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Dental Health and Toothaches

What is a Toothache?

A toothache is a pain in or around a tooth that may be caused by:

Symptoms of a toothache may include:

  • Tooth pain –  may be sharp, throbbing, or constant. In some people, pain results only when pressure is applied to the tooth.
  • Swelling around the tooth and gums
  • Fever or headache
  • Foul-tasting drainage from the infected tooth

When Should I See a Dentist About a Toothache?

See your dentist as soon as possible about your toothache if:

  • You have a toothache that lasts longer than 1 or 2 days.
  • Your toothache is so severe that it is keeping you awake at night.
  • You have a fever, earache, or pain upon opening your mouth wide.

Proper identification and treatment of dental infections are important to prevent its spread to other parts of the face and skull and possibly even to the bloodstream.

What Happens When I Go to the Dentist for a Toothache?

To treat your toothache, your dentist will first obtain your medical history and conduct an oral examination, which would include getting an x-ray image. He or she will ask you questions about the pain, such as when the pain started, how severe it is, where the pain is located, what makes the pain worse, and what makes it better. Your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, gums, jaws, tongue, throat, sinuses, ears, nose, and neck. X-rays may be taken as well as other tests, depending on what your dentist suspects is causing your toothache.

What Treatments Are Available for a Toothache?

Treatment for a toothache depends on the cause. If a cavity is causing the toothache, your dentist will fill the cavity or possibly extract the tooth, if necessary. A root canal might be needed if the cause of the toothache is determined to be an infection in the nerve, or if the roots have died. An antibiotic may be prescribed if there is a fever or swelling of the jaw.

How Can Toothaches Be Prevented?

Since most toothaches are the result of tooth decay, following good oral hygiene practices can prevent toothaches. Good oral hygiene practices consist of brushing regularly with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, flossing once daily, rinsing once or twice a day with an antiseptic mouthwash, and seeing your dental hygienist at least twice a year for professional cleaning. In addition to these practices, eat foods low in sugar and ask your dentist about sealants and fluoride applications.