There’s one word that makes people wince even more than phrases like “Monday morning” or “income taxes,” and that word is “toothache.”

But what is a toothache, exactly? And what causes a toothache? Simply put, a toothache is pain in or around a tooth. And you may know from sad experience that a toothache can range from anywhere between a minor annoyance to profound pain, usually closer to the latter. Knowledge is power, so let’s examine some of the potential causes of a toothache.

Toothaches can arise from a variety of factors, such as poor personal dental habits, a sugary or high-carbohydrate diet, trauma to the mouth or a failure to visit your dental office for routine but imperative checkups.

Sometimes the problem can be simple and merely require Tylenol or Motrin (Ibuprofen, Advil). Never apply warm compresses to the side of the face because, in the event of an infection, it will draw the swelling externally and cause more pain. Often the cause of a toothache needs to be evaluated by your dentist, so the problem can be diagnosed and treated properly before your condition worsens.

The most common culprit for a toothache is dental caries or tooth decay, which occurs when bacteria remains on the tooth and begins eating away the enamel, which protects the tooth. If this condition is not treated, a cavity will form. A cavity is permanent damage to your tooth that a dentist must repair by using a filling. If a cavity is left untreated and the nerves are exposed, the tooth will experience greater sensitivity to hot or cold foods.

If you lose a filling, you could experience some pain or heightened sensitivity in that area. In this scenario, return to your dentist’s office and get your filling repaired as soon as possible.

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that is the result of a bacterial infection. This condition requires antibiotics, because it will continue to damage the tooth, as long as it’s not being treated. And if this infection gets into your bloodstream, then you’ll have additional health concerns beyond your oral health.

Remember that the best way to avoid a toothache is to visit our office for your regularly scheduled checkups and continue practicing excellent personal dental care at home. But if you do find yourself with a toothache, come and see us and we’ll take good care of you.