Tooth Pain or Abscess

Tooth Pain or Abscess

What is a toothache?


A toothache usually refers to pain in or around the teeth and jaws and can be caused by a multitude of issues.  The majority of the time, decay (cavities) are to blame.  However, in other cases, severe tooth pain could be a sign of infection, gum disease or a tooth injury such as a fracture or crack.  Disorders of the jaw joint (Temporomandibular joint, or TMJ) can also cause pain that can mimic a toothache.  In particular, habitual grinding and clenching of teeth can be a major cause of toothache-like pain emanating from the jaw.  

The severity of a toothache can range from mild, dull, sharp and in some instances excruciating.  It can come and go or be constant.  Eating or drinking can make the pain worse, particularly if the food or beverage is hot or cold.  

It is also worth noting that sinus headaches and congestion from colds or flu may cause you to experience symptoms such as a dull ache or pressure in the upper teeth and jaw that can be mistaken for a toothache.  When the illness goes away, the associated dental symptoms should cease as well.  If you are experiencing dental pain in conjunction with Sinus and congestion symptoms, we recommend you contact your physician or ENT first to rule out possible medically related issues that may be causing your dental distress with the use of proper therapeutics.  


Tips for Relief:


Try the following tips to help minimize a toothache until you can come see us:

Over The Counter Pain Relievers – If safe for you to use, anti-inflammatory medication like Tylenol or Motrin may take the edge off and make a toothache a bit more tolerable until you can see your dentist. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the bottle by taking the medicine every four to six hours as needed for pain, so long as you do not have any pre-existing medical condition that makes taking OTC pain relievers unsafe. Never put the pill directly on the tooth or gums.  This may cause burning or even more damage.  While you may find relief from these medications, don’t be fooled, your tooth is not healed. You still need to see a dentist for a proper diagnosis and plan of action before potential bigger problems emerge.

Salt Water – One of the best measures you can take for a toothache is rinsing with warm saltwater.  Swishing with warm salt water every couple of hours can help sooth an infection, remove debris, and reduce swelling.  To make a saltwater solution, mix about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of warm water.  Be areful to ensure the solution is warm and not too hot or too cold in which case can cause further inflammation.  Gently swish the solution in your mouth for anywhere between 20-45 seconds before spitting out.

Avoid Eating Col, Hot & Hard Foods – Tooth pain can be exasperated when the affected area comes into contact with hot or cold foods.  If you notice the pain lingers for more than 10 seconds after the offending stimuli has been removed, there is a strong possibility the tooth is infected and will need a Root Canal.  

Additionally, sugary and acidic foods can further agitate a badly decayed tooth that is causing pain.  Hard foods should also be avoided when experiencing tooth pain, as they can worsen chips, cracks and loose teeth.  They also put pressure on an already sensitive area. 

Treat Sinus Symptoms – Sometimes tooth pain is from the congestion of a sinus infection and not a dental issue. If in addition to tooth pain you are experiencing a runny nose, cough, mucus, nasal drip, ear pain, fever, sore throat, loss of smell and taste, or pressure around the nose, eyes, and forehead, you may have a sinus infection. Typically, if tooth pain is related to congestion, it will be felt in the upper molars, most likely affecting multiple teeth. 

To ease symptoms, drink plenty of water, use a neti pot to clear sinuses, and use steam treatments from either a hot bowl of water or shower to ease pressure. If you are experiencing some of the above symptoms with your toothache, we advise making an appointment with your primary physician or ENT first to have the extent of the infection examined and properly treated.  

Use a Cold Compress – Place a cold compress over the part of your mouth where you’re feeling pain.  it’ll cause all of the blood vessels in that area of your mouth to constrict, which should help alleviate some of the pain you’re experiencing.

Antiseptic Rinses – Typically found at most pharmacies, over-the-counter antiseptics can help take away some of the pain associated with a toothache.  Look for one that contains the ingredient benzocaine and place it on the tooth that hurts.  It will help numb the area and ease the pain.

Oil of Cloves – If you prefer a more natural approach, oil of cloves can act similarly to an antiseptic.  Clove oil is a natural anesthetic that works by numbing tooth pain.  Soak a few drops of clove oil in a cotton pellet, then place it on your sore tooth.  Clove oil will work in a similar fashion as benzocaine by numbing the area.  Beware that while it is effective, clove oil will not have the a pleasant taste as you would find in other over the counter antiseptic rinses.   

Floss – Oftentimes, a toothache may be caused by something as simple as food stuck in-between your teeth.  If you think this may be the case, gently floss and clean out any remnants present between the teeth that are in question.  


Why are toothaches worse at night?


People suffering from toothaches often experience a worsening of symptoms at night as compared to the daytime.  This can be due to the position of your body while you are sleeping as well as the way your body circulates blood. When you go to bed at night, your body is laying down and more blood may rush to your head. This can make a toothache feel worse than when you are standing up because blood has rushed into these sensitive areas.

To help lessen toothaches at night, try the following:

  • Avoid eating cold, acidic, or sugary food before going to bed.  These can aggravate any cavities that may have formed in your teeth.  
  • After brushing, rinse with a mouthwash that contains alcohol or with warm salt water.  These have antibacterial components that help reduce inflammation cause by plaque and cavities.
  • Try taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as Tylenol or Motrin.  You can also try using medicated ointments available at your local pharmacy.  These come in the form of gels or creams that contain numbing agents to give you temporary relief until you can get to our office.
  • Lastly, sleep with your head elevated.  Propping your head with pillows will lessen the blood flow going to your head.  This may give you some relief until you can finally fall asleep. 

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