Sharp Toothache: A Guide For Pain Management

A sharp toothache is typically where a dental emergency begins. Sometimes it may start out as a minor dull ache. Throughout the day, however, it can go vary from 1-10 on the pain scale. A toothache is probably one of the most common dental emergencies that we see at Lincoln Family Dentistry. Before diving into them more, it is important to note that toothaches are almost always preventable. Using proper oral hygiene techniques and seeing your dentist in Lincoln, NE regularly will prevent cavities.

Image of our gentle family dentist in Lincoln, NE, Dr. Kelly O'Hara discussing causes for a toothache with a patient.

What causes a toothache?

While a cavity is not always the reason for a toothache, it is usually the main cause. As we consume foods and drinks throughout our day, plaque builds up on our teeth. The bacteria in plaque react with sugars which turn into an acid. This acid eats away at the enamel of the teeth. When this surpasses the enamel and gets into the next layer, the dentin, you have a cavity in need of repair. However, it still should not hurt at this point. When bacteria gets into the live part of the tooth, the pulp, you will typically get a toothache.

Image of a tooth showing decay. If you have decay, our dentist in Lincoln, NE can help you.

As the enamel erodes, you may have a small cavity that, if gone unnoticed, can progress deeper into the tooth causing damage and eventually a fair amount of discomfort. When a cavity reaches the pulp, the tooth can become infected quickly causing an abscess. Sometimes this is visible on your gums near the tooth (often described as a “bubble” on the gum or roof of the mouth), but other times it is only visible via an x-ray which will reveal an abscess typically near the root of the tooth. Once this occurs, an emergency dental visit is in your near future as a tooth infection can case a great deal of discomfort.

Image of our gentle family dentist in Lincoln, NE, Dr. Kelly O'Hara discussing options for helping a toothache with a patient at her Lincoln dental clinic.

What can you do for your sharp toothache?

While Lincoln Family Dentistry works hard to get a dental emergency in as soon as possible, you may need relief fast. Read on to learn about how to help ease toothache discomfort while you await your appointment.

If a toothache is accompanied by facial swelling, it is important to see the emergency dentist as soon as possible as this is often a sign of infection. Applying a cold compress to the cheek can help relieve some of the swellings and temporarily ease discomfort. We recommend taking Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory, to help with any swelling.

Clove oil can also be used to help relieve discomfort or sensitivity temporarily. Rub the clove oil on the gums and the tooth for the most effective results. If there is an actual hole in the tooth caused by decay, sometimes placing a bit of dental wax to seal up the hole and prevent debris from entering the tooth can help. Rinsing with a warm glass of salt water can also help draw out some fluid reducing swelling and sensitivity.

Image of Dr. Kelly O'Hara, a dentist in Lincoln, NE discussing options for helping a sharp toothache.

What can your emergency dentist do for a toothache?

A toothache can start as an annoying or nagging feeling that gets worse over time. It is a great idea to catch it at this stage versus when it becomes excruciating. Lincoln Family Dentistry dentists recommend making an appointment or calling the after hours emergency number if you start to feel a great amount of discomfort in a tooth.

Once an appointment is made, we will get you into the office as soon as possible to evaluate the tooth. If you are having referred pain, pinpointing the exact tooth is sometimes not as simple as it sounds. An x-ray will be taken, and testing will be gently performed to determine the source of the discomfort.

Small Cavities 

In the case of a small cavity, the doctor will remove the decay and refill the tooth with a composite filling material, that will match the color of your teeth. Lincoln Family Dentistry dentists use a composite material over the dated amalgam (silver) filling material because it is the healthiest option for the patient. Silver fillings also expand and contract with temperature changes in the mouth which cause cracks in the tooth and can lead to much bigger problems down the road.

When you have a toothache because of a cavity, sometimes the decay has consumed so much healthy tooth structure, which a filling is just not enough to repair it. In this case, a crown, or cap, is placed over the tooth once the decay is removed to give the tooth strength and prevent it from fracturing.

If the decay has indeed reached the pulp of the tooth and infection has occurred, a root canal must be performed to clean out the infection. While this procedure has a bad reputation, it is basically like getting a deep filling within the tooth, along with a few steps to sterilize the tooth also. We’ll remove the infected nerve along with any decay. Although the tooth will no longer have a living nerve, it can remain in the mouth. It’ll function normally instead of being extracted. Once your “Lincoln dentist near me” performs the root canal, they’ll place a crown to strengthen the tooth and prevent it from breaking.

Image showing x-rays done by a dentist in Lincoln, NE.

Are some people more susceptible to decay-causing a sharp toothache?

Your oral hygiene habits do play a large part in whether you get cavities easily. Your diet is also an important factor. Even your mom’s diet when she was pregnant likely affected the strength of your enamel. The same goes for your diet starting as a young child; if it lacked nutrients or sugars, this could have damaged the development of your teeth.

