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Understanding dental pain

Many people experience painful teeth and gums. This is also known as dental pain. Dental pain is often a continuous throbbing pain, but it may come and go. Sometimes, the pain’s worse at night, or during eating and drinking, especially if the food and drinks are hot or cold. Dental pain is not always felt in the teeth. Sometimes the pain can spread to the face and jaw.

Tooth decay is one of the most common causes of dental pain. However, dental pain can also be caused by:

  • A cracked tooth
  • Loose or broken fillings
  • Receding gums – this exposes more sensitive parts of the tooth not covered by enamel
  • An infection in the tooth or jaw
  • Wisdom teeth breaking through the gums
  • Braces
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Sinus congestion – may feel like toothache just as toothache sometimes feels like sinus pain

Why do I get dental pain from tooth decay?

Teeth are made up of layers – the hard enamel on the outside, a softer layer below, and then a soft centre called the pulp, where the nerves and blood vessels are. Decay can wear through the outer layers of the tooth. When it reaches the pulp, the nerves are exposed, causing pain. The pulp may also get inflamed or infected and you may require root canal relief. That’s why it’s important to see your dentist if you have toothache for more than one to two days. The longer you leave it, the greater the chances of the tooth getting infected.

Prevent dental pain by taking good care of your teeth

  • Brush regularly – twice a day using a soft brush; don’t forget to brush gums and tongue as well
  • Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste – if you have sensitive teeth, choose a toothpaste designed to reduce sensitivity
  • Clean between teeth with dental floss or interdental brushes to remove plaque
  • Use mouthwash
  • Try to avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Don’t smoke
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production

What should I do if I have a toothache?

A dentist is the best person to work out the cause of your toothache. It’s especially important to see a dentist if you are in severe pain. You should also seek relief as soon as possible if you have a fever, are feeling generally unwell or if you think the pain was caused by an injury.

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol may help ease the pain until you see your dentist.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters please contact your doctor.

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References:

  • Merck Manuals. Toothache. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mouth_and_dental_disorders/symptoms_of_oral_and_dental_disorders/toothache.html Accessed 19 September 2014
  • NHS choices. Toothache. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Toothache/Pages/Introduction.aspx Accessed 4 September 2014
  • Better Health Channel. Headache and jaw problems. Available at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Headache_and_jaw_problems Accessed 19 September 2014
  • MedicineNet.com. Dental braces. Available from: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=90272&page=2 Accessed 4 September 2014

This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.