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The ultimate guide to understanding and managing toothache

Toothache is among the most unpleasant pains. Whether a person suffers from pain in just one tooth or experiences pain in the lower, upper, or all teeth, it's never a pleasant experience.

To make the toothache go away, it's necessary first to identify the cause and then choose the correct form of treatment.

The most common causes of toothache are:

  • Inflammation
  • Exposed tooth roots
  • Teeth emerging through the gums
  • Complications after dental procedures
  • Tooth fracture due to injury
  • Tooth dehydration during whitening

What causes toothache?

When toothache appears, the first question is "Why do my teeth hurt?". To answer, one must simplify the understanding of tooth anatomy. A tooth consists of 4 essential parts. To understand the onset of pain, it is necessary to know mainly the dental enamel (protective layer), dentin (supports the enamel and communicates signals between the enamel and the pulp cavity), the pulp cavity (a pocket for nerves), and the bone in which the tooth is set.

Where the pain can come from:

  • Pain from inside the mouth (irritation of nerves through weakened enamel and dentin)
  • Pain from the bone holding the tooth in the jaw

Pain inside the mouth

If not adequately cared for, a tooth can develop dental decay. This weakens the tooth enamel (enamel can also be weakened by frequent unprofessional teeth whitening). Through the decay, an entrance to the tooth is opened. The dentin (tooth tissue) is softer than enamel and cannot provide sufficient protection for the nerves in the pulp cavity.

External substances (water, food particles, etc.) can reach the pulp and cause nerve pain in the tooth, signaling an attack with pain.

The pain is often described as tooth sensitivity. In the case of the onset of sensitivity, it is advisable to visit a dentist and check the condition of the teeth.

Pain in the bone holding the tooth

In case of injury or post-surgical complications, the blood and nerve endings may be sensitive. Injury to the bone causes not only jaw pain but also pain in the teeth themselves.

The pain is often much more intense. In such cases, it is definitely recommended to contact your dentist, who will conduct a detailed diagnosis to determine where the pain is coming from.

Causes of toothache

Now you know how toothaches occur. It's time to learn about the causes of a sore tooth. So, what are the common types of tooth pain?

Dental nerve inflammation

Inflammation of the dental nerve (sometimes called tooth decay pain) is an example of pain from inside the mouth. This problem, causing sharp pain, is most often caused by tooth decay, which exposes the dental nerves.

Pain in the tooth nerve is extremely unpleasant, and if underestimated, you can reach a stage where the affected tooth dies. Dead teeth are not fundamentally painful but can cause inflammation. Do not underestimate tooth decay, as it can cost you more than one tooth.

Treatment of dental nerve inflammation must be performed by a dental specialist. They disinfect the area and remove the tooth along with any potential danger.

Gum inflammation

Another common discomfort is sore, inflamed gums. You can recognize gum inflammation by painful, often bleeding gums (for example, when brushing your teeth).

You can avoid gum pain with regular dental hygiene visits and careful daily oral hygiene. Do not neglect interdental cleaning in particular.

If gum inflammation does occur, try to get the problem under control quickly. Gum inflammation can lead to periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss.

Painful gum around a tooth is usually more sensitive in the early stage, but it is not a strong pain. By using the right dental hygiene products for your gums, you can strike at the main causes of pain, and subsequently, the pain will subside.

Exposed tooth roots

Tooth pain and sensitivity to cold are symptoms of exposed tooth roots. Exposed roots cause a weak, but unpleasant pain after drinking cold or hot beverages. The same effect can also be triggered by sweet and sour food.

This cause of pain is suppressible, but you will never return your teeth to 100% healthy condition. Therefore, try to take care of your teeth with suitable quality dental care products as much as possible. Once the roots are exposed, tooth pain and sensitivity to cold will forever be linked for you.

Exposed tooth roots are primarily recognized based on sensitivity. The pain will be short and will feel as though several teeth hurt at once, although it may not necessarily be pain in all teeth, but one severely exposed tooth.

Also, simply looking at your teeth will help diagnose the problem with exposed tooth roots. The endings of the teeth will appear pinkish, and the gums will be receding.

Teeth whitening

Teeth whitening and sensitivity go hand in hand. The whitening process causes teeth dehydration, after which they become very sensitive and painful. Approximately within 24 hours, after sufficient hydration, the teeth should recover and stop hurting.

Rather than whitening your teeth through invasive methods, it's better to prevent yellowing. Staining of the teeth should slow down when you minimize smoking, red wine, coffee, carbonated dark sodas, and strongly staining foods.

Growing wisdom teeth

A very unpleasant reason why babies cry is the growth of new teeth. New wisdom teeth break through the gums, causing pain.

You can't stop the growth of wisdom teeth, but you can try to soothe the pain with home remedies. If the pain isn't really severe, don't unnecessarily give analgesics.

