Symptoms of toothache can vary between individuals but some of the common signs that are reported include:
- throbbing or sharp tooth pain that is either constant or intermittent
- pain when pressure is applied to the tooth
- lingering sensitivity to hot or cold
- swelling in the gums.
There are many causes of toothache, and one common cause is tooth decay. Tooth decay is the damage to your teeth caused by bacteria in the mouth that sits on your teeth and gums. It appears as a white or clear substance called plaque. The bacteria use the sugars in the food that you ingest to produce acids, which break down tooth structure.
A tooth is made up of three layers: the outer hard layer (known as enamel), the second softer layer (known as dentine) and the centre (the nerve and blood vessels of the tooth known as the pulp). When destruction of the tooth structure caused by tooth decay comes close to, or reaches into, the pulp of the tooth, toothache can occur.
To prevent tooth decay, which is a common cause of a sore tooth, it is important to follow excellent oral hygiene practices such as brushing with fluoridated toothpaste twice daily and flossing once or twice daily. Diet is also an important factor, not only in terms of quality (such as reducing the quantity of foods high in sugar and acid) but also in the frequency of meals. It is recommended that you avoid “grazing” – that is, the behaviour of constant eating throughout the day. This is because the pH in our mouths becomes acidic when we eat. Grazing does not give our saliva an opportunity to bring our mouths back to a neutral pH after ingesting food, which can cause tooth damage. It is also important to visit your dentist for a check-up every six months to aid in early detection of tooth decay before it causes pain.
The treatment of tooth pain will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. It is important to visit your dentist if you are exhibiting signs or symptoms of toothache.