February 26, 2013
Owww! You have a toothache. What do you do?
People of ancient times believed that the stabbing pain of a toothache was caused by a toothworm, which had bored its way into the tooth. If the tooth pain was severe, it meant that the worm was thrashing about. If the pain stopped, the worm was resting. Cultures all over the world held stubbornly to this myth.
But if you’ve ever had a toothache, the pain is all too real. Consider the causes of a toothache:
- A bacterial infection in the nerve of the tooth, called an abscess
- Gum disease
- Teeth grinding
- Getting hit in the jaw or teeth while playing sports or other activities
- Sinus or ear infection
Here are some tips to help you ease the throbbing pain:
- Gently floss your teeth to see if any food might be trapped there.
- Try an over-the-counter pain medication, such as Advil or Tylenol, to ease the pain temporarily.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
- Apply a cold compress to the outside of the cheek to reduce swelling, especially if an injury is causing your pain.
If your pain lasts longer than a day, you should see your dentist, because you don’t want your condition to worsen. If you have an infected tooth, your dentist may need to pull it or perform a root canal to remove the damaged tissue. Contact your dentist immediately if you experience fever, difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling around the tooth or pain when you bite, which could signal a cracked tooth. Your dentist may prescribe pain medication or antibiotics to provide some relief and aid the healing process.
The best way to prevent a toothache is to maintain good oral hygiene. Learn more about toothaches here.