The Anatomy of a Toothache: The Stages of Tooth Decay

Toothaches are probably the last in the list of everyone’s favourite type of pain. It is constantly painful, distractingly throbbing, and often prevents us from functioning well during the day. Focus is lost because of it, and even the slightest jaw movements set the pain on a different level; all for a single tooth with a hole. But is it really just that?

The Basics

Toothaches are usually caused by the following: tooth decay, abscessed tooth (pus from infections in and around the tooth), infected or inflamed gums, damaged fillings, or tooth fractures. The pain may be accompanied by swelling around the infected tooth, fever or headaches, and sometimes even foul smelling and tasting material coming from the tooth itself. gingivitis

The Onset

When we eat sugary foods, saliva breaks it down and turns the sugar into acids. These acids may gradually erode layers of the tooth enamel, softening it and eventually resulting in holes or cavities. The more the teeth or tooth in question is exposed to sugar, the more acid is produced, and the bigger the hole, until they hit the nerves, which is the trigger for pain.

Another possible reason for tooth ache is gum disease. When bacteria or plaque accumulate at the base of the teeth, it causes bone erosion or softening and forms pockets between the gums and teeth. Following this, food may get stuck in these pockets, which are also painful.

The Climax

Within the tooth is a pulpal system made of nerves and blood vessels. This is located below the exposed part of the tooth, and is responsible for supplying sensation and nutrition to the tooth from the body. When cavities are formed, the holes grow bigger as more acid breaks down the enamel of the tooth. Once they are big and deep enough to hit the pulpal system, pain immediately begins.

Unfortunately, bacteria do not stop there. It goes deeper to the roots of the tooth and exit through the little holes where the pulpal system is connected to the inside, and causes even more severe pain. This is because after the tooth, the bacteria then attack the underlying jaw bones. Given the bone’s density and the stubbornness of the bacteria to drill and expand, the pain is very intense and the bacteria may bring more infections to the body now that it’s gained entry to the individual’s system.

The Ending

Unless medical attention is sought, there is no ending to toothaches. Pain medications only serve to provide temporary relief, but once worn off, pain returns undiluted. Antibiotics may kill the bacteria, but they do not stop the production of new ones. Still, the best solutions include filling the cavities that have not yet reached the pulp, root canal if it has reached the pulp but not the bone, and possibly, extraction of the tooth itself if the damage is already very severe. Antibiotics may be given in conjunction with the treatment, as well as pain killers to provide relief while recovering.

Toothaches are a serious matter, and we at Greenspoint Dental take it seriously. Contact us to schedule your appointment.