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What helps against toothache?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 249 views

Toothache is a nightmare for many people – severe, throbbing pain, a swollen, flushed cheek, difficulty opening your mouth. A diseased tooth is usually to blame – but not always. For example, an inflammation of the paranasal sinuses or a heart attack can also trigger a toothache. You can find out more about the causes of the symptoms and helpful home remedies for toothache here.

quick overview

  • Causes : e.g. caries , tooth root inflammation, gum inflammation, periodontitis , abscess , tooth eruption, tooth fracture, fallen out fillings, crowns and provisionals, barotrauma (due to pressure differences painful tooth cavities), heart attack, angina pectoris , sinusitis, shingles (herpes zoster) , headaches and migraines, trigeminal neuralgia , ear infections, jaw cysts, inflammation of the jawbone caused by medication (bisphosphonates) and radiation, teeth that are sensitive to pain .
  • When to the doctor? Always consult a doctor if you have a toothache. Self-treatment only as a first aid measure.
  • Treatment : depending on the cause, for example caries treatment , root canal treatment, cleaning of the periodontal pockets, painkillers, treatment of other underlying diseases (heart attack, sinusitis, etc.).
  • Home remedies for toothache : Emergency measures if a visit to the dentist is not possible: bite into a clove, rub the painful area with clove oil, place a damp cloth or towel with an ice pack on the cheek, tea made from peppermint, St. John’s wort, lemon balm , thyme and valerian , mouthwash with sage tea, highly concentrated, lukewarm salt water rinse.
  • Prevention: Thorough oral hygiene (brush your teeth twice a day with toothpaste containing fluoride, clean the spaces between your teeth once a day), limit sugar consumption, check up at the dentist twice a year, tips for hypersensitive teeth: do not scrub your teeth when brushing and apply little pressure, sealing the dentine tubules, Crowning of the teeth as a last measure.

Toothache: causes

In the majority of cases, toothache comes directly from the teeth. Sometimes, however, there are also health problems or illnesses that affect other parts of the body.

Toothache from dental problems

The following triggers in particular are possible (usually as a result of poor oral hygiene):

  • Caries (tooth decay) : The tooth surface is covered with a thin biofilm (plaque) that is colonized by bacteria (mainly Streptococcus mutans). These break down sugar molecules from leftover food into acid, which attacks tooth enamel. If the plaque is not removed regularly, the tooth enamel is slowly destroyed – a hole is formed. Food residues and bacteria can penetrate the tooth, possibly penetrate the pulp and irritate it painfully. The affected tooth is particularly sensitive to sweet and sour foods, cold and heat.
  • Tooth root inflammation : If tooth decay is not treated or is treated too late, the acid-producing bacteria can trigger inflammation of the pulp of the tooth (pulpitis) and also penetrate into the tooth nerve and damage it. In addition, the swollen pulp presses on the nerve. Persistent, pulsating toothache is the result. In extreme cases, the nerve dies. The toothache then subsides, but the inflammation can spread to the tip of the root and the jawbone ( apical osteitis ). Then the affected tooth hurts when pressure is applied from above, for example when chewing. Rarely, toothache is caused by bacterial tooth root inflammation when the jawbone has been injured or a root canal treatment has failed.
  • Abscess: Inflammation of the root of the tooth can spread to the surrounding tissue and the jawbone and form collections of pus (abscesses) there. Typical signs of this are pronounced, heated swelling and persistent toothache.
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis): This acute or chronic inflammation is usually caused by bacteria. The affected gums are swollen and red. In addition, the gums often bleed and hurt when brushing your teeth.
  • Inflammation of the periodontium (periodontitis): The periodontium includes gums, root cementum, periodontium and jawbone. If these structures become inflamed, bleeding gums can occur and the gums can become swollen and red. It gradually retreats, exposing the pain-sensitive necks of the teeth. The inflammation itself is also noticeable through dull pain that is difficult to localize. Periodontitis destroys the jawbone in the medium term.
  • Erupting teeth : Erupting milk teeth in babies or wisdom teeth in adults can also cause pain.
  • Tooth fracture: Teeth can also break, for example due to an accident or when you bite on something hard. Like a broken arm or leg, this can be very
  • Fillings, crowns and temporary restorations that have fallen out : Tooth restorations can fall out, for example when eating. The abraded tooth is then exposed underneath and reacts painfully to external stimuli such as food particles, liquid, pressure (when brushing teeth) and air.
  • Barotrauma: cavities, such as those caused by caries or under leaking fillings and crowns, often react painfully to pressure differences. Divers are often affected, but the phenomenon occurs less frequently at high altitudes or when flying.
  • Dental treatment : Grinding down the teeth in preparation for fillings or crowns irritates the dental nerve and can cause temporary pain after the treatment.

