Toothache Symptoms and Remedies

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
February 6, 2019

A person making tea with honey, ginger and lemons

If you’ve ever experienced a toothache, which is pain that’s felt around or in your tooth, you aren’t alone. This is a common problem, but a lot of people aren’t sure about what causes a toothache and what can be done to get rid of the pain. That’s why we’ve compiled some helpful information about the symptoms of a toothache, along with tips on what you can do to feel relief.

Let’s Start with What Causes a Toothache, Shall We?

Before we dive into toothache symptoms and some of the main remedies for toothaches, let’s briefly go over what causes them. After all, by knowing the cause, you can immediately begin taking steps to prevent this pain before it arises.

  • If your toothache is the result of a dental problem, it might be caused by decay (think: cavities or an infection deeper in the tooth). Or your might feel pain associated with damage (such as a broken filling, implant, or crown, or a chipped tooth). And yet another cause might be gum disease.
  • On the other hand, your toothache might not actually have very much to do with your teeth and gums at all. For example, the source of the discomfort might be a sinus or viral infection, or a cluster headache.
  • Finally, if you have malocclusion,TMJ,bruxism, or impacted wisdom teeth, you might end up experiencing a toothache. But the discomfort will be more obvious in the gums or jaw. For this reason, it’s smart to try to pinpoint where the pain is coming from, and if you’re having difficulty, consider talking to your dentist for help.  

What Does a Toothache Feel Like?

Toothaches can be described in a few different ways. For some people, the pain will be sharp, while for others, it will feel more like a throbbing pain. Also, the ache might come and go, or it might be constant. And you may notice that your tooth hurts when you’re eating, whenever pressure is applied to it, or when it’s exposed to something that’s sweet, hot, or cold. No matter what, it’s definitely unpleasant!

Other symptoms that might show up when you have a toothache include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Swollen gums
  • Discharge or bleeding in the area of the tooth
  • A foul taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath

The toothache may become worse over time, or it might start to last for longer stretches of time. You might even realize that the pain radiates from the area of the tooth to the jaw, ear, or cheek. Ouch!  

Tip: Keeping track of your toothache symptoms is certainly wise. Try to pinpoint when the pain occurs, how long it lasts, and what the triggers are. Your dentist will be able to use this information to figure out what’s causing your toothache and to prescribe the best treatment to fix the problem.

What Can You Do to Get Rid of That Annoying Pain in the Mouth?

So, here’s the thing: if you have a toothache that isn’t going away after a couple of days, it’s time to see your dentist. And if the pain is intense, you have pain in other areas, such as your ears, or you have a fever, it’s super important that you see your dentist right away for a thorough exam and x-rays to diagnose the cause of your discomfort. Trust us, you don’t want this to go unchecked, because if there is an infection causing the pain, failing to treat it may allow it to spread to other parts of your body. Yikes!

What can a dentist do for you when you have a toothache? Well, as you likely guessed, it depends on the cause.

  • If the pain is the result of a cavity, your dentist can clear away the decay and place a filling to make sure your tooth is as good as new.
  • If the tooth is broken, or if an existing filling or crown is damaged, your dentist can fix those issues as well.
  • If the dental damage is too far gone, a root canal or extraction might be in order.
  • If the source of your tooth pain is gum disease, scaling and planing may be required to clean the gums and help them heal.
  • If there’s an infection present, your dentist might recommend antibiotics, in addition to appropriate dental treatments.
  • If the pain is a symptom of malocclusion, bruxism, or TMJ, your dentist will discuss treatment options with you.

Can You Relieve a Toothache at Home? You Sure Can Try!

There are some things that you can do at home to help reduce the pain associated with a toothache. It is best, though, to see your dentist, so consider using these strategies only to give yourself some temporary relief.

  • Typically, hot and cold foods and beverages could make a toothache worse, so avoid those if they trigger your pain.
  • Soak a cotton ball with a bit of clove oil and gently apply it to the affected area. As an alternative, you can use your fingers to rub the oil onto the achy tooth or gums. This oil might help numb your toothache temporarily.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater. It’s easy to make the right mix: just add about a ½ teaspoon of salt to an 8-ounce glass of water. Don’t swallow!
  • Grab an ice pack and hold it against your cheek over the area of the toothache, especially if you’re experiencing swelling along with the pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen might be just what you need to get relief rather quickly. Plus, there are also pain-relieving liquids and gels that you can purchase (look for the numbing ingredient, benzocaine). Regardless of what product you choose, follow directions carefully.

Remember: A Toothache Signals a Trip to the Dentist Is in Your Future

Because a toothache could be a sign of a potentially serious underlying issue that might not be immediately obvious to you, seeing your dentist is always recommended when you experience this pain. It might just be that you have sensitive teeth, and your dentist will be able to give you tips on how to relieve that sensitivity. Or, you might have an infection in your tooth that should be treated promptly.

By visiting your dentist regularly with the help of a reliable dental insurance plan, you can take an important step towards finding problems while they’re still in their minor stages, when they’ll be easier to treat. Plus, every trip to the dentist is an opportunity to discuss symptoms (like toothaches) and ask questions. And let’s not forget that regular dental cleanings are also helpful when it comes to maintaining clean gums and pain-free chompers. So many reasons to schedule those dental appointments!

Sure, a toothache can be a literal pain, but it doesn’t have to last. Home remedies can help until you get to your dentist, when you’ll be able to receive whatever treatment is necessary to kick that pain for good.


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