What can I do to ease a persistant toothache?

If you’re having continual discomfort from a toothache, here are some steps to resolve the problem. Brush and floss your teeth to remove food fragments on or in-between your teeth. Rinse with warm water. If your gums are swollen, put a cold compress on the outside of your mouth. It’s recommended not to place an aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth as it can burn and cause gum tissue damage. If the pain perseveres, call to see a dentist as soon as possible.


How would I know if I have an abscessed tooth? Are there symptoms?

An abscessed tooth is an infection inside your tooth or gum that brings on a very painful, relentless ache. The abscess is most often caused by a damaged tooth, an untreated cavity or gum disease. Bacteria moves into the tooth’s interior “pulp” to start the infection. The term “abscess” literally means a localized collection of pus surrounded by an inflamed tissue. If left untreated the infection could spread and become severe enough to loose the tooth or initiate other health problems.

Typical symptoms of an abscessed tooth are:

  • A severe headache with a moderate to high fever
  • Intense toothache with throbbing pain, especially when chewing
  • Experiencing a salty, bad taste in your mouth
  • Gums that are red and swollen
  • Your jaw and face swell up
  • A little bump or gumboil on either side of your gums that resembles the size of a pimple


What is a root canal and how does it treat an abscessed tooth?

A “root canal” is the procedure used to treat and save an abscessed tooth. Previously, it was almost certain that abscessed tooth would need to be removed. Today, however, a dentist can better evaluate if an infected tooth is able to be treated and saved.

If the diagnosis looks promising, your dentist will first administer antibiotics to kill the bacteria that started the abscessed tooth. The source of the infection must still be removed, so your dentist will drill into the infected tooth or gum and drain the infectious pus.

Your dentist will then evaluate what damage has been in tooth’s interior pulp. The pulp is the soft tissue that holds the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that extends from the tooth’s crown down to the root within the jaw bone. The exam may show that pulp can be treated and restored to good health thereby saving your tooth.

However, if the initial exam reveals that the abscessed tooth is beyond repair, the dentist will skip a root canal to instead remove, or extract, the tooth.


What’s a tooth extraction? Is that painful?

An “extraction” is the process of having a tooth removed. Your dentist may feel an extraction is necessary if repairing a damaged tooth just isn’t practical. The tooth may be malpositioned, infected with advanced periodontal disease, or essentially has become nonfunctional.

The dentist will numb the area around the infected tooth with a local anesthetic to avoid pain and discomfort. It’s normal to have a small amount of bleeding during and after the extraction. For the 24 hours after your extraction you should drink from a straw and rinse gently so as not to disturb the clot. You can brush and floss all the other teeth except for near the extracted tooth socket. If you do experience any pain after the extraction apply a cold cloth or an ice bag on the gums near the socket.


How do I know if I have a cracked tooth? What should I do?

If you bite down feeling a sharp, sudden pain in your mouth that goes away as quickly as you reopen your mouth, you could be experiencing the symptoms of a cracked tooth. Until you see a dentist, avoid eating hard foods, and chew on the opposite side of your mouth to prevent aggravating the cracked tooth.

A cracked tooth happens from a number of reasons, including:

  • Biting on a hard objects such as hard candy, ice, nuts or even a carrot
  • Grinding or clenching teeth (especially when sleeping)
  • A severe hit to the mouth that impacts one of your teeth
  • Exposing the tooth to sudden temperature swings—i.e. immediately going from a hot to a cold drink
  • Stress or brittleness of the tooth from an earlier treatment such as a root canal

Spotting the crack on the tooth can be challenging as some hairline fractures are too small to be seen by the eye or even by an x-ray. By asking the right questions and probing, your dentist should be able to determine if and where you have a cracked tooth. Depending on the size or location of the crack, the dentist can treat it with a special bonding. If it appears the cracked tooth has caused the inner pulp to become infected, a root canal may be necessary.


What if my tooth breaks or gets knocked out?

A knocked out or broken tooth can happen in a car accident, a bike accident or even by a freak accident when playing a contact sport or doing physically intensive work. If it does happen, seek emergency dental treatment immediately. For a broken tooth, rinse and clean your mouth with warm water. Use cold compresses on the area to keep any swelling down until you get to the dentist.

If a tooth gets knocked out completely, it’s imperative to get to the dentist as quickly as possible. Be careful not to touch the root of the tooth to contaminate it. Hold the tooth by the crown. If the tooth is contaminated, rinse it gently with clean saline solution or water. Don’t scrub it. Put the tooth in a container of milk and try to get to a dentist within 30 minutes. The dentist will want to properly implant the tooth right away because the longer the tooth is out of its socket, the more likely it may be rejected by your gum as a foreign object. If you can’t get to a dentist within 30 – 45 minutes, rinse off the tooth, gently place it back into the socket and hold until your appointment.


How can I remove an object that’s caught between my teeth?

If you should get a piece of food or any small object wedged between your teeth, first try to gently remove the object with dental floss. Don’t use anything sharp like a pin around your teeth as it may cut your gums or damage a tooth. If it can’t be removed by dental floss, contact a dentist for advice or to schedule an appointment.


What happens if I lose my tooth filling?

If you should loose a tooth filling, call to get into a dentist at the soonest available time. In the meanwhile, here are a couple of short-term remedies. Inquire at your pharmacy about an over-the-counter dental cement to use as a temporary stop gap. Or, a piece of sugar-free gum can also be applied into the cavity until you see your dentist. Just be sure that gum is sugarless as even a little sugar in a cavity will hurt!