Aching, throbbing and/or sharp — these are all adjectives our patients often use to describe a toothache. However, many patients ignore a toothache, which can serve as a warning sign that dental attention is needed. Underneath the hard, outer enamel of your tooth rests a bundle of sensitive nerves. If you experience an underlying tooth condition, such as a cavity, bacteria can affect the nerves. This results in painful sensations.
Most toothaches should not be ignored, especially when you have no known cause associated with the toothache. For example, some people have very sensitive teeth and may get a toothache after eating ice cream or drinking a cold beverage. However, if you do not have a known cause, you should seek treatment for your toothache.
A toothache can signal the five following occurrences:
- You have significant tooth decay. When bacteria penetrate your tooth enamel, cavities can occur. The bacteria not only weaken your teeth, they also cause nerve pain that leads to a toothache.
- You have a cracked tooth. Unfortunately, teeth can develop small cracks that can easily turn into larger ones. If you have a toothache, you may have a cracked tooth, but are unable to see the actual cracked portion. This occurrence requires dental repair, so don’t delay in seeking treatment.
- You are experiencing gum disease. Sometimes a toothache is not due to the tooth itself, but instead to your gums that hold your teeth securely in place. Gum disease occurs when bacteria build up in your gums, creating pockets that pull away from your teeth. Gum disease can result in tooth loss and should not be ignored.
- You have wisdom teeth that are coming in. Wisdom teeth can cause discomfort and pain as they are coming in. Your teeth must make room for the new teeth, and sometimes the teeth do not come through at all. This is known as an impacted tooth. We can take X-ray images to determine if your teeth may be to blame.
- You have a severe dental infection. Also known as a dental abscess, a severe tooth infection can cause visible swelling around the tooth. This infection typically occurs when you have neglected your teeth and gums, and the decay has worsened over time. These dental bacteria can cause severe infection that not only affects the teeth, but also harms the body as well. The bacteria can travel to the heart and cause an infection of cardiac tissue that can be life-threatening.