Many Causes for a Toothache
Cavities Cause Most Toothaches
A toothache (odontalgia) is perceived by the patient as emanating from a tooth or teeth. In most cases this is true and is a result of deep decay, an abscessed tooth, a cracked tooth, an hypersensitive root, a mobile tooth, or an erupting tooth. However, a patient with TMJ Syndrome might complain of a toothache as well. Other medical conditions which may possibly be interpreted as toothaches are sinus infections, infected ear, or angina pectoris. Angina may causes pain in the lower jaw bone as the blood vessels there will constrict when the heart muscle is receiving less oxygen.
Cavities, or tooth decay (caries), are the most frequent cause of toothache and simple fillings may be all that is required to remedy the problem. Sometimes full crowns are necessary if the decay damages a significant portion of the tooth or if the tooth is cracked. On a much more rare occasion, if the decay reaches the pulp of the tooth, a root canal may also be necessary.
Gum disease may cause swelling and bleeding of the gum tissue and loss of bone which leads to mobility and soreness of the tooth. This leads to a toothache and will result in even more bone loss and possible extraction of the tooth if not remedied in a timely manner. The bone loss is usually an adjunct to improper oral hygiene, infrequent cleanings, and in some cases, hyper or heavy occlusion.
Receding gums for a variety of reasons, but most especially toothbrush abrasion, exposes the roots to the oral environment and creates discomfort to hot and cold as well as to sweets and to touch. This often is remedied by changing to an electric toothbrush, by bonding the exposed areas, or by applying topical fluoride to the area.
If the diagnosis is that the toothache is coming as a result of TMJ Syndrome, this must be treated in order to eliminate the discomfort. Please see the article on Tempora-Mandibular Joint Syndrome, or TMJ Syndrome at www.TodaysDentist.org.
When a back tooth begins eruption, it creates a condition called pericoronitis, which simply means inflammation around the clinical crown of the tooth. This is often self-limiting when the tooth fully erupts. But in some cases, the wisdom teeth are impacted and cannot fully erupt, often creating infection and a toothache, and must be removed to eliminate the problem.
Home remedies may be of temporary help but may not be wise, as it will delay definitive treatment by your dentist. The best prevention for a toothache is excellent daily oral hygiene by flossing and brushing, in that order, followed by a periodic cleaning, exam, and x-rays. Prevention is always the best solution.
American Dental Association-Life Member, Fellow of Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Implant Dentistry