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Why Does My Tooth Hurt?

Cavities are not the only cause of a toothache. Schedule an appointment with us to know what's causing the pain.

Cavities are not the only cause of a toothache. Schedule an appointment with us to know what’s causing the pain.

Most of us have experienced some type of toothache at some point in our lifetime, and the possible causes for the discomfort are numerous. At the first sign of tooth pain, many people immediately begin to fear that they have developed a cavity. It’s an understandable first impression, however, it’s also not uncommon for these same people to learn that their pain wasn’t coming from a cavity at all. A trip to the dentist is often the only way to get to the bottom of the problem.

Basic Dental Anatomy

A basic understanding of your oral anatomy will help you to better understand the source(s) of a toothache. Your teeth are alive! They have nerves and a blood supply to keep them healthy. The outer layer of your teeth, the enamel, helps to protect everything on the inside of your tooth.

Directly underneath the enamel is the dentin, another hard layer that’s composed of microscopic tubes that communicate with the nerves inside your teeth. If these tubes become exposed, it can result in an increased sensitivity to heat, cold, sweets, and/or other stimuli. The pulp houses the tooth’s nerve and blood supply. If the nerve becomes inflamed, it can become extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations.

Why do I have a Toothache?

As mentioned previously, toothaches result from a number of different causes:

  • A cavity is the result of bacteria eroding holes through the enamel of a tooth, thereby exposing the dentin and/or pulp.
  • Losing an old filling also exposes your tooth’s sensitive interior, which can cause discomfort as well.
  • A dental abscess (infection) results in a build up of pressure around the root of your tooth, which can cause varying degrees of discomfort.
  • Grinding your teeth can also cause toothaches by wearing away the enamel on your teeth and/or causing gum recession that can lead to irritation of the tissues around the teeth.
  • Gingivitis and periodontal disease (gum disease) begins with bacterial growth in your mouth that can lead to destruction of the tissue that surrounds your teeth if not properly treated.
  • Believe it or not, pain in your upper teeth can even be the direct result of a sinus infection.

We hope that this information serves as a jumping-off point for you if you’re experiencing any sort of oral discomfort. It’s extremely important for everyone to note, however, that it is impossible to know the absolute cause of a toothache without paying a visit to a qualified dental professional. West Meade Dental will provide you with the comprehensive dental care necessary to keep you smiling confidently for years to come. Schedule an appointment to come and see us today!

About Cavities and Fillings

A cavity can be a pain - literally! Make sure you practice proper oral hygiene and have regular dental check-ups to avoid cavities.

A cavity can be a pain – literally! Make sure you practice proper oral hygiene and have regular dental check-ups to avoid cavities.

It’s news we never like to hear during a dental visit: “You have a cavity.” But while we always want to do everything we can to prevent cavities, there’s a lot we can do to restore your teeth today if one develops, and that goes well beyond the metal fillings of yesteryear.

What is a Cavity?

The simplest explanation is that a cavity is a hole that develops in a tooth, opening it up to further damage and decay. But to understand cavities, it’s helpful to know how and why they develop.

We talk a lot about brushing and flossing to get rid of bacteria in your mouth, and it’s because that bacteria, when allowed to stay and multiply, can cause significant damage to your teeth and your gums. Bacteria can irritate and inflame gums, potentially leading to periodontal disease, and the acids produced by those bacteria can damage the enamel on your teeth as well, slowly wearing their way to a cavity. Once a cavity develops, it can’t heal on its own, and if it isn’t treated it will continue to worsen. That can lead to nerve damage, and the need for a root canal.

What We Can Do to Repair a Tooth with a Cavity

If West Meade Dental finds a cavity during a checkup, we’ll recommend immediate treatment to halt the damage. Depending on how significant your tooth decay is, that can range from a filling to a porcelain crown.

In most cases, if you’re keeping up with regular dental visits, we’ll be able to catch a cavity before more involved treatment is necessary, and we’ll recommend a filling that repairs the tooth aesthetically and functionally.

At West Meade Dental, we use tooth-colored fillings that restore your bite and protect the tooth’s nerves from further damage, but also look and feel just like the rest of your teeth. It’s a big difference from the highly noticeable gold alloy we were stuck with in decades past.

Preventing Cavities

If you do develop a cavity, West Meade Dental can help — but preventing a cavity in the first place is always our first hope. That’s why we recommend diligent oral care at home and regular visits to our office for cleanings and checkups (the frequency of recommended visits depends on your individual oral health, but in most cases, it’s every six months).

In between cleanings and checkups, you can do a lot to prevent cavities. Eating a balanced diet is important, as is following good oral health practices between meals. Rinsing with water after eating and drinking — particularly if you’ve having acidic or sugary food and drink — is always a good practice. And your daily tooth care routine should include flossing once a day, and brushing twice, using a soft-bristled brush and ADA-approved toothpaste.

To take a step further toward prevention, West Meade Dental can apply a dental sealant to coat your molars, which acts as a long-term barrier to keep bacteria from lodging and multiplying between your teeth and leading to tooth decay.

Do you have any questions about cavities or general oral health? We’re always glad to help our patients. Just give West Meade Dental a call!

Daily Care for Teeth

Everyday Habits for Healthy Teeth

No one likes having problems with their teeth. Whether it is aesthetics or something more serious there are a litany of problems that can affect your teeth. For most people these problems are only a concern once they happen but taking the proper preventative steps can keep you from every having to deal with them at all. With peoples’ busy schedules getting busier all the time sometimes basic oral hygiene can fall by the wayside. As people fall asleep at their computers at night or wake up late for work proper brushing techniques are being discarded like the floss they should be using! This is however no excuse and for many people this lack of attention to their pearly whites will lead to preventable problems in the future. For some they may simply have forgotten the brushing basics but have no fear.

