If ever a toothache develops, we hope today’s column will help you to ease your discomfort until you can see a dentist.Sculpture of a man with a tooth ache

A toothache can invade and disrupt every living moment of your life. Toothaches may be caused by a cavity (tooth decay), abscesses, gum disease, loose or broken fillings, exposed tooth roots, food particles wedged between the teeth or trapped below your gum line, sinus pressure, trauma or irritation resulting from clenching or grinding.

Toothache symptoms can include sharp pain, a dull ache, throbbing or burning. Your tooth may be sensitive to pressure, heat, cold or sweets.

If your toothache symptoms include fever, swelling of the face or neck; red, swollen or bleeding gums; unusually bad breath despite brushing and flossing; you should make an appointment to see the dentist immediately.

Remember, most toothaches get worse if not professionally treated promptly and may lead to more serious medical complications.

Until you can get to the dentist, there are several things you can do to help manage the pain of a toothache:

  • Use dental floss to remove any food particles trapped between the teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
  • Take acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve your pain symptoms.
  • Apply oil-of-clove by means of a small piece of cotton soaked in clove oil on the tooth that is fractured or decayed.
  • To facilitate rest, keep your head elevated in bed to decrease the pressure in the area of the toothache.

In the rare case that a toothache is accompanied by pain in the lower jaw, neck, chest (in the collarbone region) or upper arm, these symptoms could represent something entirely different as heart attacks and angina reduce oxygen supplies to the mouth, and this can manifest as a toothache. While you may not be experiencing a heart attack or angina, it may be better to err on the side of safety by seeking emergency medical attention.

It’s important to remember that the temporary remedies mentioned here aren’t going to cure your toothache. A toothache should always be treated professionally by a dentist. Prompt, professional dental treatment provides a positive outcome for toothaches.

To avoid toothaches in the future, see a dentist regularly for a checkup, brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once daily.

Yours for better dental health,

Dr. Allen Sun

Photo by Garry Knight