Adults also experience troubles with growing teeth. Primarily, the pain of molars can be a sign of an emerging wisdom tooth, infamously known for its redundancy and unnecessary pain. The development of the eighth row of teeth should be mapped out by your dentist using X-rays. In most cases, you will be prepared for this pain, or you can choose to have the tooth surgically removed immediately.

Post-extraction inflammation

Toothache for several days after extraction is common. In the first three days after the removal of a wisdom tooth, you can expect pain. The problem arises if you still feel gum pain after a longer period.

This feeling can be caused by a so-called dry socket. Dry socket is a complication after extraction when a blood clot does not form, leaving the jawbone partially exposed and susceptible to irritation.

You will need to relieve the pain with analgesics and further dental procedures.

Knocked-out tooth

A strong impact during sports or a fall can knock a tooth out of the mouth. After such an impact, all the teeth usually feel painful. Toothache is particularly unpleasant when biting and chewing. Do not worry, the pain is natural and will subside depending on the severity of the injury.

Anyway, it's always better to have the condition of your jaw checked if a knocked-out or dislocated tooth hurts.

Lost dental filling

Whether naturally, by biting into extremely hard material, or due to an accident, the pain caused by a lost dental filling (or pain in the crown) can occur. In such cases, the dentin is exposed and sensitive to external influences.

To eliminate the pain, visit a dentist who will remove the remainder of the old filling and replace it with a new one. After the procedure, the tooth should be protected against sensitivity and stop hurting.

How to relieve tooth pain

The most effective treatment for toothache is visiting an emergency dental service, where the attending physician will identify the pain and apply the correct treatment.

Not too painful, but rather annoying tingling in the teeth will subside quickly. The right choice of dental care products for your condition should suffice.

Strong pulsating tooth pain will likely need to be addressed with medication. If pills don't work and the doctor is at a loss, you might try turning to alternative medicine.

Old wives' remedies

Old wives' remedies can be a solution for sorting out sudden tooth pain or as emergency relief from toothache. Remember, our ancestors didn't have strong analgesics in pill form and managed to function. However, some types of pain really cannot be dealt with at home.

In any case, it's better to start with home treatment for pain before resorting to painkillers.

Old wives' remedies for toothache:

  • Tea tree extract – Tea tree has antibacterial effects and can help with inflammation causing pain.
  • Salt and pepper rinse – Salt and pepper are said to have analgesic effects. You can try a mixture of salt and pepper in water as a rinse for sensitive teeth.
  • Garlic-onion compress – Onion protects against infection and garlic is a natural antibiotic. You can try applying a garlic-onion paste to the painful area. Avoid this method if you need to quickly get rid of the pain before meeting with your partner.
  • Clove oil – Clove oil acts as a natural anesthetic. Try applying a few drops on a cotton ball and placing it on the sore spot.

Over-the-counter medicines

The real problem occurs when tooth pain is strong to unbearable. In such cases, after consulting with a pharmacist, try turning to over-the-counter analgesics.

Over-the-counter medicines for pain:

  • Toothache and Ibuprofen – for example, Ibalgin or Brufen
  • Toothache and paracetamol – for example, Paralen or Panadol
  • Toothache and Diclofenac – for example, Voltaren tablets

Over-the-counter analgesics should take effect and provide relief from pain. If the toothache is torturous despite the medications, consult your doctor about a prescription for analgesics containing more effective pain-relieving substances (for example, Codeine).

Alternative medicine

If chronic tooth pain does not subside and the dentist is at a loss, you might try turning to alternative medicine.

For example, according to reflexology for relief from tooth pain, try applying pressure with your finger. Make pincers with your thumb and index finger and press the nail from both sides on the side.

What to do when swelling occurs

Painful teeth may not be the only problem. When a tooth hurts to the touch, swelling may occur, as if there weren't enough for the suffering person.

In such a case, try to rest. No physical exertion, maintain a stable body temperature, and stay calm. The body needs energy to fight the causes of swelling.

As important as rest is icing the swollen area. Wrap frozen vegetables in cloth and ice in 10-minute intervals. Don't overdo the icing to avoid damaging the skin on your face.

Prevention against tooth pain

It won't come as a surprise that the best prevention against tooth pain is regular visits to the dentist and dental hygiene. Try to visit the dentist and dental hygienist at least twice a year. Thanks to regular check-ups, potential pain caused by extensive cavities or erupting teeth won't catch you off guard. It's always better to be prepared for tooth pain.

The best prevention against tooth sensitivity is a healthy lifestyle (avoiding excessive consumption of sugars or sodas). It's also advisable not to overdo it with teeth whitening. The less tooth enamel you lose, the less sensitive your teeth will be.

Last but not least, don't forget about regular dental hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day with quality toothpaste, use a soft toothbrush, and after brushing, always use interdental brushes together with alcohol-free mouthwash.


Always discuss toothache with your dentist.


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