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Toothaches: Part II

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Toothaches: Getting to the Root of the Problem

Toothaches: Part II

October 15, 2007
By: Danae Roumis for Dental1

Part II Part I

There are a number of non-dental conditions which radiate their pain to the mouth, causing toothache symptoms. The most common include angina, sinusitis, or earaches, and dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the jaw joint to the skull. If you have a history of chest pain, trauma, rashes, or heart disease, speak to your physician about your toothache symptoms. People with heart disease, especially those with stents placed, people with diabetes and those who have had heart surgery, may experience jaw pain as a symptom of heart attack or angina.
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  • The best way to prevent toothaches and the dental conditions associated with them is to consistently take care of your oral health. This includes brushing at least twice a day, preferably after meal times, flossing and using mouthwash daily, and keeping up with a twice-per-year schedule of check ups at your dentist. Also, maintaining a healthy diet helps you avoid the starches and sugars that help bacteria in the mouth thrive.
  • The symptoms of normal toothache usually include sharp or throbbing pain on or around a tooth. Symptoms such as fever, swelling, bleeding or discharge, nausea or lightheadedness may be symptoms of other medical conditions, and you should contact your physician immediately if you experience them along with toothaches.

  • Sinusitis and earaches can cause pain in the jaw and refer pain to the teeth. If you suspect this might be the cause of your toothaches, or if you have a history of these conditions, contact your doctor. He or she can diagnose you, if appropriate.

    Pain caused by TMJ is usually located in front of one or both ears, and is most often caused by trauma, injury, arthritis, the spasm of nearby muscles, or by the mandible shifting during chewing or swallowing. Treatment of TMJ pain usually involves oral anti-inflammatory drugs (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen). A warm, moist compress relaxes the joint area, and exercising and eating soft foods ease pressure on the joint. In the case of some injuries, the joint can be repositioned with a splint.

    Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) are the most common oral anti-inflammatory drugs that you can take to soothe a toothache. Other home remedies include chewing a garlic clove or onion, or placing it locally on the pain. The oil of cloves contains eugenol, a material used in essential oils and perfumes, which is said to soothe pain effectively (though those with allergies are advised to stay away from eugenol). This is done by soaking a cotton ball in the oil, which is widely available at drug stores, and placing it on the painful area. Others place a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water and use it as a mouthwash. These may soothe pain, but seek medical advice if toothache symptoms are chronic and/or severe.

    If you experience swelling in the gums or face and notice discharge around the teeth, this may be a sign of dental disease, or periodontitis. If you have a fever, you may have an abscess, which can be treated with antibiotics and drained surgically. Some people experience “dry socket syndrome” after the extraction of a tooth, which is marked by severe pain two or three days after the procedure when air enters the socket and causes pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

    Since symptoms of toothache can be caused by both dental and non-dental conditions, it is advisable to seek both the advice of a doctor and a dentist in identifying the cause and deciding on treatment, especially if it becomes continuous or chronic. A professional will be able to best direct you through your options for care.

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