“Toothache” usually refers to pain around the teeth or jaws primarily as a result of a dental condition. In most instances, toothaches are caused by tooth problems, such as a dental cavity, a cracked tooth, an exposed tooth root, or gum disease. However, disorders of the jaw joint (temporo-mandibular joint) can also cause pain that is referred to as “toothache.” The severity of a toothache can range from chronic and mild to sharp and excruciating. The pain may be aggravated by chewing or by cold or heat. A thorough oral examination, which includes dental X-rays, can help determine whether the toothache is coming from a tooth or jaw problem and the cause.
Common dental causes of toothaches include dental cavities, dental abscess, gum disease, irritation of the tooth root, cracked tooth syndrome, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, impaction, and eruption.
Tooth Decay/Dental Cavities – Tooth decay and dental cavities are the leading causes of tooth pain; these are brought about by the interaction between bacteria inside a person’s mouth, and the starch or sugar left behind by food and beverages. Tooth decay and dental cavities can be prevented with the combination of proper oral hygiene (regular and thorough brushing of teeth, the use of dental floss, and the use of fluoride-fortified mouth rinses/mouthwash), along with regular visits to a dentist.
Gum Disease – Problems with the gums can result to a great deal of discomfort or pain for the patient. The gums that surround and support the teeth can become infected if gum disease is not treated in its earliest stages; gum problems that are left untreated for a long time can eventually lead to tooth loss. When plaque is formed between the surface of the teeth and the gum line, this can result to toothache for the patient – and a host of other dental problems that can be prevented with good oral hygiene, and regular dental checkups.
Impacted Wisdom Tooth – An impacted wisdom tooth can bring one of the most painful episodes to a person’s life. The wisdom tooth that is unable to grow out of the gum line in a normal way will have a tendency to grow sideways – in the process pushing against the other existing teeth. A wisdom tooth that has been impacted can also be decayed in the long run, since its position makes it extremely difficult to keep clean.
Exposure of Tooth Roots – Exposed tooth roots lead to an uncomfortable toothache. The roots can be exposed when the gums start to recede (from dental or gum problems), so that the normally hidden/buried tooth roots become exposed and extremely sensitive to external stimulus.
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