Toothaches are usually the result of tooth trauma or a dental condition, such as a cracked tooth, dental cavity, advanced gum disease, an exposed tooth root, or disorders of the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint). The severity of the pain can be mild, sharp, or excruciating, and can vary in occurrence, from periodic to chronic.
Causes of tooth pain
The most common cause of tooth pain is dental caries. Dental cavities refer to holes that form in the two outer layers of a tooth (tooth enamel and dentin), when you don’t brush your teeth properly, allowing acid in the mouth to erode the tooth. If the cavities are small and shallow, you may not experience any pain. But as they get larger and deeper towards the inner living tooth tissue (pulp), you will start experiencing severe pain when the pulp gets irritated by bacterial toxins or liquids that are cold, hot, sour, or sweet.
Other causes of tooth pain include:
- Dental abscess – Severe pulp injury and subsequent tooth infection
- Periodontal disease – bone loss and formation of deep gum pockets that cause gum infection and pain
- Tooth root sensitivities
- Impacted tooth
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders – caused by arthritis, jaw injury from impact or recent dental work, or jaw muscle fatigue from habitually clenching and grinding teeth
Treatment for tooth pain
Depending on the diagnosis, your dentist may recommend the following treatments for a toothache:
- Over-the-counter pain relief medication
- Extraction of an impacted tooth
- Topical fluoride application for minor tooth sensitivities
- Dental filling for small and shallow cavities
- Dental crown for larger cavities
- Root canal therapy for cases that involve an injured pulp or infection,
- Tooth extraction of infected tooth followed by tooth replacement
- Cases involving advanced gum disease may require thorough cleaning, as well as scaling and root planning, combined with improved oral hygiene practices.
It’s important that you visit a dentist for a thorough examination to diagnose the cause of the pain and recommend an appropriate long-term treatment.