Toothache is one of the earliest signs that indicate that something is wrong with either your teeth or gum tissues. It may also be a referred pain to indicate a problem with other parts of your body, particularly the face and neck.
However, toothache should never be ignored. We will be exploring the causes of complications that may arise from toothache and the available treatment for the condition below.
All medical content on this site, including this guide and other product reviews, is written by our team of experienced writers and researchers. All writers from The Toothbrush Expert are recommended and reviewed in the industry. You support us through our editorially chosen links, which earn us commission. Learn moreAll of our picks have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
What is a Toothache?
Toothache is a common oral condition that causes severe pain or discomfort in the teeth or gum lines. It may cause non-life-threatening pain. If not treated properly, it can lead to more serious oral issues. Most often, there is a feeling of numbness or swelling around your teeth or gum.
This discomfort may be linked to other oral conditions, like cavities, teeth sensitivity, or severe bruxism. Other times, it may be as a result of broken or cracked teeth, or having substances stuck in your teeth. The causes of toothache are quite broad and may vary in severity.
Causes of Toothache
1 – Tooth Abscess
This is a dental condition that is triggered by a build-up of pus in the gum surrounding a tooth. The long-term collection of pus in the area may cause a bacterial infection that will affect the surrounding structure of the teeth.
There are many stages to this infection, which may be a result of underlying dental issues. Therefore, a tooth abscess may be periodontal, gingival, or periapical. Throbbing pain in the area around the teeth and gums is caused by this condition.
2 – Tooth Decay
One of the most severe forms of toothache is caused by tooth decay. This condition is the washing away and decaying of the tooth surface. This may result in cavities in the tooth. Cavities open the window to other forms of infection, such as gum disease.
They are often caused by conditions such as dry mouth, severe bruxism, plaques, and poor oral hygiene. When it becomes severe, it gives you a really painful ache, and if not medically treated, it may result in tooth loss.
3 – Wisdom Teeth
This happens often in children, and it occurs when a tooth erupts from the same gum line, causing pain in the process. Sometimes, the eruption doesn’t fully emerge, causing the tooth to get stuck in the gum or bone. Furthermore, wisdom teeth can cause cysts to form and a bacterial infection around the teeth, resulting in a severe toothache.
4 – Tooth Fracture
Tooth fracture could be due to long-term bruxism or direct injury. A fracture in a tooth may leave it cracked and open, exposing the nerves. When a tooth breaks off or gets cracked, it will result in tooth sensitivity and severe pain if not well managed. Discover the best dental products to prevent sensitive teeth according to our dental expert.
5 – Earaches
This is a classic example of referred pain. A toothache can be caused not only by a direct injury or infection of a tooth but also by pain from other parts of the body. Thus, it isn’t unusual to experience a toothache while suffering from earaches or vice versa.
6 – Gingivitis
Gingivitis is an oral disease that affects the gum area. It is an inflammation that occurs in the gingival tissues of the gum, which may result in swelling, gum bleeding, and red gums. It doesn’t often require bone or tooth loss when given rapid professional treatment.
Gingivitis is often caused by plaque build-up and poor oral hygiene, and it comes with a severe toothache. Aside from the toothache, if gingivitis is left untreated, it may cause terrible bad breath and periodontal disease.
Discover the best dental products for gingivitis according to our experts:
Other Risk Factors Associated with Toothache
Aside from earaches, several other referred pains can cause toothaches. For instance, heart attacks and heart-related problems may cause toothache. Also, a sinus infection, canker sores, and even pregnancy may make you experience some pain around your teeth.
Other oral conditions, like acidic erosion, gum recession, sudden tooth loss, or surgically removed teeth, can also cause toothache. Mouth breathing, obstructive sleep apnea, and also temporomandibular joint disorder will bring toothache as symptoms or the eventual result of these conditions.
It is always paramount to consult professionals and stick with the instructions given by these professionals when getting any dental fixtures or restorations. This is because improper restoration procedures, fillings, or poorly secured crowns will cause toothache.
Signs and Symptoms Associated with Toothache
Most people experience lingering redness in their gums and tenderness when the pain isn’t severe. At this point, if the pain doesn’t persist, then it might just be nothing to worry about. A severe toothache may bring with it jaw pain. Exposing the affected teeth to cold or hot substances also attract a lingering feeling of pain or pressure.
