of the teeth that causes toothaches or sensitivity. Bruxism not only causes pain in the teeth, but it can also cause pain in the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. Whatever the pain is from, you should never ignore a toothache.

What exactly does a toothache feel like?

  • throbbing pain in or around a tooth
  • sharp pain when you bite or touch the tooth
  • achiness in or around the tooth
  • tingling or stinging pain from sensitivity to heat and cold
  • burning or shocking pain, but this is uncommon

What do I do if I have a toothache?

Some toothaches are more serious than others and deserve immediate dental attention. If you feel a sharp pain when you bite down, this could indicate that the tooth is decayed or cracked. If your tooth is sensitive for up to 30 minutes after you eat or drink something, this could be a sign of pulpal damage or damage to the nerve inside the tooth.

If a toothache is severe enough to keep you up at night or interferes with your daily function, then you should call your dentist. You could have an abscessed tooth and the infection could spread. Most people do not realize the danger a toothache could cause. If a toothache is caused by an abscess, then there is an infection at the tip of the root and the infection can spread into the blood stream, reach the brain and cause major problems.

When a toothache becomes an emergency:

If you have a toothache and it is accompanied by swelling of your jaw and face, this is a sign that the infection might be spreading. If you experience shortness of breath, lightheadedness or a cough that won’t go away, you need to see your physician and dentist immediately.

How do you treat a toothache?

Toothaches usually require medical treatment; however, you can take pain relievers to alleviate the pain while you wait for your appointment. The dentist will take X-rays of the problem tooth and may prescribe some painkillers and antibiotics to treat the infection. If the toothache is caused by decay, then the dentist will remove the decay with a drill and fill the tooth with dental materials. If the doctor can’t determine the cause of the toothache, then he or she may refer you to a physician to look for deeper, underlying causes.

Bottom line, do not ignore a toothache because it could lead to a dangerous situation. When a doctor prescribes two medications such as a painkiller and an antibiotic, and you can only afford to refill one of the prescriptions, choose the antibiotic! Too many people just want the pain to go away and choose the painkiller, but the infection could be still spreading and cause death in severe cases. The next time the pain of a toothache appears, be sure to make an appointment with your dentist!

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