Pain is the body’s built in alarm system. It tells us when something is wrong and may require our attention. Toothaches in particular are a symptom of many underlying problems such as an infected tooth or inflamed gums, or an impacted wisdom tooth.
Some tooth sensitivity may feel like a toothache. More than half of the adults in Singapore complain about sensitive teeth, yet do not know how to treat it, according to research by GlaxoSmithKline. One in three people in Southeast Asia suffer from dentine hypersensitivity, which makes them more sensitive to hot and cold food.
Why Does My Tooth Ache?
Toothaches can range from being a mild, throbbing sensation, to a sharp, stabbing pain. The pain tend to radiates and in some cases, even cause headaches. Toothaches are often the result of tooth decay, bacterial infection, or even abscess growth. Pain occurs when the pulp which is a collection of nerves and tissue inside that tooth, becomes irritated, either through trauma or infection.
The pulp has a number of important functions, like supplying blood to the tooth, as well as inform of hot and cold sensations and pain. Ignoring your toothache can lead to irreversible pulpitis, which means that the tooth is so damaged that you may require a root canal therapy to save the tooth, or possibly lose the tooth.
Sometimes, the pain in your tooth may not actually be caused by the tooth. This is called “referred pain”. Referred pain is often a symptom of a disease or a condition of a nearby area, like your sinuses or even your joints. People with sinusitis–inflamed and irritated sinuses–may feel their upper teeth hurt because of its proximity to the sinuses.
Research has shown that the Oral Health has a close relation with Cardiovascular Diseases, and in more severe cases, toothache may signal a problem with the heart. Tooth pain may also be caused by an ear infection. It is important to get your toothache, no matter how dull, checked by dentists if only to rule out more critical, life-threatening diseases.
Toothaches, as painful as they are, may be hard to pinpoint to a specific tooth. For instance, patients who report pain from their lower teeth may actually have a problem with their upper teeth. This happens because the brain responds nearly the same way for pain signals from teeth, regardless of where they are located. This makes it hard for patients to pinpoint the exact locus location of the pain.
Since our own estimations may not be accurate, dentists often ask patients to undergo X-ray examinations to verify on the areas of concern.. For the same reason, home remedies are rarely effective to treat toothaches, because they may not even be addressing the right issue on the correct tooth. Toothache may also be caused by advanced gum diseases (also known as Periodontal diseases).
Though not immediately apparent, Bruxism, or teeth grinding, might be the culprit behind some toothaches. People usually grind their teeth subconsciously or when they sleep, hence they may not recognize grinding as the cause of their pain during the day–and this pain may be a sign that the teeth have actually started to loosen.
Do I really have to go to the dentist?
In most cases, a toothache is a signal that should not be taken lightly. If the cause of the pain lies in the tooth itself, note that the teeth are the only part of the human body that is unable to self-heal. As cavities are the most common cause of tooth pain, ignoring a cavity will most likely result in complications such as an abscess or swelling.
An infection can be so severe that it settles deep into a tooth, and could potentially spread to your jaw (restricting your airway) or even result in lethal sepsis. The throbbing pain that comes with an abscess is usually severe and doesn’t let up. In the US, hospitalizations for abscesses near the tip of the root have gone up by more than 40%.
One of the worst things that can happen if you do nothing about your tooth pain is you could lose the tooth. The risk for tooth loss is significantly higher once an infection reaches the inner pulp. Since the pulp is at the very core of the tooth, an infection would cause the entire tooth unable to support the weight of biting or chewing.
If you experience symptoms of an abscess such as swelling or a warm sensation upon touching the area, it could mean that your tooth will need (if not) immediate attention or urgent care. If treated in the early stages of infection, the tooth may still survive, or else, ultimately you may lose a tooth. Losing a tooth is not all bad, due to current dental technologies. Do read our post on Implants by Dr Alvin Yeo.
This is why you shouldn’t put off going to your dentist when your teeth hurt. The longer you wait, the more complex–and often expensive–treatment becomes. A toothache may also be a symptom of a serious life-threatening condition from elsewhere in your body. If the pain comes with fever or bleeding, you should see your dentist immediately.
At Dental Focus, we have emergency dentists that can attend to you at any time of the day. Our clinic is equipped with various Xray facilities such as the Cone-Beam CT machines and CAD/CAM systems that can quickly restore fillings, loose crowns, and provide other types of dental prosthesis. Feel free to drop by our clinics in case of emergency dental needs.
Dental Focus – Dental Clinic in Singapore
10 Kaki Bukit Place, #04-00
Tel: 6747 0573