Believe it or not, February 9th is Toothache Day! While not many of us would wait long to get a toothache seen to, it can be easier to put it off and just hope it goes away. However, it’s never a good idea to ignore a toothache – the chances are it will come back. So, it’s good to know what to do in case you should you get a worrying twinge one day.

  • What is it?
  • Toothache, formally called odantalgia, can be miserable. Pain from a tooth – or worse, from a number of teeth – can be hard to bear, and it can make eating and sleeping very difficult. In this situation it’s tempting to go to the pharmacy and get some painkillers. However, it’s very important to see your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist can diagnose the problem and fix it permanently.

    • Types of toothache
    • Tooth ache can vary from a slight ache or twinge every now and then, to severe and constant pain. Hot and cold sensations may trigger it or make it worse. Or, the pain might be worse at night. If the ache is in lower teeth, then it can be easy to confuse it with earache. If it’s in an upper jaw then it can feel like it’s residing in your sinuses. Sometimes it might not be toothache at all, for example if there’s an infection or problem in the gum next to your teeth. It’s a confusing situation – but the general rule is, if it lasts longer than a day or two, you should definitely see the dentist.

      • The causes
      • Toothache is an inflammation of the pulp inside the tooth. The causes of this inflammation can be many. The most common is tooth decay, where enamel on the outside has been worn away and holes have developed. This is usually due to a poor dental routine and a sugary diet. Or, your tooth could be cracked, or you might have an old filling that needs to be replaced. You might even have knocked your tooth without realising, causing problems to start.

        • When it’s not toothache
        • Sometimes toothache might not be what it seems. For example, periodontal disease, where the gums are inflamed because of a bacterial infection, can cause a similar pain sensation. Or, you might have wisdom teeth coming through – which can cause surrounding gums to become swollen. However, don’t ignore any aches, pains or strange feelings in or around your teeth and gums. It’s better to get the pain checked sooner, when it’s likely a small problem, than leaving it until later. In this case, if left untreated, the inside of the tooth can become infected - possibly leading to a dental abscess.

          • Temporary pain relief
          • Some dentists, including Drs. Nicolas & Asp, offer 24 hour emergency appointments. So, you shouldn’t have to wait a long time to see a professional. However, if you do have to manage the pain for a little while before seeing the dentist, here’s some tips. First, rinse the mouth with warm water. Take painkillers, but don’t put them directly against your gums. Ask at the pharmacy for dosage advice. A cold compress can also help.

            • Treatment
            • Your dentist will perform an examination and likely take an X-ray to better see what’s causing your toothache. If it’s a straightforward case of decay, the affected area can be removed and a filling put in place. If it’s a bad filling, that can be removed and replaced. If it’s an infection, then you may need a root canal treatment. Only in the most extreme cases will the tooth need to be removed.

              • Children
              • While not quite the same as toothache, teething can be a stressful time! Teething happens when adult teeth come through, usually around 6 months old. It can be tough on parents, but a few tears and tantrums are normal. For older children, if they complain of any toothache, you should see your dentist immediately. Don’t give aspirin to children under 16 years. You can also use dental gel to temporarily help the pain, until you see the dentist. Check with the pharmacist if your child is old enough.

                • Preventing toothache
                • It’s very important to look after our teeth. A little care and attention can avoid any kind of toothache whatsoever! Brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly. Avoid sugary foods that generate acid in the mouth and can cause problems. Lastly, see the dentist twice a year – that’s every 6 months.

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