Causes of Tooth Pain and Treatment Options
A toothache, which is any pain or soreness in or around a tooth, can be a frustrating and unpleasant experience. In addition to feeling a sharp or dull pain, your tooth may be sensitive to temperature. You may also experience pain when chewing or biting.
Toothaches may be triggered by trauma, tooth sensitivity, decay, or infections.
What Causes a Toothache?
Common causes of a toothache include :-
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Sensitive teeth
- Bruxism, grinding of the teeth while awake and/or asleep
- A cracked tooth due to mouth trauma
- A tooth abscess, which is an infection in the center of the tooth
- An impacted tooth, which is a tooth that does not break through the gums or only breaks through a bit
- Tooth pulp inflammation, also known as pulpitis, which can trigger pain in the center of the tooth.
When Should I See a Doctor for Tooth Pain?
Make an appointment with your dentist if :-
- Your toothache is causing intense pain
- You have a fever
- Your face and/or mouth are swollen
- Your toothache won’t go away
How Is Tooth Pain Diagnosed?
In order to determine the cause of your tooth pain, your healthcare provider may take a medical history, give you a physical exam, have you undergo an imaging test, such as an X-ray.
In order to narrow down the possible causes of your tooth discomfort, your healthcare provider will ask you questions regarding your symptoms.
These questions may focus on the location of the pain, possible triggers, and how long you’ve experienced this discomfort.20 They may also ask you if you have any other symptoms, such as swelling or a fever.
After taking your medical history, your dentist will check your mouth and face for swelling. During the oral exam, your dentist will look at the inside of your mouth, including your gums, for inflammation. They will also check for signs of an infection.21
For more potentially worrisome symptoms, like a fever or vision problems, your dentist may perform a cranial nerve exam, which focuses on the head.
How Do You Treat Tooth Pain?
There are many ways to treat tooth pain depending on the underlying cause. Treatment may include medication, oral rinses, oral devices, and medical procedures.
Most conditions that cause tooth pain can worsen or cause additional concerns if not addressed early on, so it’s best to be evaluated and start treatment as soon as possible.
Your dentist may recommend or prescribe various medications:-
- For pain relief, your dentist may recommend taking Tylenol (acetaminophen) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) such as Motrin (ibuprofen).
- For severe pain, your healthcare provider may prescribe an opioid pain reliever.
- If you have an abscess, pulpitis, gingivitis, or periodontitis your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic, like amoxicillin.
Oral Rinses and Topical Fluoride
Oral rinses include:-
- Chlorhexidine, which reduces bacteria in the mouth, and may be used to treat gingivitis
- Fluoride rinses, which may be used to prevent or treat tooth decay and gum disease
For sensitivity and pain, your dentist may apply fluoride to your teeth and recommend a fluoride toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
If you have sleep-related bruxism, your dentist may recommend wearing an oral device, like a mouth guard, at night. Over-the-counter options that mold to your teeth are the most affordable, but custom guards made from molds of your teeth are typically more comfortable and durable.
While a mouth guard will protect your teeth from damage, it won’t decrease the number of bruxism episodes. With this in mind, you may want to also work to address your underlying bruxism triggers, which can include stress, anxiety, and anger.
Various dental procedures may be needed to treat certain conditions.
- For tooth decay and cavities, the primary treatment is removal of the decay by drilling. The removed area is then restored with a strong material, known as a filling.
- For irreversible pulpitis, your dentist may perform a root canal, where the infected pulp of the tooth is removed.
- For an abscess, your doctor may make a small cut and drain the infected pocket.
- Depending on the extent of the damage, a cracked tooth may need a filling, a root canal, or to be removed and replaced.
How Do I Prevent Tooth Pain?
To prevent cavities, gum disease, and tooth sensitivity, try to practice good oral hygiene by:-
- Brushing your teeth gently twice a day and using a toothpaste with fluoride
- Flossing daily
- Drinking fluoridated water
- Getting regular professional dental cleanings
- Not smoking
- Avoiding habits like biting down on pencils or forks