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Sudden Tooth Pain? Here’s What Might Be Causing It

Tooth pain is a signal from your body that something is wrong. If your pain lasts more than a day or two, take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen while you arrange an appointment with your dentist.

You should also seek emergency care if you have swelling, fever, trouble breathing or a jaw that won’t open wide. These are signs of an infection that requires immediate medical attention.

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity can occur when the enamel, or outer layer of the tooth, erodes or wears down. This exposes the underlying dentin, which contains microscopic channels, called tubules, that connect directly to the nerve of each tooth. When these tubules are stimulated by hot and cold foods, sweet or acidic drinks or even when teeth are brushed, it can cause a sharp pain or zinging sensation.

If you have a history of sensitivity, talk to your dentist about using a desensitizing toothpaste. They may also suggest an in-office treatment, such as applying fluoride gel or prescription-grade desensitizing agents.

A dental professional can also identify other causes of your sensitivity, such as tooth decay (cavities), a loose filling or recessed gum tissue that needs to be addressed. If your sensitivity is severe, you might need a root canal or other corrective procedure to relieve the pain. Talk to your dentist for more information and to schedule an appointment.

Gum Disease

If your teeth hurt when you brush, eat or drink something cold or hot, it could be an early sign of a cavity. But it could also be a sign of gum disease, an infection in the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Gum disease, or periodontitis, often starts in the mild stage of gingivitis, which is painless and can go unnoticed for a while.

If left untreated, gum disease can progress to the bone and tissue around your teeth, leading to tooth loss. You can prevent this by reducing your sugar intake, flossing regularly and visiting your oral health professional for regular checkups.

If you’re experiencing severe, throbbing pain, or have pus-filled pockets in your gums, schedule an emergency dental appointment right away. You may require antibiotics or an emergency root canal treatment. Rinsing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide helps ease tooth pain and heal bleeding gums, too. You can also try a cold compress on your face to shrink blood vessels and reduce inflammation.

Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth

Having a throbbing tooth is scary, especially when it comes on suddenly. The first thing you should do is take over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed to get the pain under control.

However, if the pain persists it is best to see your dentist sooner rather than later. This will give them a chance to diagnose and treat the problem at the earliest.

If the ache is due to teeth sensitivity, it can be corrected with dental fillings. If a cracked tooth is to blame, your dentist will treat it with a dental crown or cap. A fractured tooth is often a sign of bruxism, a condition where you grind or clench your teeth in your sleep. This can wear away at your enamel and can even cause a crack in one of your teeth. Your dentist will be able to check this out and can offer treatment for bruxism as well.

Tooth Decay

When bacteria on your teeth meet sugary foods and drinks they produce acids that damage the hard, outer enamel of your teeth. Over time this can cause holes (cavities) in the enamel which expose the dentin beneath. When dentin is exposed it can trigger sensitive tooth pain that worsens with hot and cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks.

If tooth decay is caught early, fluoride treatments can reverse it and prevent further damage to the tooth. If a cavity is severe, your dentist may need to remove the damaged enamel and dentin and place a filling or crown.

A severe or sudden toothache can also indicate a fractured or cracked tooth, worn out fillings, gum disease or TMJ. If the pain is accompanied by fever or swelling in your face or jaw, you may have an infection or abscess which requires antibiotic treatment and drainage (root canal therapy). If left untreated it could spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.

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