William Shakespeare once wrote, “There was never yet a philosopher that could endure the toothache presently.” For some people, a toothache feels like having a jackhammer drill a giant hole in the middle of your tooth. For others, toothaches feel like someone’s stabbing at the root and the pulp of teeth. Some toothaches feel like a hundred gnomes have made your tooth their home. The pain of a toothache can make you wake up at three in the morning, and make you howl out in pain like a caged animal.
Even the bravest and most courageous people can be moved to tears with the excruciating pain of a toothache. The toothache is perhaps the most common cause for pain in the world, with millions of people crying out every day because of an aching tooth. If you suffer from the indescribable pain of an aching tooth, here are some ways to get rid of it once and for all.
Causes of Toothaches
Toothaches, also known as odontolagia, are caused by many different factors:
- Dental caries. If you don’t take care of your teeth properly, chances are you’ll get a toothache. Plaque, tartar, and cracked teeth all contribute to a painful toothache.
- Sensitive teeth. The enamel of your teeth may have worn down because you’re eating or drinking foods that dissolve the minerals that protect the root. If you eat something hot or drink something ice-cold when you have sensitive teeth, you’ll end up with a toothache.
- Infected pulp. Sometimes dental caries can be so severe that they cause the pulp (the living part of the tooth) to inflame and get infected. Abscesses and infections are a leading cause of toothache.
- Gum disease. In some cases, it’s not actually the tooth that is in pain. Instead, the gums may have receded or inflamed so much that the root of the tooth is exposed.
- Wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth, or the third molar, are quite sensitive, and they can be really painful when they erupt.
- Other diseases. Some diseases like heart disease angina, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome can lead to toothaches.
See Your Dentist
Get to your dentist as soon as you feel a toothache. Many people postpone the dental appointment because it may take too much time, or they think they can brave the pain without ever seeing a dentist. Remember that like any sort of pain, a toothache is a sign of worse things to come. Maybe your cavities have enlarged, or the pulp of your tooth has been infected beyond repair.
A dentist can cure your toothache through four means:
- Dental filling. For dental caries, the holes, cracks, and fissures on the offending tooth are cleaned and filled with silver amalgam, composite resin, or a special type of dental cement. Fillings are only effective for smaller dental caries on teeth that can be saved.
- Tooth extraction. Often the best way to get rid of an aching tooth is to remove it. Once the tooth is removed, you wouldn’t have any sort of pain until the anesthesia wears out, or the first few days when the wound from the extraction heals. Tooth extraction is cheap, easy, and rids you of all the pain from your aching tooth.
- Root canal therapy. Sometimes a tooth (usually a molar) is so important that removing it may be very inconvenient. Root canal therapy, also called endodontic therapy, is often used if there’s no visible damage on the enamel of the tooth, but if the pulp is infected. The pulp and nerve endings from the tooth are drawn out, and then replaced with a substance called gutta-percha.
- Dental surgery. Some diseases like TMJ syndrome, or abscesses and growths that have grown into the gum or the jaw, need immediate dental surgery. The dentist will first conduct tests to see if your toothache needs to be cured through surgical methods.
Numb the Tooth
If you can’t get to a dentist right away, such as if your tooth is bothering you in the wee hours of the morning, you need to numb the pain from the offending tooth. Here are some ways that you can relieve the pain until it’s convenient for you to go to the dentist:
- Painkillers. Analgesic is a temporary way to tame the throbbing pain in your tooth. Paracetamol, aspirin, or mefenamic acid can help to reduce the pain from a bad toothache.
- Oil of cloves. Clove oil has a chemical called eugenol, a naturally-occurring painkiller. Use stem oils, or oil brands that have a high concentration of eugenol. Place a very small amount of clove oil at the end of a cotton bud, and very carefully apply the oil to the tooth. Be very careful not to apply the oil on your gums or on the tongue.
- Peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has a less-offensive flavor than oil of cloves. While it is a weaker analgesic, it can be used for children with toothaches. You can also mix some peppermint oil or menthol oil in water, and use it as a mouthwash.
- Salty water. If you don’t have oil of cloves or peppermint oil, then plain old salty water can do the trick. Dissolve two tablespoons of table salt in a cup of hot water, and hold the water in your mouth for as long as you can. The heat of the water, along with the salt, can help numb the throbbing pain. The effect is temporary, and will usually last for the half-hour it takes for you to get to your dentist.
- Black tea bags. If you have a tooth abscess that has come to a head but you can’t get to a dentist on time, you can use black tea bags to draw out the abscess. Simply wet a tea bag in warm water, and hold it in your mouth for about four to six hours. The tannins and other chemicals in the tea bag will make the pus come to the surface and drain the abscess.
- Ice packs. Ice packs can help soothe swelling and reduce pain. Do not chew ice, or put ice blocks directly on the tooth. Wrap the ice in an ice bag and a thin tea towel, and place it over your cheek.
Brush and Floss
The pain of having toothaches can easily be avoided with proper dental hygiene. With all the hassles there are in going to the dentist and home remedies to dull a toothache, it can be prevented with three simple steps:
- Three minutes of brushing. Use small, circular motions, and don’t use hard pressure on the toothbrush.
- Three minutes of flossing. Make sure to get into those nooks and crannies in between your teeth and along the gum line.
- Oral care three times a day. All the brushing and flossing in three straight hours will not prevent tooth decay if you only clean your teeth once a year. You should brush your teeth regularly, after every meal.
Few people will ever withstand the pain of a toothache, but you don’t have to bear with the misery for one whole day. With these home remedies and a trip to the dentist, even the worst toothaches won’t make you scream out in intolerable pain ever again.