What Causes Tooth Pain?
You’ve probably experienced tooth pain at some point, whether from a loose tooth, impacted wisdom tooth, or sensitivity when you bite into an ice cream cone or a hot potato. If you notice consistent pain in a tooth that lasts for more than a day or two, see your dental professional; you may need some dental work. Tooth decay causes pain in children, too, so the same rules apply. If your child complains of a persistent toothache, move up the schedule of that next dental visit to as soon as possible. Also see the dental professional immediately if your toothaches (or your child’s) are accompanied by a fever, or if you have trouble breathing or swallowing.
Toothaches have many causes, from gum disease to jaw clenching, but tooth root sensitivity can also cause a tooth to ache. The tooth root includes the lower two-thirds of the tooth, and it is usually buried in the jawbone. But when gum disease develops, the bacteria that cause the disease can also dissolve the bone around the tooth root. The combination of dissolved bone and receding gums means that more of the tooth root is exposed. Without protection from healthy gums and healthy bone, the root often becomes sensitive to hot and cold and to sour foods. In some cases, the sensitivity is so severe that you may avoid very hot, cold or sour foods.
Meanwhile, there are some steps that you can take to relieve toothaches and tooth pain until you make it to the dental professional’s office.
- Floss carefully to remove any food particles wedged between the teeth or along the gum line that could be causing pain. If your child is the one with the toothache, help him or her do a thorough flossing job.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water, then spit it out. This may also flush out food particles that could be causing tooth pain.
- Try an over-the-counter pain medication.
- Try an over-the-counter topical pain reliever with benzocaine that you can apply directly to the painful area. But don’t put aspirin or other painkillers directly on your gum tissue or in your tooth—it will burn.
If the root exposure is not severe, try using a special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth that contains fluoride and other minerals. The extra fluoride and minerals will help to strengthen the exposed root and make it less sensitive.
The best way to manage root sensitivity and to prevent gum disease is with a consistent oral health care program of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing. Try a soft bristle toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums, which can increase the risk of root exposure and sensitivity.