Another possible cause of toothache is pain-sensitive teeth : A cold draft, an ice cream for dessert or the dressing in a salad often triggers a short, severe toothache (so-called lightning pain) in people with pain-sensitive teeth. Behind this are usually exposed tooth necks with unprotected dentine tubules (e.g. as a result of periodontitis). Acid, sweet, cold and hot things can then penetrate through the dentinal tubules into the dental nerve and irritate it.

But there are other reasons for hypersensitive teeth:

  • Worn chewing surfaces, for example due to permanent incorrect loading due to nightly grinding of the teeth or as a result of the natural aging process
  • frequent exposure to acid (due to repeated vomiting, for example in bulimia , reflux disease or frequent consumption of fruit, vegetables, salads)
  • too much pressure when brushing (scrubbing) teeth
  • dental treatments such as whitening, grinding down teeth in preparation for fillings or crowns
  • congenital tooth formation disorders

Other causes of toothache

Diseases in other parts of the body can also be the cause of toothache:

  • Heart attack and angina pectoris : Typical of both is severe pain behind the breastbone , which can radiate to the left shoulder, left arm and lower jaw . In the so-called Buddenbrook syndrome , a diseased tooth in the left lower jaw can lead to the actual trigger of the toothache – a heart attack or an attack of angina pectoris – being overlooked.
  • Inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis): The upper molars and the sinuses are close together. If the latter are inflamed, the inflammation can spread to the root of the tooth and cause pain.
  • Shingles (herpes zoster) : The rash associated with this viral disease can also appear on the face and mouth, where it can cause severe pain in the skin , mucous membranes and teeth.
  • Headaches and Migraines : Sometimes a headache is accompanied by a toothache. Migraines, which usually occur on one side, can also lead to this, since they usually only affect one side of the head, and can cause teeth on that side to ache. In addition, migraine patients often suffer from phantom tooth pain. This is pain that occurs even though a diseased tooth has already been extracted.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia : The trigeminal nerve is a facial nerve that also supplies the teeth. If it is inflamed, this also leads to severe toothache.
  • Earache : Ear disorders, such as a middle ear infection, often radiate into the jaw and teeth.
  • Cysts : Cysts in the jaw area can also trigger toothache.
  • Drugs and radiation: Inflammation caused by certain drugs (bisphosphonates) and radiation of the jawbone are other possible causes of toothache.

How does a toothache actually come about?

Teeth are by no means lifeless. On the contrary, every single tooth contains nerve fibers in addition to blood vessels. These penetrate through openings in the jawbone from below into the root of the tooth and are located in the middle of the tooth pulp (pulp). The nerve fibers react very sensitively to even the smallest stimuli. A protective coat of dentin (dental bone) and tooth enamel surrounds the tooth pulp and thus protects it from irritation caused by heat or leftover food. In the case of dental diseases such as caries or periodontitis, however, this natural barrier is destroyed, so that irritants can get inside the tooth unhindered – toothache occurs.

Toothache: what helps?

How to effectively relieve toothache depends largely on the cause of the symptoms.

Dental treatment of tooth problems

  • In the case of tooth decay, for example, the dentist drills away the affected areas and closes the hole with a dense filling.
  • If the cause of the toothache is the root of the tooth or the boil in the jaw, a root canal treatment can help. Opening the tooth usually relieves the pain, as this relieves the pressure in the tissue. The same also applies to purulent abscesses in the tissue.
  • In the case of gum inflammation, the gum pockets are cleaned. Sometimes it is also necessary to take a sample to determine the type of bacteria and treat them with appropriate antibiotics.

If you have an acute toothache, you can take a painkiller as a first aid measure. However, do not use the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid, as this inhibits blood clotting . The subsequent dental treatment can then lead to increased bleeding. Painkillers with the active ingredient paracetamol are more suitable .

Untreated dental problems always cause pain and can even affect other parts of the body. Because the bacteria that have penetrated get into the bloodstream via the teeth and can lead to the rare inflammation of the heart valves. In the case of chronic foci of inflammation, the risk of vascular diseases also increases in the long term. In pregnant women, the risk of miscarriage increases due to certain bacteria that cause gingivitis.

