Whether you woke up this morning with a piercing pain in your tooth or you have experienced a dull ache in a molar for days, you feel miserable. Having a toothache can cause an enormous amount of pain. You want to find relief as quickly as possible. So what is the most effective way to treat your toothache, and why does it hurt so much?
We get these questions a lot from patients who come in for treatment. We’ve compiled some answers, as well as some suggestions for making the pain more tolerable until you can see a dentist.
Toothache Causes: Why Does Your Tooth Hurt?
Many things can cause a toothache. Most people assume right away that they have a cavity if the toothache arose suddenly. If you have a cavity, your tooth probably hurts when you drink and eat, especially as you bite down on your food. You also may feel tooth sensitivity when you drink a sugary beverage, such as soda, or eat a sugary snack, like sticky candy.
You may even develop bad breath related to your cavity-induced toothache. You can look inside your mouth to see if the tooth has any notable pits or if it’s discolored. While you can never tell for sure if it’s a cavity, you can mention anything that looks unusual in your mouth when you call a dentist to make an emergency appointment.
Cavities are a common cause of tooth pain, but they are not the only ones. Here are five other toothache causes:
- Infected tooth nerve
- Wisdom teeth erupting
- Grinding teeth
- Cracked tooth
Another frequent cause of toothaches occurs when old dental work gets damaged or falls out. For example, if you had a filling in your molar, but it came out when you ate a sticky piece of taffy, you may experience tooth sensitivity and achiness since the filling is no longer protecting your tooth. Other types of dental work can accidentally come out as well, such as dental crowns.
If you suspect your toothache is caused by damaged dental work, call your dentist right away. You need to get the problem taken care of as quickly as possible.
How to Get Rid of a Toothache
You can use many methods to treat the pain that causes a toothache. To treat the toothache itself, you may schedule an emergency visit with a dentist who can evaluate the reason for the pain and address it.
Try an Anti-Inflammatory
To get the pain to dull immediately, take an anti-inflammatory. They take just a few minutes to begin working. The drug decreases swelling and blunts the pain signals going to your brain. Read the label on the bottle and continue to take medicine regularly to ensure the swelling does not return. Make sure you choose an anti-inflammatory and not acetaminophen, which will merely dull the pain, not treat the swelling.
Swish Your Mouth With Saltwater
You want to keep your mouth clean while you battle your toothache. To remove debris from your mouth after meals, swish around saltwater in your mouth. Any oral wounds you may have developed with the sore tooth will benefit from the saltwater bath. You also give your tooth a brief moment of relief as you move the water around your mouth.
Apply a Cold Compress to Your Jaw
Depending on where the toothache is located in your mouth, you may be able to soothe it by holding a cold compress to your jaw wherever the pain is radiating. Use a package of frozen fruit wrapped in a thin washcloth and apply the compress to your face for up to 20 minutes. The compress reduces the swelling associated with the toothache, and it can also ease the pain.
Try a Hot Pack
Instead of a cold compress, heat a hot pack and hold it to your jaw. You can make a hot pack by filling a sock with rice, tying the end closed, and putting it in the microwave for a minute or two. Apply the hot pack to the area where your toothache has been throbbing.
Wash Your Mouth With Thyme
Many herbs have unique properties that offer surprisingly good assistance with everyday maladies. Thyme can help the pain. Add a few drops of thyme essential oil to a glass of water and swish it around in your mouth. Do this a few times, and you will begin to feel some numbing. If you want an even more significant impact, drizzle a couple of drops of essential oil on a cotton ball and place it over the throbbing area for 20 to 30 minutes.
Put Peppermint Teabags to Work
Peppermint can alleviate nausea, but did you know it’s also used to help treat pain? Boil water and add a peppermint teabag. Let it steep for a few minutes, then put the teabag in the freezer for a few seconds. Remove it from the freezer and apply it to the affected area of your mouth. The peppermint will make your mouth feel tingly, masking the throbbing toothache for a few minutes. You also can leave the teabag in the freezer a little longer for a makeshift cold compress that fits in your mouth.
See a Dentist for Emergency Toothache Relief and Treatment
Ultimately, most toothaches will require a trip to the dentist. You have to get the underlying cause of the toothache addressed, or it will not begin to heal. A dentist can evaluate your condition and offer suggestions for treatment. You can treat the pain of the toothache over the short term, but if you want the pain to go away for good, the best approach is to visit the dentist.
Sometimes a toothache signals a severe problem. Other signs you should see a dentist right away include:
- Pus or blood on or near the painful tooth
- Swollen jaw
- These can all point to an abscessed tooth, an issue that requires immediate treatment