Millions of people in the UK experience toothache every year and with record waiting times for dental treatment, it has never been more important to understand this common ailment and what can be done about it. Many people describe the pain and discomfort of toothache as a jaw aching, head pumping sensation that comes from poor dental health. It is important to understand and be aware of which dental treatments the NHS will cover and which it will not.
Understanding some of the causes of toothache and knowing what can be done to alleviate and treat it wherever possible can go a long way in helping sufferers get some much-needed relief.
What Are Teeth and What Are They Made Of?
Each human child is born with twenty ‘baby’ teeth. Between the age of five to eight these fall out and are replaced with twenty-eight adult teeth. Once we reach the age of twenty-one, we grow four wisdom teeth and are left with a total of thirty-two adult teeth, twelve more than the baby set.
Teeth are made of Dentine and Enamel which are hard substances which cover a tooth Pulp, where all the nerve endings and blood supply is found. The Pulp goes deep into the root of the tooth, embedded in your gums. The roots are covered by a substance called Cementum and then we all have Periodontal fibres which connect our jawbone to our teeth.
Most adults have four types of teeth: incisors, canine teeth, premolars, and molars. The incisors lie at the front of the mouth on your top and bottom jaw. They are your mouth knife and fork, cutting up food. Then we have the canine pointy teeth at the front corners of our mouth which are used for tearing things up and eight premolar teeth.
Premolars are used with the tongue to grind up food and our remaining twelve molars mash up and masticate food and combine it with saliva so we can easily digest it.
What Is Toothache and What Causes It?
Toothache can occur because of decay, infection, abscesses, or inflammation to any part of the mouth, whether this be the gums, teeth, or jaw. This pain can be sharp, tender, and acute or chronic, and throbbing.
There are many causes of toothache. These range from tooth decay (when parts of the Dentine and Enamel hard surface erode, exposing the sensitive pulp nerve endings), cracked teeth, tooth infections (when microorganisms such as bacteria get into the tooth or gums and cause inflammation and pain), broken fillings, gum disease, infected ulcers, or abscesses. There are many reasons why a person's teeth may become weak and damaged, ranging from eating disorders to bad diet and even smoking.
It can also be caused by an impacted tooth where there is insufficient space in your mouth for all your teeth to grow. This can be due to genetic jaw size or habits such as thumb sucking or caused by ill-fitting braces.
Tooth decay and infections, such as an infected wisdom tooth or the infected root canal of your tooth, can be the most painful. This is because decay or breakage of the strong hard surface of the tooth has led to pulp exposure and this pulp is innervated extensively, and so sends repeated pain signals to the brain. Micro-organisms from our food, environment, or air, can invade the holes in our teeth.
In an attempt to kill the infection, our defensive immune system localises the infection by triggering inflammation, making the area hot, swollen and red, as a local immune response kicks in to combat the infection; this causes the symptoms of a fever and headache, as the body’s immune system responds.
Gum disease is also a prominent cause of toothache. Gum disease alone, affects 15-35% of most adults in the western world. Gingivitis is the most common type of gum disease with some people contracting a more serious, tooth-killing type of gum disease called periodontitis.
Gum disease is when the gums recede and shrink, exposing the sensitive pulp of the tooth roots, which are not coated in Dentine or Enamel. Like most toothache, it is caused by poor dental hygiene (often from insufficient flossing), resulting in plaque build-up.
What Are the Symptoms of Toothache?
Symptoms of toothache can include tooth and mouth swelling, fever, and headaches. It can cause yellowing or discoloration of the tooth, bad breath, and red and inflamed gums.
Sometimes this pain can be referred pain, from something else or another part of the mouth. With an abscessed tooth (a tooth with a pulp infection), the pain will often reach deep into the root of the tooth.
How Do You Get Rid of Toothache?
The best thing to do when you experience tooth ache is to not mask the pain with pain medication such as anti-inflammatory medicines Aspirin and Ibuprofen, or the painkiller Paracetamol.
Medication will often treat the pain and swelling symptoms, but hide the cause of the pain, potentially making it worse. Some people see benefits and good results from using holistic home remedies to treat toothache, ranging from salt-water gurgling to coconut oil use, peppermint teas or garlic (antibacterial).
However, the best thing is to seek help from a trained dental professional, who can use their extensive experience to identify the root cause of the dental pain, and effectively treat it. Ultimately and importantly, you need to address the underlying causes of the toothache causing discomfort and pain so you can cure it and deal with the problem at source.
A dentist will likely ask you to describe the symptoms of your toothache. They may X-ray your mouth to discover if your teeth have any holes or ‘cavities’ to attend to, that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
They may suggest a filling of any cavities and holes. In cases where the root of the tooth or teeth in question is affected, a root canal treatment may be undertaken to rescue and save the tooth and to avoid having to extract any teeth.
Should root canal not be suitable or effective, a tooth extraction or replacement with a resin tooth, a brace or other treatment such as dental implants may be considered. Dentists may prescribe a specific antibiotic and painkiller, such as Metronidazole, that will help with the localised pain and killing of the infection or abscess.
How Can GlobMed Help?
We provide our patients with access to experts in the dental profession, who can use their extensive experience, knowledge, and networks, to ensure the best care is given to anyone sitting in their dental chair. We work hard to ensure that our services ease your pain and bring you the biggest smile.