There are few things as painful and disruptive as a toothache. But when is severe tooth pain a minor issue and when is it a cause for concern? The difference is in how the toothache started. Some issues are easy to fix, whereas others speak to a more in-depth problem that you'll need to discuss with your dentist. Depending on your symptoms, you can both develop a treatment plan that says goodbye to tooth pain so you can return to a pain-free routine.
1. Worn Enamel
When biting into an ice pop or drinking hot tea leaves you wincing in pain, that sensitivity to hot and cold can be a problem not just for your diet. Temperature sensitivity is often a side effect of damaged enamel, which you can't get back once worn away. Damaged enamel is an erosion of the hard mineral that protects your teeth's surface, as explained by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), and it is usually the result of exposure to acid or excess sugar. Enamel that wears away can result in cavities, but it produces sensitivity to extreme temperatures much earlier than that. If you suspect this is the reason for your severe tooth pain, talk to your dentist and reinforce your teeth with Colgate® Enamel Health™ Multi-Protection Fluoride Toothpaste to help fight against future damage.
If enamel wears away to the point of exposing the sensitive nerves in your teeth, you have a cavity. These cavities often manifest as sharp pain, particularly when you bite down on something hard, and it doesn't have to be hot or cold to set you off. Cavities are essentially small fissures in your teeth, but keep in mind they can lead to more complicated infection if left unfilled. You should therefore see your dentist as soon as you suspect you have one; he or she can fill it to prevent it from becoming worse.
3. Cracked Tooth
Maybe you bit down on a hard food or suffered an accident in a contact sport. Whatever the cause, cracked or chipped teeth can definitely give way to severe tooth pain because, like enamel erosion, it exposes the tender nerves deep inside the tooth. If you've cracked a tooth, your dentist can place a crown – a synthetic covering molded to your mouth to seal the crack – to help you avoid pain and improve your smile after it happens.
4. Loose Filling or Dental Work
Although fillings and crowns are meant to be long-lasting solutions to dental issues, they can occasionally crack, become loose or even fall out completely. In this case, the original severe tooth pain from exposed nerves might come back, so you'll need to see your dentist to have the work repaired, replaced or discussed further regarding options that might last longer.
Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable problems, an abscess occurs when the pulp portion of a tooth's tissue becomes infected – usually the result of a cavity that goes untreated. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), this infection produces swelling, redness, throbbing pain and even a literal bad taste in your mouth. Abscesses might require a few different treatments: drainage, antibiotics and a root canal to remove the infected tissue and seal the area – all of which are meant to get rid of an abscess and the accompanying pain.
A toothache might be more than just an inconvenient issue. Usually it's a sign that something else is going on, and the sooner the problem is addressed, the faster you can get back to pain-free days. See your dentist for severe tooth pain and you'll be back to normal in no time.