Toothaches are not fun! It can make it difficult to eat, sleep or focus on anything besides the discomfort, so the first target is often to treat the symptoms. But symptoms happen to let us know that something is amiss, so it’s even more important to find and treat the cause than the ache. What could your toothache mean and what should you do about it? Let’s dig into some of the most common reasons behind tooth discomfort.
Is it a Tooth Decay or a Cavity?
When searching for the answer to the question, “What could your toothache mean?” one of the most common first questions is, “Is it a cavity?” What is a cavity? A cavity is a small hole that forms in the outer surface or enamel of your tooth. Cavities may be caused by naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth or sugars that interact with the bacteria to produce acid.
How do you know if it’s a cavity or not? Cavities can look like small holes or dark spots, but stains can also look identical to the untrained eye. Some cavities also occur out of sight. So the only way to find out if you really have a cavity or not is to see your dentist for an exam. Your dentist can check if the surface of your tooth has become soft, indicating a cavity that needs treatment, or use x-rays to check for any erosion or infection underneath that may not be visible from the surface.
What Else Could it Be?
What could your toothache mean besides a cavity? Toothaches can be caused by many things. A toothache can happen anytime anything irritates the nerves inside your teeth. This can happen as a result of sudden extreme temperature changes, such as when you eat ice cream. It can also happen if your gums become inflamed from an allergen, food particles lodged between your teeth or lack of regular flossing and brushing. If your teeth are uneven it can cause extra force to be applied to specific teeth when you chew. Sometimes toothaches are caused by jaw clenching when you’re stressed, migraines or sinus problems.
They can also be caused by more serious issues such as periodontitis, an infected or abscessed tooth or crack in the tooth from trauma or overcrowding. That’s why it’s so important to find out the cause as soon as possible, because it’s also important to rule out or treat the more serious causes to ensure it doesn’t spread, need a more extensive procedure or result in the loss of a tooth.
When it’s Important to See a Dentist
It’s important to see a dentist anytime you’re in enough discomfort to ask the question, “What could your toothache mean?”, because even mild toothaches can have serious underlying causes. It may be something minor, but your teeth shouldn’t hurt. It’s crucial to find out what’s happening so that you can get back to enjoying life without unneeded discomfort.
Good preventative care can also save you money in the long run, so it’s important to stay on top of regularly scheduling routine care visits like cleanings and exams to help ensure that minor issues are caught early before they can develop into something more serious and costly.
Call our Houston Dental Office to make an appointment with a dentist who may be able to help you find out more about this topic, and improve your oral health.