Causes and coping with toothaches

Visiting the dentist for a dental check-up

You know the feeling. You’ve been in bed for an hour, can’t fall asleep and the pain in your left molar just won't go away. This is the story of many people who struggle with toothaches. While the diagnosis may not sound like much to worry about, the reality is the pain caused by toothaches can affect your daily life until it is treated. In order to understand how a toothache can be cured, it’s first important to know exactly what causes the pain.

What causes a toothache?

A toothache refers to any sort of pain that starts near a person’s teeth, gums, or jaw.

A toothache refers to any sort of pain that starts near a person’s teeth, gums or jaw. Toothaches can occur for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, cracked teeth, cavities, exposed roots, and nerves cause these issues. In rare cases, the cause of a toothache could be more serious. Infections in the ears and sinuses and even heart disease can result in infections that make your tooth or mouth hurt. However, the most common cause of toothaches in patients today is a simple dental cavity.

Temporary toothache remedies

The diagnosis has been fairly simple: your tooth hurts! Now, the question becomes, "What are you going to do about it?" If you just need temporary relief for your pain until you can make it to the dentist or if you’re recovering from another illness that has affected your mouth, you have several options.

Garlic has long been used as a home remedy for toothaches. Place the clove of garlic in your mouth and chew on it for several minutes each day. Not only does the garlic ease your pain, but it also strengthens and revitalizes those pearly whites. Gargling saltwater is another option to ease pain especially if gum disease is the root cause. Stir several tablespoons of salt into a cup of hot water and swish the mixture around in your mouth for a few minutes. The combination of heat and salt provides welcome relief from a toothache.

Other temporary remedies include onions, lime/lemon juice, and additional sources of vitamin C. Several medications can also be purchased at a local pharmacy such as pain relieving gels, numbing solutions, and other over-the-counter products.

Toothaches and headaches

Maybe you’re the type of person who can handle a headache that comes with a temporary toothache. However, if the pain is persistent, you need to go see your dentist. One of the main causes of migraine headaches is an extended toothache. Our faces contain thousands of nerves and muscles, which transmit senses (such as pain) back and forth between our brain and the nervous system. Almost all headaches and toothaches are detected by one of the largest nerves in the head, the trigeminal nerve. Due to this connection, most toothaches can be direct causes of headaches. Other reactions to toothaches, such as muscle clenching and jaw tightening, can eventually lead to headaches, as well. So, while you may feel like you can handle the pain of a normal toothache, you still should seek treatment before it leads to an even bigger problem.

Ways to cure a toothache

While temporary pain relief may be the most immediate concern when your tooth hurts, it's just as important to get to the root of the cause. If it’s cavity or gum-related, you need to see a dentist. But don't worry, dentists today focus a great deal on making their patients feel comfortable and at ease. Oral anesthetics make many routine, in-office procedures virtually pain-free. Occasionally, your dentist will decide it’s necessary to extract a tooth if it’s significantly decayed or beyond repair.

In order to cure a toothache that’s caused by sinus or nerve infections, the best treatment is to drink plenty of water and get lots of rest. A day off of work spent reading a book or catching up on sleep might be the easiest way to get over these conditions as they pass in time. Sometimes you’ll want to consider asking your physician for an anti-inflammatory, but often Tylenol or Ibuprofen can give you the relief you need. If you’re feeling intense sinus pressure, make sure to keep your head elevated.

Now that you know what causes toothaches and a few tricks to treat the symptoms, you are better prepared for when the next one strikes. But the best way to avoid toothaches is to help prevent them from starting through proper dental hygiene such as brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings.

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