You have a toothache. Now what? Before you buy an over-the-counter remedy or try another form of relief, take a look at the do’s and don’ts of toothache care.

Do Call the Dentist

Why do you have a toothache? Chances are you don’t know the cause. This means you also don’t know the right treatment. The dentist can evaluate the symptoms, examine your mouth, and diagnose the problem. Potential causes of toothaches include (but aren’t limited to):

  • A cavity. An area of decay may cause pain or sensitivity. You may also have pain when you eat something sweet, hot, or cold.
  • Gum issues. Gum disease or recession can also cause tooth pain. Recession leaves the roots of your teeth exposed and sensitive.
  • Trauma. Impact or another type of injury can crack and damage your teeth. The result is pain that doesn’t go away on its own.
  • Sinus infection. Sometimes the pain doesn’t come from your teeth. The pressure from a sinus infection can cause tooth discomfort.
  • Dental work. Recent dental work or oral surgery can cause lingering pain. This type of discomfort should gradually decrease as your mouth begins to heal. Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon if the pain continues.

Note all your toothache symptoms when you talk to the dentist or office staff. This could include more than just the pain. Tell the dental provider about jaw discomfort, bad taste in the mouth, swelling, bleeding, gum pain, or fever. You may have a serious issue that requires immediate attention. Read on for more information on red flags to watch out for.

Don’t Ignore Toothache Symptoms

Between work, family, school, or anything else you have to do, you have very little free time. But this doesn’t mean you should ignore a toothache. While you can manage minor pain temporarily, the sooner you get professional treatment the better.

If left untreated a toothache can:

  • Interfere with your daily life. The pain can get in the way of studying, work, caring for your children, or anything else you need to do.
  • Progress into a serious infection. Left untreated your toothache can go from bad to worse. What can happen if you ignore the pain?  A dental abscess can form and quickly transform into severe pain or a major infection.
  • Result in tooth loss. If you let a dental infection go for too long the dentist may need to extract the tooth. This depends on the extent of the infection, if bone or tissue loss is involved, and other dental health factors.

Along with treatment as soon as possible, always follow the dentist’s after-care instructions. Failure to do so could land you back in their chair sooner than you’d like.

Do Try At-Home Care

How should you care for your toothache at home? The answer depends on the problem. Again, this makes a call to the dentist a necessary first step. If the dentist doesn’t feel your issue is an emergency or can’t see you right away, you can reduce some of the symptoms.

To alleviate or decrease dental pain:

  • Use a saltwater rinse. Swish with warm (not hot) tap water mixed with salt. Gently spit the saltwater out and repeat as needed. Avoid swallowing the water or swishing too harshly.
  • Try a cold compress. Cover ice cubes or crushed ice in a thin towel and press it against your face. This can reduce pain and swelling.
  • Change the way you eat. Avoid hard, acidic, sharp, or excessively hot foods. If you suspect a cavity, avoid sugary foods too. Liquid or soft foods can help to keep you comfortable while you wait for your appointment.

A variety of commercially available treatments are available for dental pain. These include oral medications that treat swelling and reduce discomfort as well as topical numbing creams and gels. Numbing products are potentially toxic if used incorrectly. Always consult your dentist before using any over-thecounter medication or topical product.

Do you have a toothache? Contact the office of Richard Leong Jr., DDS, PA, for more information.