The Patient’s Guide to Toothaches

If you pinch your tooth, it wouldn’t hurt like pinching your arm does. Good thing, too, considering how much pressure your teeth experience every day. The reason for their insensitivity lies in the composition of your teeth, which includes a thin, but super-resilient layer of mineral crystals surrounding them. Tooth enamel protects teeth from infectious bacteria while helping teeth absorb the pressures of biting and chewing. When a tooth is infected with decay, compromised by nearby gum disease, or damaged by accidental trauma, a toothache can warn you to act quickly and possibly save your tooth.

It is an Emergency?

A toothache is like a headache; it can range from mild to debilitating, and the pain can indicate a wide variety of issues. Regardless of its severity, though, your tooth shouldn’t hurt, and if it does, then the tooth likely needs professional care. A dental emergency is a situation that requires immediate attention, and can include;

  • Chipped, cracked, or broken tooth; the damage can expose the nerves and blood vessels, or pulp, at the center of the tooth
  • A partially dislodged tooth, usually due to blunt force trauma
  • A split tooth, meaning a severe fracture that divides the tooth into two separate pieces
  • An avulsed, or completely knocked-out, tooth, which might be successfully replanted if you seek treatment within the hour

If your tooth suffers structural damage, then rinse your mouth carefully with warm water to clear away dirt and debris. If bleeding occurs, stop it by applying pressure with clean, moist gauze for about ten minutes, or until the bleeding ceases. A cold compress or ice pack to the side of the face can help reduce pain and swelling until you’re able to reach our office. Once you’ve cleaned and catered to your damaged tooth, call our office immediately to schedule an emergency dental visit.

Toothaches and Dental Diseases

Although dental damage is a common reason for an aching tooth, the most frequent reasons are the development of various dental diseases—mainly, tooth decay and gum disease.

Tooth Decay

Better known as the disease that causes cavities, tooth decay is an infection that eats away at your tooth’s structure, leaving holes (cavities) in your tooth. To reach your tooth’s main structure, called dentin, bacteria have to bypass the mineralized layer of enamel that protects it. They do this by metabolizing sugar, starches, and carbohydrates into acids that attack enamel and deplete your teeth of minerals. Once they slip past compromised enamel, bacteria settle into the dentin, and disturbance can be felt by the nerves in the tooth’s pulp. In cases of extreme tooth decay, the infection can reach and kill the pulp, then spread through the roots to nearby tissues and jawbone. Root canal treatment may be able to save the tooth by removing the infection and sealing the roots, or the tooth could require an extraction if it’s too infected to save.

Gum Disease

The roots of your teeth extend underneath your gum line and are embedded in sockets in your jawbone. Gum disease describes a bacterial infection that results from excessive bacteria gathering on the roots underneath your gum line. While some bacteria produce teeth-attacking acids, others release toxins that destroy the connective tissues between your gums and teeth. As the gum tissue separates (recedes), small pockets form that allow germs to collect and grow, leading to rampant inflammation and gingivitis, the beginning stage of gum disease. Unlike the crowns of your teeth, the roots aren’t protected by enamel, and when they’re exposed, they send sensory information to the pulp, causing toothaches to warn you. Left untreated, gum disease can completely destroy sections of your gums and jawbone that support your teeth, making gum disease the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States.

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

Aside from providing expert family, general, and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from West Forest Lake, Kennedy, Lake Bluff, Skokie Junction, and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.