The most common reason for a toothache is a cavity caused by dental plaque, a sticky substance made up of food bits, saliva and bacteria. Plaque produces acids that corrode the protective enamel on the teeth.
A toothache can also be the result of something as simple as food wedged between the gum and tooth, or something as serious as:
- Impacted teeth (teeth that don’t fully grow out or that grow at odd angles) pressing against neighboring teeth or trapping food particles.
- Tooth grinding, which can cause cracks in a tooth.
- Pressure from sinus congestion or infection.
- Jaws that don’t line up correctly — a condition known as temporomandibular disorder.
How To Prevent Toothaches
To help prevent toothaches from occurring, take the following measures:
- Brush at least twice a day using a nonabrasive, fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush; replace it every few months or sooner.
- Floss at least twice a day.
- Cut down on or eliminate sweet and sticky foods, which are especially damaging to tooth enamel.
- Have your teeth cleaned every six months and examined by a dentist once a year.
When To Call Your Dentist
Call your dentist for advice and an appointment:
- If your toothache lasts longer than a day or two.
- If you have continual bouts of throbbing pain, or if the tooth is highly sensitive to heat, cold or pressure; you may have a cavity that requires a filling.
- If your gums are painful, swollen and red; you may have an impacted tooth or gum disease.