Always have a toothache checked by a dentist. A visit to the dentist is particularly urgent in the case of:

  • Persistent toothache, despite good and thorough oral care
  • Toothache that comes on suddenly at night or gets progressively worse
  • Dental problems with swollen gums, mouth or face swelling, possibly accompanied by fever
  • often bleeding, red gums
  • Toothache when chewing

Treatment of other causes of pain

If the cause of the toothache is not in the mouth, it is advisable to consult other specialists (ENT doctor, internist, etc.). The dentist will give a patient appropriate advice if necessary – depending on where he suspects the cause of the toothache.

Accompanying symptoms can also give an indication of which specialist is responsible for clarifying the symptoms (e.g. an ENT doctor with accompanying earache). This doctor can then find out the exact cause of the pain and initiate appropriate treatment (e.g. painkillers and possibly antibiotics for middle ear infections).

In the event of unusually severe toothache that affects the entire lower jaw rather than a single tooth and is accompanied by an unusual tightness in the chest, shortness of breath or pain extending into the shoulder, please call the emergency doctor immediately! Then a heart attack can be the cause of the toothache.

Home remedies for toothache

Do you suffer from toothache at the weekend or on public holidays – when your dentist is not on duty? Then tried-and-tested home remedies can help as first-aid measures:

  • Clove has been used as a home remedy for toothache for centuries. It should be bitten near the aching tooth. The active substance eugenol contained therein has an anesthetic effect and is also used in dentistry in some preparations. Clove oil from the pharmacy can also help. But be careful: the eugenol can kill the dental nerve.
  • A damp cloth or an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the cheek will relieve a toothache by reducing blood flow to the inflamed area.
  • A tea made from two parts peppermint, four parts each of St. John’s wort and lemon balm, as well as some thyme and valerian relieves toothache.
  • Mouthwashes with sage tea have an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • A highly concentrated, lukewarm salt water rinse can also help. Keep the solution in your mouth for two minutes until the pain subsides.

Home remedies have their limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not get better or even get worse, you should always consult a doctor.

prevent toothache

You have the most effective protection against toothache in your own hands: thorough oral care . Because regular tooth brushing with the right technique prevents tooth decay, periodontitis and the like and thus helps to prevent toothache.

Dentists recommend brushing teeth at least twice a day . This is the only way to remove plaque and leftover food from the surface of the teeth, which provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. It doesn’t matter whether you use an electric or a manual toothbrush. It is more important that you clean systematically so that all areas are cleaned. A tried and tested tooth brushing technique is the bass method , for example :

  • Start at the top left of the outer surface of the molars. To do this, place the bristle surface of your toothbrush diagonally from below against the tooth and gums.
  • Now run the toothbrush along the outer surface of each molar in light stroking movements while shaking and applying light pressure. The bristles also penetrate into the interdental spaces. Not only do you remove plaque, you also massage your gums. This stimulates blood circulation and protects against periodontitis.
  • Then work your way to the opposite side and back on the inside.
  • Then brush over the chewing surfaces of the upper row of teeth.
  • You then repeat the whole procedure for the teeth in the lower jaw.

In addition to brushing, you should use dental floss or interdental brushes once a day to thoroughly clean plaque from between your teeth. After all, the most common form of tooth decay occurs in this area that is difficult to access with a toothbrush.

More tips for healthy teeth :

  • To keep your teeth healthy, avoid sugar as much as possible. Because the caries-forming bacteria feed on the glucose it contains.
  • Snack on sweets as little as possible between meals so that the bacteria in your mouth are not constantly being supplied with new food.
  • Make use of the dental check-up twice a year. In this way, your dentist can recognize the onset of caries early on and stop it before toothache develops.
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste and dental care chewing gum with xylitol . Both active ingredients inhibit the growth of caries bacteria and strengthen tooth enamel.

Tips for hypersensitive teeth

If the sensitive necks of the teeth and with them the so-called dentinal tubules are exposed, every bite on the teeth can hurt. Especially cold, hot, sweet and sour foods and drinks often trigger a short but extremely severe pain. You can protect your sensitive teeth with these tips:

  • When brushing your teeth, be careful not to scrub or press the toothbrush too hard. In this way you can prevent your gums from receding even further.
  • Seal the dentin tubules. Toothpastes and mouthwashes containing strontium chloride or potassium salts seal the canals. This makes the teeth less sensitive to external stimuli. The dentist can also seal the exposed surfaces: the neck of the tooth is protected with fluoride varnish or a fine layer of thinly flowing plastic.
  • In particularly severe cases or in the case of congenital disorders in which tooth enamel is missing, crowning the teeth can be the last resort against toothache .

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