When it comes to your oral health, the last thing you want to experience is a sudden, intense pain while enjoying a delicious meal, a glass of cold water, or that first hot cup of coffee in the morning. All too often, this can happen, however, stopping you in your tracks.
The sudden ache or stabbing pain may vanish quickly, only to reappear the next time you take a bite, sip, or even flash your smile.
What can cause this? Most likely, you are experiencing some level of nerve pain in your tooth. When it continues, it’s not a coincidence but a signal that you need to take action, starting at home and eventually seeking the help of your dentist.
What Causes Tooth Nerve Pain?
Within the pulp of your tooth lies a bundle of nerves. When these nerves become exposed due to a loss of protective coating, you experience staccato pain when something comes into contact with them.
This exposure and the resulting pain can have several causes, all of which fall under either pulpal sensitivity or dentinal sensitivity.
Pulpal Sensitivity: When only one tooth is sensitive or painful, the issue is within the pulp area of that one tooth. The pain you experience is a result of any of the following:
- chipped, cracked, or fractured tooth
- tooth decay
- a new filling, or
- pressure caused by teeth grinding (bruxism)
Dentinal Sensitivity: When you can’t identify the pain occurring in just one tooth, but instead, it seems to spread out among several, you may have dentinal sensitivity. This results when the enamel of teeth erodes, exposing the soft tissue below (the dentin). The dentin contains nerve endings where cold and heat sources can reach and cause pain. Causes for this particular sensitivity include:
- untreated cavities
- loss of tooth enamel due to harsh brushing or teeth whitening products
- receding gums
- gum disease, exposing tooth roots
- harsh brushing damaging both teeth and gums
In addition, besides the sharp pains, other symptoms of pulpal or dentinal sensitivity include:
- jaw pain
- tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
- pain when eating
- discharge or bleeding in the gumline surrounding the tooth
Essentially, the nerve pain in your tooth is a result of aggravating the exposed nerve in some way, and seeking relief will be a priority.
How Do You Stop Nerve Pain in Your Tooth?
While addressing the underlying issue will be required, there are a few things you can do at home to alleviate the nerve pain in your tooth. These methods serve two purposes: to alleviate pain and lessen inflammation.
- Apply a cold compress to whichever side of the face the pain is occurring. Always insert a buffer against the skin first, such as washcloth or towel.
- Temporarily use a toothpaste and/or mouthwash designed for sensitive teeth and gums.
- Gently brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks.
- Limit iced or hot beverages, which can trigger the pain.
- Stay away from acidic foods and juices, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits.
- Take an anti-inflammatory medication.
- Take over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen.
While these may temporarily provide you with relief, ultimately, you will need to seek professional assessment and treatment from your dentist. During your dental appointment, you can expect the following.
- a medical history review,
- a question-and-answer session, including where the pain originates, how long it has been going on, and its level of intensity,
- a dental exam, to include the teeth, gums, jaw, and soft tissues of the mouth, and
- x-rays, in some cases, or the use of other diagnostic tools.
Once your dentist is able to make an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan will be explained to you. Potential ways to stop your tooth nerve pain will depend on the circumstances surrounding it and may include:
- prescriptions for desensitizing agents or fluoride gel
- fillings for new cavities
- replacement of damaged or missing fillings
- crowns to take the place of a cracked or broken tooth
- dental bondings, or inlays
- root canal therapy, if the tooth is decayed or infected
- antibiotic prescription, if an infection is discovered
- cold-laser phototherapy to reduce the inflammation and pain
- gum disease treatments, including a gum graft
While sensitivity is what may initially trigger your tooth nerve pain, if left untreated, it can progress with the pain occurring for more extended periods and causing more severe problems over time.
Bateson Dentistry is Here for All Your Dental Health Needs
If you or a family member is experiencing nerve pain in a tooth, call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Bateson and her team today!
Using the latest technology, Bateson Dentistry can make a quicker diagnosis and provide a more comfortable experience for our patients. You can count on us to get behind what is causing your tooth nerve pain and provide a personalized treatment plan that gets results. Find out more today!