Here’s what to do when a toothache strikes.

Maybe you woke up with a throbbing toothache or you felt a jolt of pain while biting down on your lunch. Now your tooth is in pain, and you’re not sure what to do.

Keep reading to learn what your toothache might mean and how to get relief while you wait to see your dentist.

What Your Toothache Is Trying to Tell You

Toothaches seem much more like a foe than a friend, but your tooth pain is actually telling you something very important: some type of damage has occurred.

Your tooth enamel, the shiny white shell that we see as our teeth, has no nerves. That means if you’re feeling pain, some type of damage has gone past the protective enamel layer and is affecting the dentin layer or even the pulp. The culprit could be decay or an infection.

Because tooth enamel isn’t living tissue, it can’t regenerate like a cut on a finger can. Essentially, once a tooth has been damaged enough to cause pain, this damage won’t heal or disappear. That’s why it’s crucial to get in touch with your dentist if you have any sort of toothache, even if it feels mild and manageable.

Types of Toothaches & What They Mean

Most toothaches in adults are caused by untreated tooth decay or gum disease. In the case of a cavity, the pain can be mild to quite severe, but it’s localized around a single tooth. Gum disease indirectly affects teeth but can still cause a toothache if it’s advanced enough. This might also be localized around a single tooth, but more often than not, the oral pain will impact a few teeth.

A loose crown or filling can also cause a toothache, but it’s generally a very sharp pain that occurs when biting down on the area or touching the damaged restoration with your toothbrush.

A severe aching pain that doesn’t let up usually means an infection is active. This is a very serious situation and certainly requires a call to the dentist right away.

When a Toothache Isn’t Tooth Pain

Sometimes it may feel like you have a toothache when you’re actually experiencing jaw pain or referred pain. For example, TMJ disorders can often cause pain that’s similar to a toothache but often includes a tender or aching feeling along multiple molars. Bruxism (teeth grinding) can also cause a similar effect. Though not as common, some forms of muscle pain can also radiate an aching feeling in the mouth.

Getting Toothache Relief at Home

It’s imperative to keep in mind that at-home toothache remedies only help reduce the symptoms, and they are never a true solution or substitute for dental care. With that being said, safe, at-home toothache remedies can be very useful for getting pain under control while you’re waiting to be seen by your dentist.

Some effective ideas include:

  • Thoroughly brushing, flossing, and swishing with mouthwash
  • Swishing with a diluted salt water rinse
  • Taking an OTC pain reliever
  • Applying a topical toothache-relieving gel
  • Applying a warm compress
  • Gently biting down on a warm teabag

Be very cautious of any extreme home remedies, like packing a broken tooth with any substance or applying full-strength clove oil. These can do far more harm than good to your tooth and surrounding gums.

When a Toothache Is a Dental Emergency

What if your toothache is extremely painful and an OTC pain reliever isn’t helping at all? You likely have a dental emergency on your hands.

Not every toothache is a dental emergency. In fact, a dental emergency is fairly rare and often entirely preventable if you seek out dental care as soon as any pain develops. However, if you are experiencing a dental emergency, you must take swift action, even if that means going to your local emergency room.

If you’re experiencing extreme pain coupled with fever and facial swelling, this means there is an infection, likely an abscess. In this case, you need to seek out help right away, as this type of infection can be life-endangering.

Other examples of a dental emergency are if you’ve lost an adult tooth, shattered a tooth, and if you’re bleeding heavily from around a painful tooth.

Keep tooth pain away by booking a visit with Dr. Lang.

Dr. Lang can not only help treat your current toothache, but he’ll also help prevent future toothaches from occurring. Maintaining regular six-month appointments for a checkup and cleaning as well as sticking to a thorough at-home dental care regimen will prevent most toothaches.

If you’re currently experiencing tooth pain, we recommend calling our office directly to speak with our staff and schedule a visit.