How to Help Tooth Pain
If you’ve ever had tooth pain, you know it can be very uncomfortable. It can interfere with daily life – chewing food and drinking liquids, and it can even interrupt sleep. In this post, we’ll explore common causes of tooth pain and how to find relief. Tooth pain, sometimes called a “toothache” happens when the pulp of the tooth becomes inflamed. The pulp is the innermost, soft center of the tooth. It is full of nerves and blood vessels. The pulp is usually protected by two other layers, the dentin and the hard outer covering of your tooth known as enamel. If something irritates the pulp, you will experience tooth pain.
What are the most common causes of tooth pain?
One of the most common causes of tooth pain is tooth decay. When tooth decay continues to erode the protective layers of your tooth, it can eat through the enamel and the dentin to reach the pulp and cause irritation, inflammation, and pain. Other common causes of tooth pain are:
- Dental injuries
- Certain foods and beverages with acidic or cavity-causing ingredients.
- Hard foods that can cause breaks or cracks in the teeth.
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth (bruxism)
- Abscess (pocket of bacteria and infection under the skin)
- Eruption of wisdom teeth or other molars
- Exposed tooth roots (often caused by gum disease)
- Sinus infection
- Trapped food
- Jaw disorder (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) or injury to the jaw
What helps with tooth pain?
The recommended treatment will depend on what is causing your toothache. If the cause of your tooth pain is tooth decay or other damage to the structure of your teeth, your dentist can do a deep cleaning, make repairs to the tooth, perform extractions (pull the painful tooth), or recommend other treatments to help stop the issue causing you pain. You may need to have a root canal, filling, crown, or a dental inlay or onlay (a type of custom ceramic restoration) to stop the pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be beneficial to stop tooth pain and inflammation. You can take [both medicines on an alternating schedule](https://health.clevelandclinic.org/acetaminophen-with-ibuprofen/), which may be enough to give you good relief from pain. Always be sure to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and the dosage instructions on the package for any over-the-counter pain relievers. Severe tooth pain may indicate a more serious issue. Be sure to call your dentist immediately if you are experiencing very sharp or unbearable pain in your teeth or jaw, or pain that isn’t well-controlled with over-the-counter medications. If you have severe tooth pain, your dentist may need to prescribe an antibiotic or prescription pain reliever. Other methods to help with tooth pain include:
- A cold compress applied to the side of your mouth that hurts.
- Rinse with hydrogen peroxide or hot salt water (ask your dentist for instructions)
There is anecdotal evidence that certain foods or oils can provide temporary relief of mild to moderate tooth pain. Fresh garlic, ginger, or certain oils like clove or peppermint directly on the painful area may be helpful for some people. It is best to talk to your dentist to see if there is a home remedy they recommend.
When should I call my dentist about tooth pain?
Tooth pain is a signal that something is wrong. For any new, persistent, or unexplained pain, ache, throbbing, sensitivity, swelling in the gums, headaches, bad breath, or fever and chills along with tooth pain, it is important to call your dentist. If you have any swelling below your eye or a lump in your jaw, severe or unbearable tooth pain that isn’t getting better with medication, bleeding that doesn’t stop with pressure, or a high fever (101 degrees or higher), you should head to your local emergency room. Persistent or severe tooth pain needs to be evaluated by your dentist to be sure you’re treating the cause of the toothache, not just temporarily treating the symptoms. The experts at Today’s Dental in Omaha can give you a comprehensive evaluation to find the cause of your tooth pain and recommend a treatment.