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An Overview of Toothaches

Exams and Tests for Toothaches

A thorough medical history and oral exam usually lead to an appropriate diagnosis. 

Sometimes, X-rays called periapical and Panorex views (panoramic X-rays of the teeth and jaw) are taken. Rarely, lab evaluation, including ECG tracings of the heart, will assist the doctor. If the cause is something other than a dental or jaw problem, the doctor may prescribe drugs directed at the problem. If the condition is more severe, the doctor may admit you to the hospital for further care. You may be referred to a dentist for further treatment.

Treating a Toothache at Home

For toothaches: 

  • Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) may be used. Take these as directed on the package while you arrange a dental appointment.
  • Avoid very cold or hot foods, because they may make the pain worse.
  • Relief may be obtained from biting on a cotton ball soaked in oil of cloves. Oil of cloves is available at most drug stores.

For jaw pain:

  • Aspirin may be helpful for problems in the joint of the jaw in adults.
  • Acetaminophen (not aspirin) should be used for children and teenagers.
  • If pain occurs every time you open your mouth widely, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) may be the source of the pain. Yawning or taking a large bite of food may intensify the pain. An appointment with your doctor or dentist will help to determine the cause.

Medical Treatment for Toothaches

In most cases, toothaches or jaw pain can be cared for with pain medications and antibiotics. A referral to a dentist for follow-up will usually be arranged. In some cases, the doctor may try an injection around the tooth for pain control. If there is swelling in the gums or face, or you have fever, antibiotics may be prescribed.

  • At the dentist's office, fillings, pulling teeth, or other procedures may be performed as required. A tooth extraction will be the most likely procedure with a primary (baby) tooth. On permanent teeth if the problem is severe, root canals (sealing off the root of the tooth) and crown procedures are generally performed.
  • An antibiotic will usually be prescribed if a fever or swelling of the jaw is present. Such procedures are generally done in stages, with pain and infection being cared for immediately, and reconstructive procedures being performed at a later time (weeks to months). You will be able to return to work or school while you recover. Dentists and oral surgeons may plan additional procedures at the most appropriate time.
  • If causes other than the teeth or jaw are responsible for the pain, management will depend on the condition.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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