When I was in my early 20s, I tended to avoid dental visits. I owned a toothbrush but used it only to occasionally swipe toothpaste across my teeth. As for flossing, well, I figured chewing sugarless gum was “just as good.”
As a result of neglecting my oral health care, I experienced an increasing number of toothaches as I grew older. I remember waking in the middle of the night and holding my jaw to try to dull the ache. Every time I visited my dentist, he would shake his head, lecture me on the importance of regular brushing, flossing and dental visits and then start the Novocaine and drilling procedure that I dreaded.
Today, I’ve learned my lesson. I floss and brush my teeth twice a day, visit my dentist every six months and, thankfully, have experienced a minimal number of toothaches as a result.
Common Causes of Toothaches
Toothaches typically result from either jaw or tooth issues. These problems could stem from a crack in your tooth, gum disease, a cavity, an exposed tooth root or a wide variety of other conditions.
However, it’s important to know that you should always get any toothache checked out by your dentist. The problem may not even be related to your mouth: a toothache can be caused by a heart condition, an ear infection or a sinus condition. Your dentist therefore may refer you to your own physician for follow-up attention.
Dental cavities are the most common cause of toothaches. If you have a cavity, you may not initially experience pain. However, neglecting to visit your dental regularly can cause that cavity to become worse, resulting in a toothache that sends you to the dentist. To prevent cavities in the future, the American Dental Association (ADA) advises brushing your teeth twice daily, using fluoride toothpaste and dental floss, following a balanced diet with limited snacks and participating in regular dental visits and cleanings.
Ranked second in terms of causing a toothache is gum disease. The risk of experiencing gum disease increases if you smoke, have a condition such as diabetes, require various types of medications or have defective fillings. Warning signs may include tender, swollen, reddened gums or gums that have pulled away from your teeth or are bleeding. Be sure to see your dentist if you experience any of those symptoms. Treatments vary, depending on the degree of gum disease, which is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms and treat them as soon as possible. Gum disease can cause toothaches in the roots of your teeth, resulting in pain when you eat anything hot, cold or sour.
Another common cause of toothaches is a cracked tooth. You can fracture a tooth by chewing or biting a hard object, such as an olive pit, a pen or a nutshell. You may require a crown; in some cases, a root canal may be required.
American Dental Association (ADA)