What to do when tooth pain is ruining your life

November 27, 2013

From the experts at 123 Dentist Ltd

Prevention really is the key to good health. It’s always good to catch the cavities before they start causing pain.

Dr. Edmund Wong, DMD, dentist, 123 Dentist Ltd »

An aching tooth is more than just an annoyance. If you’re suffering from tooth pain that just won’t go away, it’s best to find out what it is and how to treat it.

What to do when tooth pain is ruining your life

You might not want to think about it right now, but recurring tooth pain could become a big problem if not properly taken care of.

Dr. Edmund Wong, a dentist at 123 Dentist, suggests Advil or ibuprofen for immediate pain relief – but these are only temporary solutions to what could be a more complex condition that should be seen by a dentist.

What's causing my tooth pain?

Tooth pain could be the result of a cavity. According to Dr. Wong, a cavity can progress in as little as three months or take years to develop, depending on a number of factors, including diet and at-home-dental care routines. “The teeth in the back (molars) are more prone to cavities,” he points out. “It's harder to reach back there.”

Another possible cause: “By the time it’s throbbing and aching, usually that means it’s more than just a cavity,” Dr. Wong explains. “It could mean you need a root canal.”

  • A root canal is an invasive dental procedure that kills and removes the nerve of an infected tooth so it no longer has feeling.
  • Dr. Wong adds that “a tooth that’s previously had a root canal can still get a cavity and, if undetected, can progress and result in tooth loss.”

What do brown spots mean?

Cavities generally start as little brown spots, and typically hide out between your back teeth and in the grooves of your molars.

  • Occasionally, they are detected at the gum line.
  • Most of the time you can see them with your naked eye, but other times they are more difficult to spot.

Not all brown spots mean a cavity is forming. Dr. Wong says fluorosis and simple staining can appear as brown spots. However, it’s best to take such questions to the dentist.

  • Fluorosis is a harmless cosmetic condition caused by excessive fluoride intake.
  • Over time, built-up plaque can result in hard-to-remove tartar stains in between the teeth and gums. Since plaque is full of bacteria, it can eventually lead to cavities.
  • Tar and nicotine from smoking or chewing tobacco can cause dark spots on the teeth. While the stains are harmless, tobacco use can result in bad breath, gum disease, tooth loss and mouth cancer.

Early detection is key

“If we can catch a cavity when it’s small, it’s just a simple filling,” says Dr. Wong.  He recommends children and adults visit their dentist twice a year.

  • During your visit, X-rays can be taken if necessary. “There's lots of things we look at before we make a diagnosis of a cavity,” he says. “X-rays are really helpful and, thanks to today’s technology, radiation exposure has been greatly reduced."

How to prevent cavities at home

“Prevention really is the key to good health,” says Dr. Wong. “It’s always good to catch the cavities before they start causing pain.”

  • There are lots of high-end tools on the market for teeth cleaning, such as water picks or air floss, but good old-fashioned tooth brushing and flossing twice a day is usually enough to prevent dental problems.
  • Reduce sugar intake and rinse with water or zero-alcohol enamel-building mouthwash, such as Listerine Zero, after every meal.
  • Chew gum. Dr. Wong says, “Chewing sugarless gum can help neutralize acids from cavity-causing bacteria.”

Good oral hygiene is learned early

At home, oral hygiene should start from the crib.

  • Before your baby even has teeth, clean his or her gums gently with a damp cloth.
  • From the time the first tooth appears up until the age of three, an adult should use a small soft toothbrush to clean the child’s teeth and gums.
  • From four years of age and up, and until the child can write his or her own name (around the age six), an adult should continue supervising teeth brushing sessions and making sure not to forget to floss between each tooth. To make flossing easier, Dr. Wong suggests imitating a dentist by putting your child’s head in your lap.

Visits to the dentist can start as soon as the first tooth appears.

  • Unfortunately, even a baby can have cavities; if you notice any stains on your child’s teeth or irregularities on the gums, consult a dentist.

While some studies report tooth decay is on the rise among children under the age of six, Dr. Wong says aboriginals, immigrants, refugees, low-income families, and those who live in rural areas and lack access to dental care are also vulnerable to increased dental problems.

The bottom line: brush and floss your teeth twice a day. When it comes to protecting your teeth from painful cavities and possible tooth loss, Dr. Wong says preventative care and a proper checkup every six months are truly the best defence.

123 Dentist is a community of Dentists across the lower mainland, with a single shared goal to provide patients the highest standard of dental services. Visit 123dentist.com or call our Appointment Concierge at 778-986-1200 to make booking your next dental appointment easy and hassle-free. Just give us a call and let us know what you need, and we'll do the rest. Our concierge will find the closest 123 Dentist clinic to you and book your appointment in no time! Call our Dental Emergency line when you experience a dental emergency: 604-805-2500. We're here for you.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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