All you need to know about toothaches

A toothache refers to pain in the teeth and jaw that is uncomfortable, and sometimes debilitating. Common symptoms of a toothache include:

  • Pain in the affected tooth, particularly when chewing
  • Swelling around the affected tooth
  • Swelling of your jaw and face
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold food
  • Bleeding from your tooth or gums

What causes a toothache?

The most common cause of toothache is tooth decay. Other causes include dental trauma, loose fillings, and dental diseases. In some cases, pain can be referred to the teeth from non-dental diseases, such as migraine or a sinus infection.

When should I see a dentist about a toothache?

As a general rule, a toothache that lasts more than 1 or 2 days should be treated as soon as possible in order to prevent infection. Dental treatment is recommended as soon as possible if you have tooth pain accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain severe enough to impact sleep or daily activities
  • Swelling around an infected tooth or face
  • Fever
  • Headache or earache
  • A foul taste coming from the affected tooth

These symptoms suggest that you might have an infected tooth. Early treatment is critical to stop the infection from spreading to other teeth, the face, the skull and the bloodstream.

What treatments are available for a toothache?

The treatment your dentist will use will depend on the cause of the toothache. In most cases, you dentist will take an X-ray to try and identify the cause of the problem.

For cavities, the most common treatment is to install a filling to fill the cavity and prevent further infection and irritation. In some cases, a cavity is not suitable, and the tooth must be removed.

If the pain is caused by a loose filling, the old filling will be removed and replaced with a new one.

If the root of the nerve becomes infected, a root canal may be necessary. This involves removing part of the nerve root under anaesthetic, to prevent the spread of infection.

In cases where there are signs of an infection, for example due to fever or swelling around the affected tooth, your dentist will prescribe a short course of antibiotics.

Can a toothache be prevented?

As always, prevention is better than cure. Luckily, the most common cause of toothache, tooth decay, is easily preventable. Maintaining good oral hygiene is vital for keeping healthy teeth and gums. Good oral hygiene regimen includes:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day using toothpaste that contains fluoride
  • Drinking tap water instead of bottled water
  • Rinsing your mouth with mouthwash after brushing
  • Limiting your intake of sugary foods and drinks
  • Visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups

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