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Most of us will suffer from toothache at some point in our lives, a small ache following a bump or knock is perfectly normal, but if it causes severe pain over an extended period of time, the underlying issue could be more serious.

Most toothache among adults in the UK is caused by dental problems like tooth decay, the symptoms of which can vary from a throbbing pain in the head, jaw, or ear, to a sudden stabbing pain when eating or drinking. Generally, the affected area will be sore to touch, and highly sensitive to different temperatures. There might also be some swelling around the teeth and jaw, or bleeding around the gums. The pain is caused when the pulp within the tooth dentine – which contains tissue and nerve endings – becomes inflamed, either due to decay, a fracture of the tooth, problems with dental surgeries, or receding gums. This isn’t the only reason a toothache is painful, abscesses or ulcers on the gums can also cause quite a lot of discomfort in the mouth, as can your wisdom teeth breaking through the soft tissue.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, just putting up with the situation isn’t going to make it go away, and it’s certainly no guarantee that it won’t be back in the future. Taking painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can temporarily relieve the pain, but it’s not a long-term solution, it’s vital that you make an appointment with your own dentist or with an emergency dentist if you can’t get one soon enough. The longer you ignore the problem, the worse it will get. Some patients report that when toothache begins, drinking cold water and swishing it on the affected tooth provides temporary relief until they can reach an emergency dentist.

The emergency dentist will first take a complete history from you to find out when the toothache began and on which tooth it started. He will then examine your teeth both clinically and with x-rays to see if there is any single tooth or teeth that have become damaged and are causing the problem.

Fixing the problem depends on where the pain stems from, if it’s a case of decay, the dentist will probably have to remove the affected area and then proceed with a filling. This protects the delicate inner workings of the tooth and it prevents the decay from further damaging the enamel. If the decay has spread further than the surface of the tooth and the pulp has become infected, this will most likely lead to a root canal treatment. A root canal involves drilling away the dead part of the pulp and scraping out the infected area on the inside of the tooth, then either filling it or capping it to shield the remains from more traumas. In some cases, if a trip to the dentist is delayed, abscesses can form around the teeth and gums; this is much more painful than a simple toothache and will lead to extended dental problems down the line. At the Pearl Dental Clinic, there are several procedures on offer to help you deal with your discomfort, so don’t suffer needlessly; make an appointment as soon as you experience any pain at all. Most commonly either a white filling, root canal treatment or tooth extraction is carried out for patients who suffer from toothache.

As with many dental treatments, prevention is better than the cure, and the Clinic can also advise you on how best to look after your teeth. You can avoid toothache by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing to clean the areas you can’t always reach with a toothbrush. Regular check-ups are also part of a good oral hygiene routine, visit your dentist at least once every twelve months, if you have children you should take them along every six months, as their teeth are still growing and need more frequent observation. If you notice anything in your own teeth or your children’s, make an appointment as soon as you can, toothache caused by decay can be treated easily if it’s spotted early.

If you suffer from a high tooth decay rate, speak to your dentist regarding initiating high fluoride therapy. High dose Fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes along with dietary sugar control are an excellent tool for fighting tooth decay and ultimately toothache.