Tooth Pain Relief – Alleviating Toothache Once and for All
Tooth pain, or toothache, is a condition that most of you will experience at some point, and understanding the avenues of tooth pain relief that are available can help to reduce the frequency of toothache, or stop it completely. It can be a persistent nuisance and in many cases your discomfort will grow until the root of the issue is addressed. There are many different issues that can arise in the mouth and surrounding area that can cause pain to manifest in the form of a toothache, sometimes even when the affected tooth is perfectly healthy. In most cases, the effectiveness of pain relief will depend on the source behind the tooth pain.
Causes of Tooth Pain
A large percentage of toothache cases can be attributed to an underlying dental issue. Although a cavity may be the first problem to come to mind, there are many other possible sources of tooth pain: A cracked tooth, gum disease, root sensitivity, a gum or dental abscess, and a cracked or lost filling are a few examples of dental issues that can easily trigger recurring instances of toothache. To gain a better understanding of what these conditions entail, descriptions of each dental issue are listed below:
Dental Caries: This is the formal term for what most of us simply refer to as a cavity. A cavity is a breach in the teeth’s outer protective coating, called the enamel. Bacteria are naturally present in the mouth and these organisms feed off sugar found in the foods that we eat. The bacteria create a by-product in the form of acid, which can break down the protective coating of enamel on teeth. In most cases, bacteria can be removed from the mouth by regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. However, if one is not vigilant in upholding a good oral hygiene routine, the bacteria may build up in a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque is off-white or yellowish in color and clings to the outer surfaces of your teeth. As plaque contains large numbers of acid-producing bacteria, prolonged exposure to plaque will cause the enamel to break down and decay. Dental caries can be seen by the naked eye and often appears brown or black in color.
Cracked or Damaged Teeth: A cracked or damaged tooth can be caused by virtually any form of direct trauma to the tooth. Repetitive trauma such as crunching on ice pieces, eating very hard foods, or chewing on non-food items can also cause the teeth to become cracked or damaged. Initially, it may not cause pain, particularly if the damage is mostly contained within the tooth’s enamel layer. Over time, however, bacteria may breach the threshold of the crack, which would protect the bacteria against brushing, flossing, and possibly even mouthwash. As the bacteria thrive, and release acid into the inner dental layers, further internal decay will occur, and eventually the bacteria will infect the soft tissues inside the tooth. A severe dental injury could cause immediate pain if the damage breaches both the enamel and the underlying dentine layer of the tooth. This kind of injury would expose the soft pulp and the nerves within it, resulting in intense and persistent pain.
Sensitive Teeth: If you have sensitive teeth, you may feel toothache when eating or drinking hot or cold items, or breathing in cold air. Tooth sensitivity is primarily caused by thin or damaged tooth enamel. If the enamel wears down and becomes thin, then extreme variations in temperature could cause a temporary “shock” to the nerves of the teeth, as there is less enamel to absorb the temperature variance.
Abscess: An abscess is a pocket of pus caused by infectious bacteria. An abscess can form in the soft tissues of the inner tooth; or it can form in the gums, often near a tooth that has been damaged or ravaged by dental caries. Abscesses form when bacteria have had a prolonged opportunity to work their way down into the soft pulp of teeth or into the gum tissue. As the bacteria reproduce, they trigger the formation of a fluid-filled pocket. This pocket, filled with pus and infectious bacteria, causes the surrounding area to become inflamed. Symptoms of an abscess include throbbing pain and swelling of the gums around the affected area. Abscess pain may initially come and go, but it will eventually progress into a highly painful condition. If an abscess is located in the pulp of a tooth, you may suddenly see a dulling of the pain which is caused by the death of the tooth’s roots. Although the pain may be gone, there is still an infection present within the tooth, which must be treated to prevent the possibility of the abscess bursting and releasing toxic fluid into the bloodstream.
Cracked or Lost Filling: Similar to the scenario of dental caries, a cracked or lost filling can expose the pulp and nerves of a tooth and result in pain. Contact with food, liquids, or even air can result in various degrees of pain. Fillings are often seen as a permanent solution to a cavity or tooth damage, but in reality most fillings do not last forever. Over time, a filling may become loose due to everyday wear and tear, especially when one often chews hard or crunchy foods. A filling may also become loose and fall out if the tooth surrounding the filling has receded due to decay. You can crack a filling by eating hard foods, chewing on non-food items, or sustaining direct trauma to the filling.
