Tooth pain is the number one reason why Americans see a dentist. After all, a toothache isn’t just your run-of-the-mill discomfort. It’s one of the most unpleasant experiences anyone can endure. Fortunately modern dentistry offers a number of effective ways to treat this common affliction. Potential options include root canal, fillings and, if all else fails, extraction.
The Most Common Causes of Toothache
Human teeth are pretty amazing. Not only are they handy, they’re also built to go the distance. A healthy tooth is even stronger than the bones in your body. That being said, teeth are far from indestructible. Any of the following problems can cause a nasty toothache:
- Your teeth are under assault 24/7 from decay-causing bacteria. Brushing, flossing and avoiding sweets can keep them at bay for a while. But without professional checkups and cleanings the bugs can get the upper hand. When this happens, cavities and toothaches are common results.
- Mouth trauma. This can have any number of causes, including sports injuries, auto accidents and ordinary the mishaps. A cracked, broken or missing tooth is a dental emergency that requires treatment right away.
- Jaw misalignment. Properly functioning jaws meet in the middle so that your top teeth line up with your bottom teeth. If you notice a significant underbite or overbite, then you may have put your finger on the cause of your tooth pain.
- Tooth grinding. This is a frequent habit that usually stems from nervous tension. Over time it can cause severe tooth pain and even lost teeth. It can also contribute to problems like migraine headaches and neck and back pain.
No matter what the cause of your toothache, the answer is to see your dentist as soon as possible. He or she will get to the root of the problem and apply the correct remedy. Depending on your condition, this may take the form of:
- A permanent filling. Combined with antibiotics, this can provide long-term relief to and prevent further damage.
- A root canal. This particular form of treatment gets a bad rap. In reality, root canals are a gentle, effective form of therapy that can save a tooth that might otherwise be lost.
- This is perhaps the oldest form of dental therapy as well as the best-known. The dentist removes the offending tooth from the mouth entirely, applying gauze to control bleeding until healing begins.
Why an Extraction Is Probably Not Your Best Option
On the surface an extraction may seem like the logical approach, especially if you’re in considerable pain. However, extracting a tooth can set you up for long-term problems. Here’s why:
- Each of your teeth relies on those next to it to stay strong and healthy. Even one missing tooth can cause the adjoining ones to loosen and eventually fall out.
- An extraction leaves behind an empty socket that still retains nerves and blood vessels. This means that infection and continued pain will always remain as possibilities.
- For most people, a missing tooth is an impediment to self-confidence. It’s always better to face the world with a bright smile than by trying to hide a gap in your teeth.
In the end, only a dentist can tell you which form of treatment is best for you. Make an appointment to see him or her soon. You have nothing to lose but your toothache.
About the Author
Dr. William Olafson earned his DDS degree from Nova Southeastern University and completed his residency at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. He has also completed advanced training in oral surgery, implant therapy and root canal procedures. You can reach his office online or by calling (781) 337-6644.