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Toothache causes and symptoms

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Perhaps the first sign of pain occurs when you bite into something very cold or hot - or shortly after a fall or other injury. But there's little doubt that tooth pain can strike at any time without warning. Tooth decay (think cavities) is the most common cause of tooth pain. However, several other dental conditions could be the reason behind your aching tooth.

Common causes of tooth pain

In addition to tooth decay, other causes can include the following:

  • Worn tooth enamel
  • An abscess (tooth infection)
  • Gum disease
  • Teeth grinding
  • An abnormal bite
  • Tooth eruption in babies and young children
  • A cracked or impacted tooth or a damaged filling
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially when teeth and gums are exposed to hot or cold food and beverages

Symptoms of tooth pain

Symptoms of a toothache can sometimes mimic other medical or dental conditions, so it's important to visit your dentist for an evaluation and diagnosis, which may include x-rays. In addition to tooth pain, common symptoms may include the following:

  • Pain when biting or opening your mouth
  • A headache
  • A fever
  • Bleeding, pus, or red, swollen gums around the tooth area

Treatments for tooth pain

Since symptoms can worsen if left untreated and lead to a more serious condition, it's a good idea to contact your dentist as soon as possible. Treatment options may include a dental filling, antibiotics, tooth extraction or possibly a root canal, depending on the diagnosis.

Tips to minimize toothaches

Taking care of your teeth and gums on a daily basis is key to minimizing the risk of toothaches and other health issues. Good oral hygiene includes brushing and flossing daily to prevent gum disease, visiting a dentist every six months for an oral exam and teeth cleaning, and eating foods low in sugar. Ask your dentist if sealants and fluoride treatments might help prevent tooth decay.

If you're experiencing the discomfort of a toothache, contact your dentist. He or she can give your teeth and gums a thorough checkup and recommend treatment. Remember that your CareCredit credit card provides a convenient way to pay for care not covered by insurance. Use the Provider Locator to find a nearby dentist who accepts your CareCredit card.

Sources:
'Five Culprits of Severe Tooth Pain,' Jae Curtis, Colgate.com, posted March 2016, https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/life-stages/adult-oral-care/culprits-of-severe-tooth-pain-0316, accessed Dec. 14, 2017  
'Toothache Guide: How serious are they?' Consumer Guide to Dentistry, https://www.yourdentistryguide.com/toothaches/, accessed Dec. 14, 2017
'Tooth Abscess: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment,' Consumer Guide to Dentistry, https://www.yourdentistryguide.com/tooth-abscess/, accessed Dec. 14, 2017  
'An Overview of Toothaches,' WebMD, reviewed by Alfred D. Wyatt on Oct. 1, 2016, https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/toothache#1, accessed Dec. 14, 2017
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