When you do something as simple as caring for your natural teeth, you will never have a toothache to shout about. “Toothache” is a vague term actually caused by both tooth and jaw problems. These problems include dental cavities, cracked teeth, exposed roots, gum disease, disease of the jaw, or muscle spasms when chewing. The severity of a toothache can range from mild to constant excruciating pain, and may be aggravated by chewing cold or hot foods or drinking hot or cold liquids. Dental x-rays can help determine the cause and pinpoint whether the toothache is coming from a tooth or jaw problem.
Common Causes of Tooth Pain
Cavities are, of course, the most common cause of toothache. Dental cavities are actual holes in the two outer layers of your tooth (these layers are called the enamel and the dentin.) These layers protect the inner tooth tissue (called the pulp,) where the blood vessels and nerves are found. When you don’t brush and floss as you should, bacteria in the mouth begin to convert simple sugars from food into acid. This acid softens and can actually dissolve your enamel and dentin, creating holes (cavities!) Early shallow cavities do not cause pain, easily going unnoticed. It is the larger, deeper cavity that will become irritated by bacterial toxins where food and debris collect. This is where toothache comes into play.
Foods that are cold, hot, sour or sweet can also cause distress. A simpler dental filling is the normal treatment for small, shallow cavities, while the larger cavity involves an on-lay or even a crown over the entire tooth. For cavities that have penetrated and compromised the pulp, treatment demands either a root canal procedure or, as a last resort, extraction of the affected tooth. Pulp injury can lead to the death of pulp tissue, resulting in tooth infection or dental abscesses. A root canal procedure removes the dying pulp tissue and replaces it with an inert material, saving that dying tooth from extraction.
Gum disease/gingivitis is the second most common cause of toothache. Characterized by swelling of the soft tissue and undesirable loss of the bone surrounding teeth, this condition is caused over time by plaque that accumulates along the gum line. Gum bleeding without pain is an early symptom of this disease. With advanced gum disease, the loss of bone around the teeth leads to the formation of air pockets and can cause the loss of otherwise healthy teeth. Early gum disease treatment involves oral hygiene and removal of the harmful bacterial plaque. In more extreme cases a thorough cleaning of the teeth and teeth roots called root planing is performed. Root planing is the removal of plaque and tartar from exposed teeth roots. Subgingival curettage refers to the removal of a layer of damaged gum tissue. Both of these procedures need to be performed under local anesthesia and along with the use of oral antibiotics to fight the gum infection. Follow-up treatment may include various types of gum surgeries. In advanced gum disease with significant bone destruction and loosening of teeth, teeth splinting or teeth extractions may be necessary, so it is obvious that a little prevention can go along way in stopping these seemingly unnecessary procedures.
More unusually, a toothache may be caused by a problem not originating from either teeth or the jaw. Pain around the teeth and the jaws can be symptoms of diseases of the heart such as angina, ear infections or even a sinus infection. The pain of angina is usually located in the chest or the arm. However, in some patients with angina, toothache or jaw pain is the only symptom of their heart problem. Since infections and diseases of the ears and sinuses can also cause pain around the teeth and jaws, evaluations by both dentists and doctors become necessary to diagnose medical illnesses causing “toothache.”
Prevention Is Key
As you can see, regular checkups with Frankel Dentistry can alert doctors to help detect and prevent many other medial problems too. Keep your regular appointments and don’t waste your precious time on toothache!