Gum Disease: Gum disease is a condition that affects a large percentage of adults in some form or another. It often begins as inflammation. Failure to remove plaque buildup can lead to the formation of tartar. The most common place for tartar buildup is at the gum line. Virtually every movement of the mouth, from chewing to talking, can cause the gums to grind against the tough tartar substance, which results in damage and inflammation in the gums. Swelling, redness, and tenderness are some of the first symptoms to arise with gum disease. The gums may also bleed when brushed. This form of gum disease is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is treatable and the effects are reversible, however if allowed to go untreated gingivitis will progress into periodontitis. Anyone who suffers from periodontitis will notice that the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and create gaping pockets around and between the teeth. The teeth may feel loose and gum pain is likely to occur as bacteria traverses the deep pockets within the gum tissue. Eventually the bacteria will break down the bone and connective tissues that hold your teeth in place. Once this occurs, the effects cannot be reversed.
How to Find Tooth Pain Relief
There are many different ways to alleviate tooth pain, depending on the source of the problem. The conditions listed above are among the most common causes of toothache. In all of the aforementioned situations it is necessary to seek the attention of a dentist in order to treat the heart of the issue. The following dental procedures are most likely to alleviate toothache:
Dental Restoration: A dental restoration, or filling, is a procedure that is used to correct dental caries, cracking or damage to the dental surface, as well as a chipped or lost filling. During this procedure the dentist will use an appropriate anesthetic medication to numb the area to be worked on. The dentist will then use a drill-like tool to gently scrub away the damaged or decayed dental portions. The “burr” tool has several different attachments, each of which allows the dentist to have greater control over the amount of tooth tissue being removed as well as preparing the tooth’s texture to best adhere to a filling. The newly-hollowed tooth will be cleaned and the filling material will be applied to the area. The filling material chosen by the patient will determine the length of the treatment process. Generally, tooth-colored fillings take a bit longer to create because they must be applied in layers, with each layer being “cured” with a special light. Gold fillings often take at least two visits to apply. Silver amalgam filling material is generally the most affordable and can easily be applied in one visit. Once the filling material has been sculpted, the dentist will polish the material so that it does not abrade the tongue or cheek.
Desensitizing Toothpaste: The use of desensitizing toothpaste is the most common treatment option for those who suffer from sensitive teeth. It comes in several forms, with the most popular products being calcium or potassium-based. Calcium-based products often provide more immediate relief because the calcium mineral acts as a natural plug for the microscopic pores in the dentine layer of a tooth. In short, calcium works by blocking the direct access routes to the tooth’s sensitive inner layers. These toothpastes generally offer quick protection against sensitivity, however the results may be fleeting if one eats acidic or coarse foods that could scrape away the protective layer of calcium from the dental surface. Potassium-based toothpaste contains high amounts of potassium, which acts as an ionic de-polarizer on exposed nerves in a tooth. When the pores in a tooth have widened enough to expose the nerve-ending inside a tooth, calcium-based toothpaste is probably not going to be an adequate fix. The downside to potassium-based toothpaste is that it can take around a month for the results to become noticeable.
Deep Cleaning: A deep cleaning is the go-to treatment for toothache caused by gingivitis. The effects of gingivitis can often be reversed, and a deep cleaning of the teeth and gums is imperative in order for the healing process to start. A professional deep cleaning at the dentist’s office will remove plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth, especially around the gum line. Rough patches on a tooth may also be polished to prevent the area from hoarding bacteria and plaque. This procedure is often referred to as “scaling and planing.” To correct serious gaps in the gum line, the dentist may apply an antibiotic gel to seal the gums from further bacterial growth. After a deep cleaning the dentist may recommend a prescription-strength antimicrobial mouth rinse to be used until the gums have tightened back into a healthier position.
Bone or Tissue Graft Surgery: With periodontitis, the treatment options are limited. Positive results can sometimes be obtained through the use of tissue or bone grafting surgery. In places where bone tissue has been lost due to gum disease, the placement of artificial or harvested bone tissue in the damaged location can kick-start the body’s natural process of bone growth. In places where significant bone loss has occurred, it may be necessary to place a piece of material similar to lattice or mesh between the bone and soft tissue, in order to prevent soft tissue from spreading and taking up the space that should be occupied by bone. A periodontist may recommend a tissue graft to correct gum loss. This involves removing pieces of soft tissue from other parts of the mouth, and attaching it to the portion of gum that has suffered tissue loss.
Although it is often necessary to visit a dentist in order to resolve toothache, there are temporary measures that can be taken until an appointment can be arranged. General over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can help to reduce swelling and inflammation caused by infection and/or irritation. It is also an effective pain reliever. Topical numbing gel, such as Orajel, is a powerful over-the-counter medication that can be used to find relief from soft-tissue pain. Clove is a natural remedy that can also temporarily relieve tooth pain. A cotton ball soaked in water and ground clove can be pressed against the affected tooth and gums to temporarily numb the area and reduce inflammation. It also doubles as an antiseptic. These measures are intended to act as a temporary reprieve from pain and will not correct the underlying issue.