Your teeth are packed with nerves, which is why a toothache, while only affecting a small area of the mouth, is no small matter. The pain from a toothache can be debilitating, and it's usually the result of a deeper issue. A tooth infection may be the cause of your toothache, resulting in soreness, sensitivity, or sharp pains in your mouth. Understand the usual causes of an infected tooth and how to banish toothache pain with good oral care habits and the help of your dentist.
Signs and Symptoms
A sore or throbbing tooth is one of the first signs of a problem. Left untreated, what may have been an uncomplicated issue can become infected, resulting in pain, redness, swelling and a high fever that indicates your body is attempting to fight the infection. You might also notice a foul taste in your mouth or bad breath that won't go away with brushing or rinsing with a mouthwash. In some cases, you may have a broken tooth, but infections can often go undetected deep within the core of teeth, without any outward signs other than pain and swelling.
Some signs that a minor cavity has progressed to an infection include:
- Throbbing pain in the tooth, jawbone or neck
- Swelling in the cheek
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Pressure-related sensitivity
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Health Link BC warns that If you have a severe toothache, swelling of the gums or face, or drainage of pus, you should call your dentist right away. This is a sign of a severe infection that may have spread into your jawbone and surrounding areas. If possible, contact your dentist for same-day treatment or ask your regular dentist for a referral to a dentist who can see you immediately. If you still can't see a dentist, go to the emergency room for care.
Health Link BC warns most tooth infections (abscess) are the result of untreated tooth decay, gum disease or damage to the tooth. When bacteria penetrate enamel, it can infect the tender nerves in the pulp tissue of the tooth, resulting in an infection commonly called an abscess. Abscessed teeth require treatment from your dentist and the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more complicated the infection may become. Any tooth can become abscessed because all of your teeth have sensitive tissue susceptible to infection, though according to according to the Ontario Dental Association chewing surfaces and deep grooves of teeth, are at the most risk for decay. In some cases, the infection can actually reach the jaw bone and result in the need for extensive oral surgery. If you can't see a dentist, consider seeking the advise of your doctor for care.
Your dentist will need to clean out the infection before repairing the tooth, which is called a root canal. Root canals require the drilling of the tooth to reach the infected area, the infection is removed and the canal is cleaned out with an antibacterial solution, and then a crown is placed over the tooth to protect the tooth. Root canals can be minor or major, depending on how long the infection has been active. Your dentist might also prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
No one wants to deal with the pain and disruption a tooth infection causes, which is why prevention is such an important part of your dental treatment plan. Broken teeth can't always be avoided, but cavities caused by poor oral habits can be prevented. Brush at least twice per day with a dentist approved toothpaste and floss once a day. Brushing and flossing get rid of the bacteria that can infiltrate enamel and lead to dental decay (cavities). You can also prevent infection by seeing your dentist for regular checkups. There, he or she can use X-rays to locate potential cavities and weak spots and can address minor issues before they become painful infections.
Don't let a full-scale infection disrupt your life. If you notice that tell-tale sign of a toothache, it's best to seek treatment and take care of the issue ASAP or you could risk an infection getting worse. Practise good oral hygiene habits which will help to protect your smile from the harmful decay and bacteria that are responsible for painful infections.