Types of Toothache & Their Causes

Dental Health Advice

What are the causes of toothache?

A toothache is a pain in or around a tooth that may be caused by:

  • Tooth decay
  • An infected tooth
  • Tooth fracture
  • A damaged or leaking filling
  • Repetitive motions, such as chewing gum or grinding teeth
  • Infected gums

What are the types of toothache?

There are generally speaking two types of toothache:

Reversible toothache

The first of two types of toothache we are going to talk about is reversible toothaches. These typically occur when the nerve in the tooth is healthy but is being stimulated/annoyed as a result of something such as a cavity caused by tooth decay. Commonly resulting in fleeting moments of toothache, often following eating or drinking.

In this case, treating the cause of the annoyance, e.g., having a filling, will result in the toothache resolving.

Irreversible toothache

The second of our two types of toothache is an irreversible toothache, which occurs when the nerve in the tooth is irreversibly damaged (e.g., by tooth decay that has gone untreated for too long and has grown too close to the nerve). An irreversible toothache often results in extended periods of pain following eating or drinking or can occur in spontaneous bouts of throbbing pain.

In this case, the nerve in the tooth cannot be saved, often requiring removal, with pain relief being achieved through either root canal treatment (saving the tooth) or tooth extraction.

How can the 247 Dentist help with toothache?

Here at the 247 Dentist, we can assist with both types of toothache discussed in this article and will be able to promptly eradicate your toothache by either providing a filling, a dressing of the nerve, or removing the offending tooth. If you are suffering from toothache, please contact us promptly before it worsens!

Tooth decay

Tooth decay, also known as dental decay or dental caries, is when acids produced by bacteria in your mouth dissolve the outer layers of your teeth. Tooth decay is one of the most widespread health problems in the UK, with more than half (55%) of adults in the UK having one or more decayed teeth.

Tooth decay is also a problem for children as it is estimated that between 52% and 77% of children aged 8 to 15 have some obvious tooth decay in their permanent teeth.

What causes tooth decay?

Your mouth is full of bacteria, which combine with small food particles and saliva to form a sticky film known as plaque, which builds up on your teeth. When you consume foods and drinks high in carbohydrates (sugary or starchy), the bacteria in plaque turn the carbohydrates into the energy they need, producing acid at the same time.

Over time, the acid in plaque begins to break down the surface of your tooth. Left untreated, the plaque can completely destroy the outside of the tooth and expose the nerves inside. Once this happens, you will have a toothache.

The four stages of tooth decay:

Stage 1. The dull spot on the tooth’s surface may decay and can be prevented by brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing to prevent it from becoming a cavity.

Stage 2. The decay is now a cavity. It has gone through the tooth’s hard surface layer.

Stage 3. Now that the cavity has reached the softer layer of the tooth, it will get bigger faster.

Stage 4. If the decay is left untreated, the tooth nerve may become infected and die, resulting in an abscess.

What are the signs of tooth decay?

A common misconception amongst the public is that your tooth will alert you as soon as there is a problem such as decay, often by becoming sensitive or painful, but this is not the case.

In the early stages of tooth decay, it is common for there to be a complete absence of symptoms, but your dentist may be able to spot a cavity in its early stages when they examine or x-ray your teeth.

Patients are often left confused when their dentist advises that they have decay in a tooth and require a filling – the tooth may be pain-free and not have any holes in the surface!

  • The lack of pain may be because the decay is too small to reach the nerve in the inner part of the tooth or because the decay is so large that it has caused the nerve to die. If this happens, there is an entire spectrum of treatments a tooth may require, even though it is pain-free, ranging from a simple filling to root canal treatment or even extraction!
  • The absence of a hole in the surface of a tooth is because when decay is in its early stages, the surface of the tooth often re-mineralises (re-hardens), leaving the decay underneath the surface, which will enlarge until the surface of the tooth is sufficiently undermined to break and leave a cavity.

This is why you should visit your dentist regularly, as small cavities are much easier to treat than advanced decay!

Preventing tooth decay

To prevent tooth decay, you should:

  • Visit the dentist regularly
  • Visit the hygienist regularly
  • Maintain very good oral hygiene
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet
  • Monitor how often each day you have food or drink containing sugar

Limit sugary foods to mealtimes, and ensure you don’t have food or drinks containing added sugar more than four times a day. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important too, which as well as preventing tooth decay, will help you to stay healthy.

How can The 247 Dentist help with tooth decay?

The 247 Dentist will be able to identify and treat any tooth decay through conservative measures, providing a filling or dressing, or in the worst case scenario, a prompt extraction.

If you require an emergency dentist, give us a call! We’re based throughout the UK – so you can find your nearest location and receive your emergency dental treatment quickly and efficiently. Alternatively, if you can’t make a face-to-face dental appointment – meet with a virtual dentist through our online booking service.

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