Other associated symptoms to watch out for include: painful biting or chewing, bleeding, inflammation, redness on the gum surface, swollen jaws, swollen cheeks, and teeth sensitivity when drinking or eating cold and hot substances.
Popular Home Remedies for Toothaches
It is imperative to go for a professional dentist’s check-up as soon as you detect any sign of pain or toothache in your mouth. This will save you from the stress of enduring complicated conditions, and you will be able to detect any underlying health conditions faster. However, in the meantime, while you prepare for a professional consultation, these home remedies will bring soothing relief and short-term ease.
1 – Salt Water Remedy
One of the oldest quick home remedies for toothaches and gum inflammation is swishing with saltwater. This is because salt has some natural anti-bacterial properties that can bring soothing relief to bacteria related to toothaches.
Swishing intermittently with a mixture of a half teaspoon of salt mixed with about eight ounces of warm water will bring relief to the painful area.
2 – Eugenol
According to leading research, applying eugenol oil to an inflamed gum can reduce pain and swelling. This is because eugenol, which is an active compound found in cloves, has anti-inflammatory powers that can bring quick relief from pain and inflammation. Make a paste with some pre-soaked cloves and cover affected areas in your mouth with it for results.
3 – Pain Medication
Some good over-the-counter medications can bring about soothing relief before your consultation and proper treatment. Drugs like Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or aspirin are easy to get and are short-term pain relievers.
4 – Cold Press
When the pain becomes unbearable, pressing ice packs or ice blocks on the swollen jaw and cheek areas provides soothing relief. Unlike other home remedies, this method doesn’t exactly eliminate any bacteria or inflammation, but will only provide a soothing effect until you get to your dentist’s office.
Professional Treatment Options for Toothache
When a toothache lasts more than a few days, and you also have an earache and a fever, it’s time to seek medical attention. Also, if the inflammation becomes more severe, swelling becomes very obvious and bleeding starts, you need immediate medical attention. Below are some of the professional treatments your dentist may explore, depending on the cause and the severity of the toothache.
1 – Cavity filling
This is a dental procedure suitable for toothache that is caused by cavities. It requires removing part of the cavitated tooth, treating the area and surrounding tissues, and filling the cavity up with restorative materials like composite filling. This will prevent further decay and severe toothache.
2 – Tooth Extraction
It’s often the last course of action when the teeth are completely damaged, or non-removal would affect other teeth and cause teeth decay. It is a surgical procedure where affected teeth are removed. The removed teeth could be replaced by a dental implant.
3 – Dental Restoration
Aside from filling cavities, a dentist can guide a patient through a variety of dental restorations. This is even more so when the cavities are too large to fill or if gum disease becomes too severe. More invasive restoration options, like implants, inlays, and dental crowns, are options that dentists may recommend after proper x-rays are carried out.
4 – Mouth Guards
If a patient’s toothache is due to bruxism, a dentist may recommend the use of a mouthguard. Mouthguards are often custom-made to fit a person’s specific dentition. This will prevent dental erosion and cavity damage. Also, a custom-made occlusal splint may be recommended to prevent excessive clenching and gnashing that may result in tooth pain. We wrote a special in-depth buying guide on the best mouthguard for grinding teeth.
We recommend these mouth guards:
5 – Root Canal Treatment
Once a patient only feels pain after chewing, or an amount of pressure is applied on the teeth, the ache may be due to dental pulp damage. A root canal treatment removes the damaged pulp to ease the pain, and a dental crown is used to restore the affected tooth.
Toothache is quite inevitable as everyone is bound to experience it. However, practicing great oral hygiene and staying away from things that could fracture or cause direct injury to the teeth are your first steps to ensuring perfectly healthy teeth.
Floss regularly and use anti-bacteria mouthwash to keep your mouth free from harmful bacteria. Most importantly, you don’t have to wait until a toothache becomes severe. Seek help as soon as you notice any symptoms.
Dr Michael Jones is the proud founder of The Toothbrush Expert. He has been working as a dentist for 21 years now. Besides his work as a dentist, Michael wants to help people to find the right dental products. His goal is to provide everyone with honest expert reviews on all kinds of dental care products.