Q: What actually happens with a toothache?
A: A toothache is one of life’s more unpleasant experiences. It actually is the body’s reaction to an infection. When decay becomes deep enough, it exposes the pulp of the tooth to the bacteria that cause infection. Your body fights the infection by sending increased blood flow to the area. But because the tooth’s nerve and pulp are encased in enamel, pressure builds inside the tooth as a result of the increased blood flow. Swelling and pain begin.
A toothache can begin as a dull throbbing experience and gradually escalate to the point of excruciating pain. As the infection spreads to the periodontal ligament, which is the membrane that holds the tooth in its socket, a person will now experience pain when the infected tooth comes in contact, as in chewing, with the opposing teeth.
Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin may temporarily ease the pain of a toothache. A caution: Don’t put an aspirin directly on the gum. It can burn or irritate it. A toothache is a sign of a problem for which you should seek prompt professional attention.
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