There are many theories as to how King Tut, the young pharaoh, died. One of these theories (which has been disproved) is that he died of a tooth infection that spread into his bloodstream. The pharaoh did not exactly have access to a dentist or antibiotics, so there wasn’t much he could do about the infection. You, however, should take his story as a lesson. If you ever develop a toothache, make an appointment with your dentist to take advantage of modern medicine that can alleviate your symptoms.

Read on to learn more about toothaches and why you should seek treatment when you develop one.

Why Are Toothaches a Problem?

There are several possible causes of tooth pain. Mild discomfort that appears only when you bite into hot and cold foods may be caused by a loose filling, weak enamel, or gum recession. While you should see your dentist about these problems, there’s generally no reason to make an emergency appointment.

On the other hand, deep, aching tooth pain or pain that feels like constant stinging and pressure often has a different cause: a dental abscess. An abscess is an infection that occurs in or around the root of your tooth. This area is rich with nerves, which is why the abscess feels so painful. It’s also rich with blood vessels, which means that if the conditions are right, the infection could spread into your bloodstream and into other bodily tissues.

Note, however, that a spreading infection is rare. If you seek medical and dental treatment sooner rather than later, you lower your risk of complications.

What Should You Do When You Develop a Toothache?

If you have a toothache, make a call to your dentist. He or she may ask you a number of questions about your symptoms, such as:

  • Is there any pus around the painful tooth?
  • Is your mouth bleeding?
  • Do you have a fever or are you experiencing any chills?
  • Are you feeling weak or nauseous?
  • Is the pain throbbing or constant?
  • Do you have a foul taste in your mouth?
  • Are you able to eat or drink?

Based on your answers to these questions, your dentist will determine the extent of your condition and how soon you need to be treated. Generally, your dentist will schedule an appointment to see you within a day or two.

In the rarest and most severe cases, such as if you have a high fever and are feeling weak, you may be sent to the emergency room for antibiotic treatment or have to come into the dental office immediately.

How Is a Toothache Treated?

While you’re awaiting your dental appointment, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. These remedies won’t cure the problem, but they may ease your pain a bit:

  • Hold an ice pack against the outside of your cheek near the painful tooth.
  • Apply a numbing gel, like those made for teething infants, to the sore tooth and surrounding gums.
  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater.

Once you arrive at the dentist’s office, he or she will examine your tooth and take some X-rays to get a better idea of the extent of the abscess. Then, depending on the location and severity of the problem, one or more of the following treatments may be recommended.

Root Canal

If a dental abscess is the source of your toothache, a root canal is the most common treatment. Your dentist will numb the area around your tooth to keep you comfortable, and then he or she will create an hole through the tooth to access the roots. The infected tooth pulp will be removed, and the access hole will be filled. Usually, the tooth will then be covered with a crown to protect it from future damage.

Extraction

If the infection is extensive or if your dentist thinks the tooth is too weak for a root canal, he or she may recommend removing the tooth. After you’ve had some time to heal, you can have the missing tooth replaced with a bridge, partial or dental implant.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics aresometimes prescribed along with a root canal or extraction to ensure that the bacteria causing the infection are eradicated completely. Make sure you take the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if you feel just fine, as failing to do so may not entirely treat the issue.

In today’s modern world, there’s no reason for you to suffer from a toothache. If you have pain in any of your teeth, call your dentist as soon as possible. He or she will advise you on the best treatment protocol based on your specific symptoms. You can also ask your dentist for advice on how best to care for your smile after treatment.