Toothache No More: First Aid and Prevention

man toothacheToothaches occur when the extremely sensitive central portion of the tooth, called the pulp, becomes inflamed. This can happen for a variety of reasons: cavities, a blow to the tooth, or an infection of the gums. Read on for information on how to cure a toothache yourself or determine when it’s time to go to the dentist.

[box] If you are hurting:[/box]

  • Take a painkiller. A recommended on the package dose of an over-the-counter painkiller will help to cut minor toothache. Tylenol, acetaminophen or ibuprofen (acetaminophen, if it is for a child age 2 or older) are among a few. Don’t place aspirin or another painkiller directly against your gums, as it may burn your gum tissue.
  • Rinse with water. Salt water rinse is also recommended. Some of the bacteria that is causing pain will no longer linger in your mouth. A toothache caused by a blow to the tooth or a mild infection might go away on its own. To help it along, make a rinse with warm water and a spoonful of sea salt. When the salt dissolves, gargle the water in your mouth, making sure it splashes around the affected area. Repeat several times daily until the pain subsides.
  • Gently floss and brush. Removing particles of food stuck in between teeth might help relieve the pain. Make sure the floss goes up to your gums, gently move it back and forth across the tooth. If your ache is caused by gingivitis, brushing is one of the best ways to ease the pain. Brush your teeth for several minutes, concentrating on the painful area. Finish the cleaning by using mouthwash to rinse away dislodged particles.
  • Apply a cold compress. Fill a zip-lock bag with ice, cover it with a thin cloth and apply directly to the tooth or the cheek area. The lower temperature will diminish the pain. Do not apply an ice cube directly to the tooth as it may increase the pain, since the inflamed teeth are usually more sensitive to the temperature changes.
  • Numb the area (!). Get an over-the-counter tooth and gym numbing gel to relieve the throbbing for a few hours. Apply an OTC antiseptic containing benzocaine directly to the irritated tooth and gum. Benzocaine has been linked to a rare but serious, sometimes deadly, condition (methemoglobinemia) that decreases the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry. Don’t use benzocaine in children younger than age 2 without supervision from a health care professional, because this age group has been the most affected. Never use more than the recommended dose of benzocaine.  
    • Apply clove oil. This is a home remedy that is said to numb the pain. Rub a few drops on the affected tooth several times daily until the ache goes away. Clove oil can be found at most drug stores.
    • Cotton ball with hard liquor. This time-worn home remedy is a useful trick when the ache is caused by a blow or a mild infection that will go away after a few days. Pour some whisky or vodka on a cotton ball and apply it to the affected tooth.
    • Teabag therapy. Place the tea bag in the microwave with water for 30 seconds. Then squeeze the water in it and bite the tea bag on the sore tooth. The way it is known to reduce swelling and relieve toothache.
    • Eat a lemon. Vitamin C in fruit is able to reduce the pain caused by a toothache.
    • Chew on garlic or shallots. Enzymes content in these two can help kill nasty germs in the mouth. So you will not only address a toothache but also eradicate germs, so double benefit!
    • Avoid sweet, spicy or hard-to-chew foods. Boiled eggs or vegetables are soft in texture and won’t worsen your pain.

[box] Do I have to see a doctor?[/box]

If the toothache is caused by a major infection or tooth decay, it won’t go away on its own. You should see a doctor or dentist if you experience the following symptoms along with the toothache. Don’t worry, dentists these days take pride in making you feel comfortable and at easy while they take care of your dental problems.

  • Getting fever and chills. This could be a sign of a serious infection.
  • Discharge. You don’t want to take the risk of the infection getting worse.
  • Pain gets worse and doesn’t go away after 1-2 days. This can be cause by a cavity that is getting worse with every meal. In any case, this is a sign that you have to make an appointment with a doctor.
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing. The answer is – you have to get professional dental help.
  • The pain is in the wisdom tooth. Sometimes wisdom teeth grow at an angle that crowds other teeth in the mouth and need to be extracted or otherwise taken care of.

[box] Why is this happening to me?[/box]

There are numerous reasons why you have a toothache or sometimes a headache, associated with it. Most of the time, cracked teeth, cavities, exposed roots and nerves cause these issues. In rare cases, the cause of a toothache could be more serious. Infections in the ears and sinuses and even heart disease can result in infections that make your tooth or mouth hurt. However, the most common cause of toothaches in patients today is a simple dental cavity. Among the other few reasons are: poor dental hygiene, gum sensitivity, incorrect brushing techniques (too aggressive), etc.

[box] I don’t want any toothache, thank you very much![/box]

  • Develop/maintain good oral hygiene habits. Gently brush your teeth twice a day, in circular motions, at a 45 degree angle. Cover all the surfaces of your teeth. Change your toothbrush every 6 months, don’t use one that has hard bristles. Floss before you brush, rinse with mouthwash for about a minute after you brush. 
  • See a dentist at least once a year. Early detection of problems = less pain. Visit a doctor if you’ve got a case of:
    • Red, tender or swollen gums
    • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
    • Gums that begin pulling away from your teeth
    • Loose permanent teeth
    • Changes in the way your top and bottom teeth align with each other
    • Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold
    • Persistent bad breath or an unusual taste in your mouth
  • Enjoy desserts/coffee/tea/wine/soda responsibly and in moderation. After you do consume any of the above-mentioned, have a glass of water.
  • Don’t use your teeth as a tool. Crushing ice in your mouth, using teeth as an bottle opener or scissors (ripping tags off and opening sealed bags) can result in a chipped or cracked tooth.
  • Use a straw if you drink soda. Carbonation and the sugar are not friendly towards tooth enamel, protect it by drinking through a straw.
  • Getting a mouth guard if necessary. Grinding your teeth caused by stress or anxiety can be helped by getting an over-the-counter mouth guard or a better fitted one at a dental office. You can as well introduce activities that help you relax and re-purpose the nervous energy to your regimen.

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