Most of us have undergone a toothache at least once in our lives, either when one of our wisdom teeth was coming in, or when we had a cavity, bit into something hard and cracked a tooth or even when we fell and hit our face on a hard surface.
Toothaches have been a conundrum since the ancient times, where mid-evil drawings of strange creatures inside our teeth were drawn to depict the cause behind the unbearable pain of a toothache!
So what exactly is it? Within the hard structure of our teeth, lies the softest tissue made up of nerves and blood vessels called the dental pulp. The dental pulp is extremely sensitive to changes in its environment, from stimulus from extreme hot and cold beverages, impact from trauma and specially to bacterial infection within the tooth structure, known as dental caries. As we know it, dental caries is the leading cause of dental pain.
Let’s look at some of the most common causes of toothaches!
While the level of pain from a toothache can vary according to its cause, the most common causes of toothaches are:
In all of the above causes, most involve the stimulus reaching the dental nerve or pulp, either directly or indirectly.
Dental decay or dental caries directly harms the tooth, and sends stimuli to the pulp signaling that there is tooth damage taking place. The pulp does what it can to fight the decay, by constantly creating a thicker wall on its roof to prevent the decay from reaching its soft tissue. If left untreated, the rate of decay can outrun the rate of repair being carried out by the pulp, ultimately leading to a dental infection and the requirement for a root canal treatment.
Recurrent caries under an old filling can also cause the exact same phenomenon, so it is always best to have old fillings examined regularly and have them replaced if they are getting discolored or are too old.
Cracked or fractured teeth also directly involve the pulp, where the crack or fracture could extend extremely close to or even directly within the pulp, leading to extreme pain either constant or stimulated, but ultimately to the need for root canal treatment or even tooth removal if the fracture is far beyond repair!
Gum disease including gingivitis and periodontitis can indirectly cause dental pain, as they involve inflammation and ultimately infection of the supporting tissues of the teeth, including the gums and underlying alveolar (jaw) bone. When the periodontal level reaches, any pressure on the teeth inadvertently induces pain and can make chewing from the affected teeth quite difficult. The infection from the tissues can also travel down within the tooth-gum space and reach the dental nerve entering the root at the base, causing the pulp to become inflamed, infected and thus, requiring root canal treatment along with periodontal treatment! In the worst case scenario, the tooth reaches the point of not being salvageable.
A dental abscess forms if a tooth infection penetrates through the surrounding bone and reaches the gum tissue, causing a swelling full of pus. This could occur within 24 hours of a tooth infection if severe, or become a chronic swelling with an open, draining sinus if left untreated for too long. In either case, root canal treatment is absolutely necessary!
Surprisingly, even a sinus infection can cause toothaches, as during sinusitis, there is immense pressure build-up within the sinuses which radiates into the surrounding sinus lining and bones, which also happen to make up the roof of upper maxillary teeth!
If you are a patient who constantly grinds and clenches their teeth, it could lead to severe tooth wear and ultimately cause the nerves of your teeth to get exposed, causing severe sensitivity and tooth aches. This condition is known as bruxism and requires immediate therapy and treatment to control the habit.
Bruxism not only damages the teeth, it also affects the underlying jaw bones and can damage the periodontal tissues. Furthermore, it can cause immense pressure on the jaw joints, known as the Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) and cause TMJ Disorder.
Toothaches can greatly vary according to their cause. Some dental pain can be of the following types:
At Wyndham Dental Solutions, we have a specialist team of dentists and dental hygienists to help you get to the bottom of your toothache and bring you immediate solutions for relief from the pain. Some treatments we offer include:
Whatever you need, we are there to find a solution and have you leave our clinic pain free and smiling!