What's Causing Your Toothache, And What Should You Do About It?

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For many patients, the throbbing and searing pain of a toothache is some of the worst pain they'll ever experience in their lives. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil may take the edge off but does not usually eliminate the pain completely. Fighting through the pain is not a good idea, since most toothaches are caused by an infection that could easily spread and turn deadly. Here's a closer look at what causes toothaches and what you should do about them.

What causes toothaches?

Mild aching in a tooth is sometimes caused by a cavity or a chip in the tooth. However, the searing, throbbing pain of a full-blown toothache usually indicates that infection has set in and moved into the inner layers of the tooth, known as the tooth pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves. When the bacteria that cause the infection invade, they lead to inflammation, which presses on the nerves in your tooth pulp and activates them, sending pain signals to the brain.

How does the bacteria even end up in your tooth pulp in the first place? Usually, it makes its way there through a cavity that has not been treated. The cavity grows deeper and deeper until it extends through the enamel and dentin layers of the tooth and into the pulp chamber. Sometimes, an existing filling may loosen, allowing bacteria to collect around it and lead to decay that eventually extends into the tooth pulp.

What should you do about a toothache?

Call your dentist promptly. If it's after hours or your dentist is not open, call an emergency dentist. They will talk to you about your symptoms and let you know whether you need to come in for treatment immediately, or if you can wait a day or two until your regular dentist opens. Generally, if you have a fever, your pain is unbearable, or you have pus coming from the painful area, they will want to see you immediately.

Once you're at the dentist, they will numb the area around the infected tooth and take x-rays to determine the extent of the infection. Then, a root canal procedure will generally be performed to remove the infected tooth pulp. The tooth resulting hole will be filled with a silicone material, and your tooth will be covered with a crown. This whole procedure should be painless, as your dentist will inject plenty of local anesthetic into your mouth. 

You will probably also be prescribed antibiotics to take for a week or more. This will help your body fight off any bacteria that remain after your root canal. For more information, contact a dental clinic like Renovo Endodontic Studio.