What Causes a Toothache

Toothache“This toothache is killing me!” Okay, this might be an exaggeration, but if you have a toothache now, or have ever had one in the past, you probably don’t think so. Anyone who has never had a toothache cannot possibly know the pain, not to mention the disruption it can cause in your life. You have trouble eating because you can only eat on one side of your mouth, and you often can’t stand any food that’s too cold or too hot. (And how many of the foods you love does this eliminate? In those cold Essex County winters, you can’t drink anything hot, and in those warm Jersey summers, you can’t eat anything cold!) You have trouble sleeping because the pain keeps you awake unless you reach, yet again, for pain killers. Yes, a toothache only seems like it’s not a big deal to a person who’s not suffering from one. So what caused your toothache?

There are many origins of ‘odontalgia’ … just a fancy medical term meaning toothache or tooth pain (‘odont’ meaning ‘having teeth,’ and ‘algia’ meaning ‘pain’). An abscessed tooth, gum infection or tooth decay, damaged fillings, and tooth fracture can all cause tooth pain. The good news is that most toothaches can be avoided. Of course, if you’re suffering from tooth pain from a fracture that was caused by an accident, there may have been little you could have done to avoid ultimately ending up with pain in your mouth. But many toothaches are caused by the foods we eat and/or by improper or insufficient dental care.

Sugars and refined or processed foods are huge culprits in problems with the teeth that can lead to dental pain. Foods with high sugar content can weaken the enamel that keeps teeth strong and healthy. There is no way to get back enamel once it is worn away, and weakened enamel can lead to tooth decay. Processed foods impair enamel in the same way as sugar. Eating raw fruits and vegetables is a good way to keep teeth strong because they contain the nutrients teeth and gums need to stay healthy. Apples, carrots, celery, and leafy green vegetables are excellent for the teeth because they help to clean your teeth as you eat them, and because they contain a high water content which helps to eliminate bacteria that erode enamel.

Believe it or not, juices and other acidic drinks can also be bad for your teeth. Though fruit juices can be good for your health, your teeth … not so much, especially if you’re not someone who brushes enough on top of drinking all those fruity juices. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are also bad for teeth, as they can discolor teeth and can also, just like processed foods and sugars, erode that ever-important enamel that keeps your teeth healthy.

Of course, optimal dental care is just as important to your teeth as the foods you put in your mouth. Brushing at least twice daily, for at least two minutes each time, is not just a guideline for good dental health; it’s a must. And if you eat smaller meals throughout the day, rather than the three larger meals that used to be the norm, you may want to take a toothbrush with you to work so your teeth aren’t going all day without being cleaned. Chewing sugarless gum throughout the day is also helpful, as it keeps your mouth from getting dry. A dry mouth brings with it bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

If you’re tired of hearing about how important flossing is to your teeth, it’s probably because you’ve never tried it. Flossing your teeth can actually be addictive (but in a good way)! Once you start flossing, you’ll begin to notice how unclean your teeth can feel if flossing is neglected. Brushing alone cannot get all those little food particles out from in between your teeth. If you don’t believe this, try flossing just once, but wait until after you’ve brushed. You’ll be surprised at how much food can be left in your teeth even after you’re done brushing.

Toothaches are largely preventable with often just minor behavioral adjustments. If you’re a chronic toothache sufferer, you may just need to make a few tweeks in your daily activities and/or diet to make toothaches a thing of the past.

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