Tooth Pain Guide
If you’re experiencing tooth pain, whether sharp and throbbing or dull and achy, it can be difficult to bite and chew, concentrate, get through the day, even sleep at night, no matter what over-the-counter medication you take for some relief.
The source of tooth pain may be dental decay, a cracked tooth, or an infection. Regardless of the cause, if you have ongoing pain it’s time to see a dentist or endodontist for treatment. In the meantime, read on for information on common pain symptoms, possible causes and some steps you can take to ease the discomfort.
Tooth Pain Symptoms and Possible Problems
Symptom: Momentary sensitivity to hot or cold foods.
Possible problem: This generally does not signal a serious problem, unless the sensitivity remains for an extended period of time. It may be caused by minor decay, a loose filling or by minimal gum recession that exposes small areas of the root surface.
What to do: Try using toothpaste made for sensitive teeth and brush with a soft or extra-soft brush, using an up-and-down motion, never side-to-side, which wears away exposed root surfaces. If the issue persists, it’s time to see a dental health practitioner.
Symptom: Sensitivity to hot or cold foods after dental treatment.
Possible problem: It’s possible that recent dental work has inflamed the pulp inside the tooth, causing this temporary symptom.
What to do: Wait two to four weeks and if the pain persists or worsens, have your dentist or endodontist check for a more serious problem.
Symptom: Sharp pain when biting down on food.
Possible problem: This jarring symptom may be caused by decay, a loose filling or a crack in the tooth. It’s also possible there is damage to the pulp tissue inside the tooth.
What to do: Get the matter evaluated by a dentist, who may refer you to an endodontist if there is pulp tissue damage. These specialists perform pulp-related procedures, such as root canals, which involve cleaning out the damaged pulp and filling and sealing the remaining space
Symptom: Lingering pain, typically lasting more than 30 seconds, after eating hot or cold foods.
Possible problem: It’s likely that the pulp has been irreversibly damaged by deep decay or physical trauma.
What to do: See your dentist or endodontist as soon as possible to save the tooth with root canal treatment.
Symptom: Constant and severe pain and pressure, swelling of gum and sensitivity to touch.
Possible problem: A tooth may be abscessed, causing an infection in the surrounding tissue and bone.
What to do: See your endodontist for evaluation and treatment to relieve the pain and save the tooth. Take over-the-counter medications until you see the endodontist.
Symptom: Dull ache and pressure in upper teeth and jaw.
Possible problem: Grinding of teeth, known as bruxism, can cause this type of ache. The pain of a sinus headache may also be felt in the face and teeth.
What to do: For bruxism, consult your dentist. For a sinus headache, try over-the-counter medication. If the pain is severe and chronic, see your endodontist or physician for evaluation.