A toothache is a pain in or around a tooth. Minor toothaches can come from a temporary gum irritation that you can treat at home. More serious toothaches are caused by dental and mouth problems that won’t get better on their own and will need to be treated by a dentist.
The pain you feel, usually when you eat or drink something sweet, very hot, or very cold, is an alarm bell telling you that the pulp inside your tooth is irritated. The pulp is where the tissue and nerves are located, so if something is wrong with the pulp, you’ll feel it in the entire tooth. These pulp nerves are among the most sensitive in your body so when these nerves are irritated or infected by bacteria (abscess), they can cause severe pain.
What are possible causes:
- Tooth decay
- Abscessed tooth (a bacterial infection inside the center of the tooth)
- Broken tooth
- A damaged filling
- Repetitive motions, such as chewing gum or grinding or clenching teeth
- Infected gums
- Eruption (teeth coming out of the gums) or removal of a tooth (for example, wisdom teeth)
When should I see a dentist about a toothache?
See your dentist as soon as possible about your toothache if:
- You have a toothache that lasts longer than 1 or 2 days
- Your toothache is severe
- You have a fever, earache, or pain upon opening your mouth wide
Prevention & Treatment:
Since most toothaches are the result of tooth decay, following good oral hygiene practices can prevent toothaches. Good oral hygiene practices consist of brushing regularly with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, flossing once daily, rinsing once or twice a day with an antiseptic mouthwash, and seeing your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning. In addition to these practices, eat foods low in sugar and ask your dentist about sealants and fluoride applications.