Tooth pain

Dental toothache


12 Jul , 2015  

What causes toothache?

Dental Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Dental pain results from stimulus to the tooth’s pulp chamber which houses the tooth’s nerve fibres. The degree and type of the stimulus will depend on the severity of pain. Examples of pain stimuli:

  • Dentine exposure causing sensitivity to cold
  • Dental caries
  • Trauma

What are toothache symptoms and signs?

Pain in a tooth or jaw is a common complaint, particularly when pain worsens with cold, hot and pressure stimuli. Below are common symptoms:

Fast short pain from hot or cold stimuli – This is often not serious if treated early and is due to dental caries, a loose filling or dentine exposure. A sensitive toothpaste can be applied to the exposed dentine to seal the dentinal tubules. However a loose filling or dental caries needs to be treated by a dentist.

Fast short pain from hot or cold stimuli after dental treatment – Dental work on a tooth can cause internal inflammation. Allow 2 – 4 weeks for the tooth to settle, if the dental pain does not resolve then consult your dentist.

Fast short pain when biting – This dental pain can be caused by a loose filling, dental caries or a crack in the tooth. This is often easily repaired by a dentist sealing the tooth with a filling.

Lingering pain from hot or cold stimuli lasting more than 30 seconds – This is often due to the pulp tissue of the tooth being irreversibly damaged from dental caries, a deep crack or trauma. A definitive diagnosis by a dentist is required. Often the tooth will require a root canal or tooth removal.

Constant and severe pain, very tender to pressure, possibility of gum swelling – This generally indicates the tooth has progressed from irreversible pulp tissue damage to an abscess forming around the roots of the tooth causing infection to the surrounding tissues and bone. The tooth will require a root canal or tooth removal. If the tooth is left untreated there is risk of facial swelling and dangerous complications.

Dull ache to the muscles of the face – This dental pain can be due to straining of the facial muscles. Inflammed muscles in this area can result from bruxism (grinding of the teeth) or clenching of the teeth. This can be caused by stress. Your dentist may recommend a bite-splint for you to wear at night.

Ache to the upper jaw – Sinusitis may cause the teeth to ache. Some people have a low lying maxillary sinus (upper jaw air cavity) which is in close approximation to their upper teeth. An infected low lying sinus can cause toothache symptoms. If sinusitis is the cause your dentist may prescribe antibiotics.

How do I relieve dental pain?

There are various short term and long-term options to relieve dental pain:

  • Pain medication (Analgesia) can be used to provide insensitivity to pain
  • Home remedies
  • Sensitive toothpastes if the cause of tooth pain is dentine exposure
  • Visit a dentist or endodontist for a definitive treatment if the tooth pulp is inflammed or infected
  • A bite-splint (night mouthguard) if the jaw pain is muscular in origin
  • Antibiotics if the dental pain is due to sinusitis

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