Is this your symptom?
- Pain or discomfort in a tooth
- The main cause of toothache is tooth decay (cavities). Problems from tooth decay can also cause pain. For example, a pus pocket can grow around a tooth with a cavity.
- Pain from other parts of the body can sometimes cause toothaches. For example, some earaches can cause people to feel tooth pain.
- A toothache that lasts longer than 24 hours means that something is wrong. Often it is a cavity, a cracked tooth, or an infected tooth.
Dental Causes of Toothache
- Dental cavity (tooth decay): pulpitis, periapical abscess
- Food stuck between teeth
- Lost crown
- Lost filling
- Gum disease: gingivitis, periodontal abscess, pericoronitis
- Tooth fracture: broken or cracked tooth
Other Causes of Toothache
- Canker sore (aphthous ulcer)
- Heart attack
- Ludwig's angina
- TMJ Syndrome
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- None: no pain. Pain score is 0 on a scale of 0 to 10.
- Mild: the pain does not keep you from work, school, or other normal activities. Pain score is 1-3 on a scale of 0 to 10.
- Moderate: the pain keeps you from working or going to school. It wakes you up from sleep. Pain score is 4-7 on a scale of 0 to 10.
- Severe: the pain is very bad. It may be worse than any pain you have had before. It keeps you from doing any normal activities. Pain score is 8-10 on a scale of 0 to 10.
Complications of Tooth Decay
- Cellulitis of the cheek
- Periapical dental abscess
- Ludwig's Angina: this is an infection of the floor of the mouth. It is serious. It is most often a complication from a dental abscess or tooth extraction. Symptoms are fever, a swollen/tender tongue, and trouble swallowing.
- Submandibular lymphadenitis
Caution: people may have a toothache or jaw pain as the only symptom of a heart attack. Most often, there will be other symptoms of a heart problem. These include chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating.
When to Call for Toothache
Call 911 Now
- Very weak (can't stand)
- You think you have a life-threatening emergency
Call Doctor or Seek Care Now
- You feel weak or very sick
- You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent
Self Care at Home
- Mild toothache present less than 24 hours
Care Advice for Mild Toothache
- What You Should Know:
- Most toothaches are due to a sensitive tooth.
- The pain will go away after a short time. If your pain gets worse or does not get better in 24 hours, it could be from a small cavity.
- You can treat mild toothaches at home.
- Here is some care advice that should help.
Floss: Floss on either side of the painful tooth to remove any wedged food.
- Pain Medicine:
- You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
- They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
- Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
- Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
- Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
Cold: Put an ice pack on the painful jaw for 20 minutes.
What to Expect: Most minor causes of toothache get better in less than a day.
- Call Your Dentist If:
- Toothache lasts more than 24 hours
- The toothache gets worse
And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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