Yes. You should be brushing. And flossing. These two simple activities can save you a lot of money and pain later on.

Yes. You should be brushing. And flossing. These two simple activities can save you a lot of money and pain later on.

Here is a refresher:

The first thing to know about any job is that you must have the proper equipment to get it done. It is prudent to replace your brush every 3 – 4 months (sooner if the bristles are frayed). This will make sure that the brush is getting to all the spots it is designed to get to. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day (morning and evening) however if you only brush once it should be at night before you go to sleep. Otherwise your teeth will stew in whatever you have eaten that day all night. It’s not a pretty picture but it is the truth!

When you brush it is important to get to every tooth. Move the brush in small circles on every surface of every tooth. This is especially important near the gumline where plaque can buildup. Once this is done for every tooth rinse your mouth and move on to flossing. When flossing it is important that you have enough floss to get the job done. 18 inches of floss is the standard recommendation. Make sure to floss in between every set of teeth. This also includes the back molars on both sides even though there is not a tooth on the other side. This will help eliminate food particles that may have gotten stuck in between your teeth. It is best to rinse your mouth with water after this to get any floating particles that may be lef

Once you have brushed and flossed you may think you are done but there is one other step that many people do not do. Rinse your mouth out with mouthwash. This not only serves to freshen your breath but also will help dis-infect your mouth. An alcohol based mouthwash will help clear the bacteria away from any cuts or sores in your mouth as well which can help prevent disease (not only of the mouth but other diseases and infections as well).

It may seem simple but these steps go a long way in promoting a healthy mouth and a pretty smile. If you ever need any extra motivation get online and look up gum disease and some of the other problems (and solutions) an unhealthy mouth must face. I promise you’ll be furiously brushing in no time!

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Do I Need An Orthodontist?

Identifying When a Dentist or Orthodontist is Needed

When do you need a dentist, orthodontist, or other dental professional? The answer depends on the condition and how long it has been present. In general, adults and children should visit a dentist once every six months for a complete oral examination and teeth cleaning procedure. If a dentist finds issues such as cavities or the beginning stages of gum disease, a follow-up visit may be required. Crooked or crowded teeth are among the issues that may indicate the need to visit an orthodontist. Their specialty is the strategic shifting of teeth.

During a general examination, the dentist inspects the gums, teeth, and tongue and may probe certain areas to test for sensitivity or cavities. Teeth are then scaled to remove plaque and tartar buildup before cleaning each tooth with a special instrument and dental paste. If fluoride treatment is recommended, it is applied to clean teeth and the mouth is rinsed. Periodically, the dentist may take X-rays of the teeth and mouth. Current condition and medical and dental history determine the frequency of X-rays.

Dental Check-up - Nashville TN - West Meade Dental

Dental Check-up – Nashville TN – West Meade Dental

Dental X-rays are used to visualize tooth and oral tissue diseases that an examination cannot identify. Dentists use X-rays to help located and treat dental issues at early stages, potentially saving pain, money, and even lives. For children, these X-rays help identify decay, determine whether the mouth has enough space to accommodate incoming teeth, and assess whether primary tooth loss is occurring fast enough to allow the proper emergence of permanent teeth.

An X-ray can verify wisdom tooth development in older children and whether these teeth will be able to emerge through gums. With adults, X-rays are used to reveal areas of decay that are not visible during an oral exam, particularly decay between teeth. An X-ray can identify changes in the root canal or bone due to infection and point out bone loss due to gum disease. Dentists often use X-rays to assist with preparation of dentures, implants, braces, and other procedures.

Most symptoms or issues that pertain to the teeth, gums, and mouth are not emergencies. However, immediate attention is recommended in certain situations. If a permanent tooth is knocked out, visit a dentist immediately because it may be possible to re-implant the tooth. A dental visit should also be scheduled if a tooth is chipped or broken. Retain the piece that broke off and store it in a cool, moist cloth. Treatment will be based on the extent of the chip or break.

If a tooth is knocked out of its correct position or becomes misaligned, use light pressure to try to push it back into place. Bite down on the tooth to maintain the correct position and see a dentist immediately. Treatment may involve splinting the tooth to help it heal. Trauma to the mouth area may also result in lacerations or cuts on the tongue, cheeks, or gums. Apply direct pressure to control bleeding and seek immediate dental or medical attention.

Non-traumatic tooth issues include tooth pain or a toothache resulting from a dental abscess or cavity in or around a tooth. If the gum around the affected tooth swells significantly, fluid drains from the area, or the pain is severe, have a dentist evaluate the situation. Redness or swelling of gums is not usually an urgent situation but since it may indicate infection or gum disease, schedule a dental appointment as soon as is convenient.

Orthodontic treatment is designed to straighten teeth so they sit well with teeth on the opposite jaw. With a good bite, it becomes easier to speak, bite, and chew. There are several signs that it is time to vista an orthodontist:

 

  • Losing baby teeth earlier or later than is normal
  • Sucking fingers
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Difficulty biting or chewing
  • Teeth that are blocked-out, crowded, or misplaced
  • Teeth that protrude
  • Teeth that do not meet or that meet abnormally
  • Clenching or grinding teeth
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Recessed, protruding, or shifting jaw
  • Jaw that makes sounds
  • Inability to close lips comfortably
  • Biting the roof of the mouth or biting the cheek
  • Facial features disproportionate with the remainder of the face
  • Facial imbalance

 

Dental treatment helps patients maintain clean and healthy mouths. Orthodontic care is part of comprehensive dental treatment for some patients. It ensures a healthy bite, which is important at any age. Knowing when it is time to visit a dentist or orthodontist and receiving the proper treatment can help teeth last for a lifetime.

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