Dental pain diagnosis

Specialty of Endodontics

What is dental pain?

Dental pain or a toothache is a pain in a tooth caused by the nerve in the root of the tooth becoming irritated. The central part of the tooth, known as the dental pulp (soft tissue part) becomes inflamed.

What are the symptoms of dental pain?

Common symptoms in relation to dental pain are:

  • A constant toothache

  • Pain when eating or drinking something hot or cold

  • Pain when chewing

  • Bleeding gums

  • Swollen jaw and face 

  • Pain radiating to the ear and jaw

How is dental pain diagnosed?

Dental pain can be diagnosed by a dentist or endodontist. They may tap on the tooth to identify the source of the pain, look for areas of dental decay, swelling and redness. Your dentist will need to ensure that the pain is caused by your teeth and not by sinusitis, an ear infection or injury to the temporomandibular joint.

A thorough medical history assessment and oral exam can lead to a diagnosis. X-rays are often used to get a clearer picture of the source of the pain.

What are the causes of dental pain?

The most common causes of a toothache are tooth decay, dental cavities, injury or infection. Sometimes pain originating from the jaw joint (temporomandibular disorder), the ears or the sinuses can cause what feels like a toothache.

Can dental pain be prevented?

Most dental problems can be avoided by:

  • Regularly brushing the teeth with fluoride toothpaste

  • Flossing and using mouthwash

  • Having your teeth checked and cleaned twice per year

How is dental pain treated?

Dental pain treatment will depend on the cause. The dentist will perform tooth fillings, tooth extraction and root canal treatment as required. Antibiotics will normally be prescribed if there is fever or swelling present. If fever is present, a pain injection is administered and the reconstructive procedures will be carried out in the following weeks and months. If dental pain is the result of something other than the teeth or jaw, then management will depend on the condition.

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