Your genetics also come into play, some patients have parents who both have great teeth, hardly ever have cavities, or other dental issues, and the patient seems to be similar. Other times patients may have one or more parent who struggles with multiple dental issues due to weak enamel, and they have unfortunately seemed to inherit that trait as well. Weak enamel makes teeth more susceptible to decay and causes the tooth to deteriorate faster than those with strong enamel.

Your genetics also come into play, some patients have parents who both have great teeth, hardly ever have cavities or other dental issues, and the patient seems to be similar. Other times patients may have one or more parent who struggles with multiple dental issues due to weak enamel, and they have unfortunately seemed to inherit them as well. Weak enamel makes teeth more susceptible to decay and causes the tooth to deteriorate faster than those with strong enamel.

Whether you believe you are more susceptible to decay or not, a good, consistent oral hygiene routine is imperative to help avoid toothaches. Maintaining proper oral health will prevent dental emergencies in the future.

Preventing Dental Emergencies

The crucial final step to preventing a dental emergency is to visit your dentist in Lincoln, NE on a regular basis! It’s important to go to the dentist twice a year for regular cleanings and exams. If it’s been recommended you go more, be sure to follow your dentist’s recommendation. A professional dental cleaning removes buildup that just isn’t possible to remove with a regular toothbrush or other home dental products. X-rays are taken once time per year to check for decay that may have started but is not yet to the point of causing discomfort. The x-rays used at Lincoln Family Dentistry are safe and comfortable and can diagnose a cavity before it becomes a dental emergency if left unnoticed or untreated. At your professional cleaning, your teeth will also be checked over by your hygienist and the doctor to ensure everything is healthy, including past dental work.

Frequently Asked Questions about a Sharp Toothache

Image of a woman who is happy to have her dental pain and sharp toothache gone.

What can I do for a sharp toothache that is triggered by biting pressure?

Adjusting a newly placed filling or creating a mouth guard can provide relief. Contact your Lincoln emergency dentist to evaluate your toothache.

Can sinuses cause tooth pain?

Yes, sinusitis or sinus infection can cause a toothache, specifically in the upper rear teeth, which are close to the sinuses. Pain in the upper teeth is a fairly common symptom with sinus conditions. If you have a persistent toothache, first consult a “Lincoln dentist near me” for an exam.

Image of a happy man who found relief for his sharp toothache from a dentist in Lincoln, NE.

What can I do for a sharp toothache that wakes me up from sleep?

Take Ibuprofen or aspirin a few hours before you go to bed. You can also take Tylenol PM directly before you go to bed. This should help alleviate any discomfort. Then, contact your Lincoln emergency dentist to evaluate your toothache.

What can I do for a sharp toothache that is triggered by hot or cold temperatures?

There are a few things you can do to relieve your toothache temporarily until getting into your Lincoln emergency dentist. First, you can use sensitive strips by Crest or a sensitivity protection toothpaste. You can also take aspirin or Ibuprofen but never put this type of medication directly on your gum tissue.

Image of a man who is seeing a dentist in Lincoln, NE for sharp toothache relief.

What can I do for a sharp, throbbing discomfort?

An excellent way to control toothache discomfort is to alternate taking Ibuprofen and Tylenol every four hours. Contact your Lincoln emergency dentist to evaluate your toothache as soon as possible.

Are a sharp toothache and tooth sensitivity normal after a dental filling?

Expect some sensitivity after your dentist places a filling. When a tooth receives a filling, the nerve inside the tooth can become irritated. Fortunately, sensitivity will subside with time. Taking over the counter anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen), will also help with the sensitivity after having a dental filling placed.

Image of a woman who found relief for her sharp toothache from a dentist in Lincoln, NE.

Is a sharp toothache in a tooth that had a root canal normal?

During a root canal, your dentist removes the nerve inside your tooth. If your dentist performed a root canal, and that tooth is now hurting, see your emergency dentist immediately. Your Lincoln dentist will need to ensure there is no infection or crack in the tooth.

At any of our Nebraska Family Dentistry locations, you can find compassionate care from professionals that strive to provide excellent dental treatment to every patient, every time. In everything that we do, comfort, satisfaction, and quality dental work are our standards.

Image of Dr. Kelly O'Hara a dentist in Lincoln, NE at Lincoln Family Dentistry.

The information on this page was written by Dr. Kelly O’Hara.

This gentle Lincoln, NE dentists says: “I perform gentle dentistry for the entire family and focus on children’s dentistry, extreme smile makeovers, cosmetic dentistry and placing mercury-free dental fillings. Moreover, I also want to provide a better quality of life to patients who have lost their teeth by making implant retained dentures. I have many goals, but one that is very important to many of us: to keep dentistry affordable by taking all of the primary dental plans and by also offering dental payment plans to patients that seek them. I am fully committed to making sure all patients feel comfortable while in my care.”

You can schedule with this dentist in Lincoln, NE, or her partners, online 24/7 at a Lincoln Family Dentistry Location near you. This “dentist near me” serves the local communities close to Lincoln. Some of the communities include Eagle, Walton, Weeping Water, Avoca, and many more!

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