Toothache (or to give it its technical name, odontalgia) usually appears suddenly, and the pain tends to be severe. The first thing you must do is visit the dentist as a matter of urgency, above all in order to prevent the tissue around the tooth from being damaged and causing serious problems affecting the mouth, face or neck.
Below we offer a series of recommendations for relieving toothache (until you arrive at the clinic), examine the causes of toothache and explain how to prevent it.
Recommendations for relieving toothache
Toothache can have a wide variety of causes. Whatever the reason for it, the pain can be alleviated by doing the following:
- Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol, or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, metamizole or diclofenac.
- Apply something cold to your cheek, at the same height as the tooth. However, you must only apply it to the outside of your cheek: if the tooth comes into direct contact with the ice, this could make the pain worse. Cold acts as a local anesthetic.
- Try to eat food that is at room temperature (i.e. food that is neither hot nor cold) and soft (i.e. food you do not have to chew).
- Make sure there are no remnants of food in the affected area, as this could increase the pressure on (and the pain in) the tooth. You can use dental floss to clean the area thoroughly.
- Never take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription. They will probably not be necessary, and in any case they do not relieve toothache.
- Try not to eat food containing sugar, as this could exacerbate the pain.
- Do not place pressure on the affected area (e.g. by pressing on it with a cloth or sleeping on the painful side).
- Try not to smoke, as this increases inflammation and the act of inhaling will increase the pain.
Causes of toothache
There are many pathologies that are capable of causing toothache. These include:
- Tooth abscess. This causes a build-up of pus in the gum.
- Emergence of a wisdom tooth. This can cause a very painful inflammation of the gum.
- Without a doubt, this is the most frequent cause of toothache. Caries causes pain when it reaches the dental pulp (the part of the tooth containing the nerves and blood vessels), as it causes inflammation (technically this is known as pulpitis). If the caries is superficial, it can be treated with a filling. However, if it has progressed too far and affected the nerve, it is often necessary to extract the tooth (exodontia).
- Exposure of the roots of the tooth.
- Dental fracture or fissure: for example, as a result of biting on something that is too hard, grinding your teeth at night (thereby wearing them down), or receiving a severe blow to the mouth.
- Gingivitis. This is a type of gum disease that causes the gums to become inflamed.
- Lesions in the oral mucosa.
- Pathologies linked to the mandible.
- The cavities in your face (i.e. those around the eyes, nose, mouth, etc.) are interconnected. Consequently, pain caused by conditions such as earache and sinusitis can often be felt in the teeth, even though the teeth themselves are not the source of the problem.
What will the dentist do?
The first thing the dentist will do is identify what is causing your toothache. They will do this by asking you “when does it hurt?”, i.e. if it hurts when you eat hot or cold food, or sweet or acidic food, or while chewing, etc. The dentist will probably then take an X-ray, perform a vitality test in order to assess the condition of the nerve, or perform a percussion test to see how the tooth responds. In around 10-15 minutes, you will have your diagnosis.
If you would like a diagnosis for your toothache, you can schedule an appointment online to visit Oris Dental Clinic, located in the neighborhood of Les Corts in Barcelona.
Normally, if the pain is not severe, the cause is damage to the enamel. If this proves to be the case, the enamel can be repaired; or if the damage is very superficial, we recommend simply using gels to relieve the sensitivity. However, if the pain is severe, it is likely that the cause is a cavity; in which case, the caries must be removed and a filling applied. If the caries is large, in addition to the filling it may be necessary to kill the nerve (endodontic treatment) or even extract the tooth (exodontia).
How can I prevent toothache?
The best way to prevent toothache is to keep your mouth clean and healthy. To do this, we recommend that you follow these four rules:
- Brush your teeth correctly three times a day.
- Use dental floss when necessary in order to remove remnants of food.
- Do not smoke and reduce your consumption of alcohol and sugar.
- Have your teeth checked by the dentist every year (if it’s been a long time since you last had a dental exam or check-up, you can schedule an appointment online right here).