Toothache

Is this your symptom?

  • Pain or discomfort in a tooth
  • Not caused by an injury

Causes of a Toothache

  • Tooth Decay. If the pain lasts more than a day, this is the most common cause. A yellow-brown spot in the enamel may be seen. The most common site is the surface of one of the molars. The pain is dull.
  • Dental Abscess. If the pain is severe and throbbing, the decay has become a tooth abscess. That means a pus pocket has formed within the root of the tooth. Tapping on the tooth causes increased pain. If not treated, the abscess will erode through the bone. A "gum boil" or pimple will be seen below the gum line. See a dentist.
  • Cracked Enamel. Biting on a hard object can crack a tooth. The tooth becomes sensitive to hot and cold liquids. The tooth may look normal. The fracture line may be below the gum line or hard to see.
  • Gum Disease. Gingivitis is a medical name for irritated gums. They are red and tender. If tooth brushing and flossing are ignored, the gums may even bleed. Can be very painful. Responds to getting the teeth cleaned and daily flossing.
  • Stuck Food. Solid food may become wedged between 2 teeth. Flossing will remove the food and stop the pain.
  • Angina (Ischemic Heart Disease - serious). Heart pain often can be felt in neck and jaw. It can be mistaken for a toothache. If you have heart disease, or have toothache along with sweating, shortness of breath or a feeling of pressure in your chest, it is best to get your heart checked right away. It could be more than a toothache.

Tooth Abscess and Severe Pain

  • A tooth abscess can cause severe pain not controlled by normal pain medicines.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dosage of pain meds, even if you still have pain.
  • A root canal may be needed to cure this problem.
  • In the meantime, call your dentist's office. If you can't reach your dentist, call your doctor for advice. They can often bring the pain under control by calling in a prescription. Most often, this is for an antibiotic such as penicillin.

When to Call for Toothache

Call 911 Now

  • Chest pain or heavy feeling in your chest
  • Shortness of breath or you are feeling lightheaded, dizzy or faint
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • You feel weak or very sick

Self Care at Home

  • Mild toothache present less than 24 hours

Care Advice for Mild Toothache

  1. What You Should Know About Toothaches:
    • Most toothaches don't last too long. They are due to a sensitive tooth.
    • If the pain becomes worse or doesn't go away in 24 hours, call your dentist. The pain could be due to a small cavity.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Floss:
    • Floss on either side of the painful tooth to remove any wedged food.
  3. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil). Ibuprofen works well for this type of pain.
    • Use as needed, but do not take more than the maximum recommended dosage as stated on the package.
    • If you are not sure what to take, ask a pharmacist.
  4. Cold Pack for Pain:
    • Put a cold pack or ice in a wet washcloth on the painful jaw. Do this for 20 minutes.
  5. Other Actions You Can Try To Ease Pain
    • Try rinsing your mouth out with salt water
    • You can buy pain-relief gels to put on your gums from a pharmacy
    • Eat soft foods like yogurt or scrambled eggs. Avoid chewing on the painful tooth
    • Do not eat foods that are sweet, very hot or very cold
  6. What to Expect:
    • Most minor causes of toothache go away in less than a day.
  7. Call Your Dentist If:
    • Toothache lasts more than 24 hours
    • The toothache gets worse
    • You think you need to be seen

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.


Last Reviewed: 10/11/2023 1:01:10 AM
Last Updated: 4/13/2023 1:00:48 AM

Copyright 2023 Schmitt Decisions Logic LLC.

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