One or the worst pains a
person can suffer is toothache pain. There is something about
pain in the mouth that cannot be ignored. Toothache pain can be
a minor dull ache one day, and escalate to an excruciating
throb the next.
What is causing this? Well,
it can be several things, but the most common is the break down
of the dentin in the tooth into the nerve, caused by decay. A
small pinpoint of decay on the outside of the tooth can spread
out in a triangle pattern inside the tooth and continue its
damage until it gets to the inside of the tooth and really
You may notice when you
drink a cold drink that you get a sharp, lingering pain in your
tooth. This is a sign that the nerve is exposed to the outside
elements that you put into your mouth. Some people have
sensitive teeth that respond to cold foods like ice cream, but
the pain goes away. If the toothache pain does not go away,
your tooth is damaged and will most likely need a root
Hot foods can cause
toothache pain as well as sweet foods. All of these symptoms
are a sign that the tooth is in trouble and needs evaluation by
a dentist or Endodontist.
If your tooth has a
fracture, you can get sharp pains when you chew. Fractures
occur from grinding your teeth in your sleep or eating hard
foods such as ice or nuts. A hairline fracture is hard to
detect on an x-ray and special dye tests can be performed to
detect some of them.
If the fracture is not
treated by a filling or a root canal and crown, the fracture
will get longer and wider over time and finally reach the nerve
on the inside of the tooth. If this happens and your drink cold
or hot foods, the pain will be severe and a root canal or
extraction will be necessary for relief.
So what do you do if
you find yourself in severe pain?
1. Call your
dentist and arrange an appointment as soon as possible.
Tell them of your condition so there will be no mistake
that you need help immediately, if possible. If your
dentist cannot see you right away, he/she may be willing to call-in some
pain relievers to your pharmacy.
If they do not have an
appointment available, ask for a referral to an
Endodontist. Most Endodontists do not require a referral,
but your insurance might, and your dentist may have an
Endodontist that he prefers for you to see. Endodontists
are specially trained to diagnose toothache
At both offices, ask to
be put on their emergency waiting list and make
arrangements to be ready to see them as soon as they call.
In other words, have your phone with you wherever you go so
you can be reached should they have an appointment become
available at the last minute.
2. In the mean
time, you can try taking over the counter pain relievers.
Medications like Ibuprofen work best because of their
anti-inflammatory characteristics. You can also add
acetaminophen in between the doses of Ibuprofen if the pain
does not ease. Trying these two pain relievers together can
sometimes bring the toothache pain to a manageable
dosage instructions on the bottle - do not
overmedicate. If you are prescribed a pain
reliever by your dentist, ask the pharmacist what over the
counter pain reliever you can take with the prescribed
medication, as it sometimes takes both to work.
3. There are also
products you can buy at the pharmacy that will temporarily
numb the area, like Ambesol, Oragel, and Oil of Cloves.
These work better on the gums than the toothache
4. Some patients
have reported relief from toothache pain by holding
something cold on the cheek, like a bag of frozen peas or a
cold pack made with a towel and ice cubes.
5. You can also
try rubbing the outside cheek with an ice cube in a
circular motion to try and break the pain cycle of
6. Try rinsing
your mouth with a lukewarm salt-water mixture of one
teaspoon of salt to one cup water.
When you have toothache
pain, it is best to avoid any activity that will add pressure
to the head area, like exercising or even lying down flat. Try
to maintain an upright position. It is also not a good idea to
fly at this time as the pressure in the airplane cabin can
increase the toothache pain. Some patients have reported
that their toothache started with an airplane
If none of these
instructions bring you relief, or if it is night or weekend and
swelling occurs, some people go to the hospital emergency room
for help. There is not a lot they can do there except prescribe
medications for you until you can see a dentist.
Swelling is an indication of
an infected tooth or abscess. An antibiodic will be needed to
clear this up.
Some people think that an
infected and swollen tooth cannot be treated. Let your dentist
or Endodontist evaluate your condition and make the judgment of
how to treat your toothache pain. They need to see the swelling
to determine its cause and can sometimes offer ways to get you
out of pain sooner. There is no reason for you to suffer any
longer than you have to.
If you have swelling and an
antibiodic is prescribed, do not think that because your
toothache pain has gone away that you are healed. The
antibiodic will calm the toothache pain but as soon as the
medication is out of your system, the toothache pain can
return, sometimes much worse than before.
Even people that are afraid
of dentists all agree, that during toothache pain, your dentist
suddenly becomes a person you can't wait to visit. When you get
treated and feeling better, send him some cookies or a
card to show your