Tooth pain and how to relieve it

Man with tooth pain

Do you have tooth pain? When it comes to your dental health, things are often more than they seem at first glance. For instance, what seems like a minor tooth stain might actually be a sign of an internal tooth infection. Likewise, what seems like nothing more than a minor toothache could actually be a sign of something more sinister, and ignoring it could mean trouble for your dental health. If your tooth hurts to any degree, then there’s a chance that your tooth is in serious trouble, and you should schedule an examination with your dentist as soon as possible. A dentist can help you find the cause of your tooth pain and offer a range of treatments or recommendations to help relieve a toothache.

Main causes of tooth pain

  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth gum infections or gum disease
  • Cracked tooth
  • Wisdom teeth
  • Failed root canal treatment
  • Sinus infections
  • Cracked tooth root
  • Tooth grinding

Usually when patients complain of tooth pain, dental decay, a fractured tooth, or other dental issue is at fault. However, toothache pain can sometimes occur from other physical conditions. When you consider the location of your teeth and teeth roots, it’s not surprising that they pick up symptoms from other areas of the face and head such as the jaw, sinuses, and nose. Trying home remedies to relieve a toothache is usually unsuccessful.

How to Relieve a Toothache

  • Rinse and floss your teeth – While most chronic toothaches mean trouble for your smile, you may just have something stuck between your teeth, making them sensitive. Before taking medication or calling your dentist, carefully rinse your mouth and floss around the sensitive tooth to dislodge any food particles or other obstructions.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever – Unlike a headache, taking an Aspirin or Tylenol won’t make your toothache go away for good. However, it may offer some level of temporary relief until you can seek more appropriate treatment from your dentist.
  • Use an ice pack – If you experience swelling in the tissues around your tooth, then place an ice pack on the appropriate side of your cheek to help reduce it. The cold will also help relieve the sensitive tooth and the surrounding tissues.
  • Call your dentist immediately – As with most issues, a toothache is best treated promptly. If you wait too long, it will only grow worse. Once you notice that your tooth hurts, call your dentist as soon as possible to schedule a dental examination.

Types of tooth damage that will cause tooth pain

When you experience a toothache, the first thing Dr. Fondriest will check for is damage or deterioration to the crown or root of the tooth. This could be a cavity (or hole caused by decayed enamel), a crack, chipped, enamel, an inflamed or infected inner tooth, or more. By doing a physical examination as well as taking x-ray images, Dr. Fondriest can gain a complete view of the tooth and determine whether the cause of the discomfort is localized to the tooth’s structure. If something is wrong, Dr. Fondriest will create a treatment plan to eliminate the source of the pain and improve the functionality and health of your tooth in the future.

If tooth damage is not the cause of your pain, one of these other physical conditions could be to blame:

Tooth pain from periodontal ligament inflammation

Did you know you can “bruise” a tooth? Though a tooth may not show visible signs of bruising, it can create a comparable sensation after facing a large amount of pressure. Beneath the gum line, strong ligaments keep your teeth firmly in line, with help from the jaw bone. As a type of shock absorber, periodontal ligaments reduce the impact force that comes from chewing food or biting down. If they undergo a period of heavy shock absorption, it’s common for them to transfer feelings of tenderness or soreness to the teeth. Usually, this sensation can be brought on by:

  • Bruxism (or grinding your teeth at night)
  • A meal of very tough or crunchy foods
  • Chewing on fingernails
  • Dental treatment that requires the use of a dental bite block
Relieve a toothache

Even perfectly healthy teeth can have toothaches from distant causes such as sinus infections

Sinus Congestion

The sinuses are empty cavities in the face that not only help to create the tone of our voice but produce mucus that keeps the nose wet and protected from environmental irritants. The bottom of your sinuses is directly above your upper molars’ roots—or in some cases, may actually intersect with the end of the molars’ roots. During allergy season, or during a bout of a cold or flu, the sinuses can become congested and inflamed. The pressure that builds within the sinus cavity from this congestion can be passed on to the teeth through the nearby roots. This pressure, much like that of periodontal ligament inflammation, can create tooth pain that feels very much like a toothache.

One way to tell if your tooth pain is caused by sinuses? Bend over and put your head between your knees. If the discomfort gets worse, it’s most likely caused by sinus pressure. If the toothache symptoms do not go away when the sinus congestion does, schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor to identify the source of your dental problem.

TMJ Disorders

Your temporomandibular joint is the “hinge” that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull. Its mobility allows you to chew foods with both up and down and side to side motions, and allows you to speak and laugh with ease. However, the TMJ can cause pain when it is damaged or fatigued. Many patients identify TMJ pain by its common symptoms, including:

  • Discomfort or stiffness in the jaw or face when chewing, speaking, or opening the mouth
  • Facial muscle fatigue
  • Clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw
  • Jaw pain when chewing or biting due to chronic bruxism
  • Hot or cold sensitivity from tooth grinding

Bruxism causing toothaches

Along with these symptoms, some patients have experienced sensitive teeth. The inflammation in the TMJ can easily spread to nearby muscles and ligaments that play a part in controlling the movement of the jaw, too. This inflammation in the face, jaw, and neck can be passed on to ligaments within the mouth and present symptoms quite similar to a toothache. The best way to relieve this type of toothache is to wear a night guard.

For patients with diagnosed TMJ disorders, tooth pain could be a secondary symptom, especially for those people with a history of teeth grinding and clenching. Teeth grinding (or bruxism) is a contributing factor for many patients’ TMJ disorder and can also cause sore, sensitive or painful teeth.  For patients who unconsciously grind their teeth at night, our Lake Forest dental team can fit a custom oral appliance to prevent further damage to the teeth and TMJ, in effect reducing future TMD toothaches.

Find Lasting Tooth Pain Relief

When a toothache develops, the most immediate thing you may notice is the pain. However, there’s often a lot more to a toothache than just the discomfort—specifically, the cause behind it. In most cases, the only way to relieve a toothache is to find out why your tooth hurts and address the issue as soon as possible. Yet, you may be able to find temporary relief at home until you can visit your dentist’s office for an examination and treatment.