Toothaches used to be something people just accepted. We lived with pain until it got so bad we had to take action. Unfortunately, there are a few folks who still feel that way today. We might be hesitant to go to the dentist, embarrassed about oral hygiene, or have other concerns. Sometimes we wait too long to get a toothache checked out. But how do we know when it’s time to see the dentist and when to ride it out?
What Might Be Causing My Toothache?
A toothache can stem from something as simple as a piece of food stuck in your teeth or as complex as a major dental problem or infection. But the leading cause of toothaches is (you guessed it) cavities. If you don’t catch decay early, it can move from your enamel to the soft tissue below. One of the warning signs of tooth decay is pain or sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot or cold. Throbbing pain in your tooth can be a sign of infection in your tooth pulp. Here are some other possible causes:
- Inflammation or infection of the gums
- An injury to the tooth
- Grinding your teeth
- A break or crack in the tooth lets air and germs into the inner layers and affects the nerves below
- Losing a filling or other dental work
- Wisdom teeth or other teeth breaking through your gums
- Food or other debris getting stuck between your tooth and gum
What Should I Do Until I Can See the Dentist?
A piece of food or another minor irritant will usually go away after a good floss and mouth rinse. If your discomfort lasts for more than a day or two, make an appointment with your dentist. Here are some steps you can take to keep pain at bay in the meantime:
- A saltwater rinse can relieve pain and remove food particles.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Clove oil is a natural anesthetic that can help with mouth pain.
- If you have an injury to your mouth, use an ice pack to keep pain and swelling down.
Should I Use a Medication with Benzocaine for a Toothache?
Numbing benzocaine products used to be a go-to for tooth pain–even for babies. But new information is now leading dentists to recommend these products with caution. Research has linked benzocaine to a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia, which affects oxygen levels in the blood. The Mayo Clinic recommends consulting your dentist before using an OTC benzocaine product. These treatments are no longer recommended for children under 2.
Should I Always See A Dentist for a Toothache?
If your pain lasts for a short time and then goes away completely, it’s probably just a temporary irritation. But you should call your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Your toothache lasts more than a day or two
- Throbbing pain
- Injury to the mouth or jaw from sports or another activity
- Inflammation in the gums
- Bleeding, discharge, or redness in the gums
- Swelling in the face or jaw
- Fever or earache
Have a Toothache? Call Your Dentist
If you have a toothache that doesn’t go away, don’t wait to see your dentist. We want you to feel better. Catching a problem early usually makes it easier to fix. As always, prevention is the best approach. Keeping up with those routine check-ups is the best way to avoid cavities (and a toothache). But tooth pain can happen to even the most diligent patients. Don’t let embarrassment or fear of what you’ll find out keep you out of the chair. At Greenhill Family Dental Care, we’re ready to help, whether it’s a routine cleaning, a small cavity or a challenging oral health problem. Sometimes that toothache means it’s time to take the first step.