Each year, on February 9, the world celebrates “National Toothache Day.” Instead of concentrating on pain, it is a great time to discuss common tooth problems and to learn how to properly care for your oral health.
Following a solid oral hygiene routine and taking preventative measures can help you avoid toothache. It will keep your mouth looking and feeling its best, and it will also help you avoid the need for uncomfortable and time consuming trips to the dentist.
History of National Toothache Day
There are many myths related to this “holiday.” Many suspect that it was created by a dentist in response to the opening of the Hershey Chocolate Company.
Since chocolate is filled with sugar that can lead to cavities, this day was meant to help patients remember the importance of good oral health. A great way to celebrate is to make an appointment with your dentist so that you can receive a checkup or tips that will keep your mouth healthy.
It’s also a great time to look at your habits around brushing, flossing and avoiding foods that can lead to cavities.
What Causes a Toothache?
Many things can lead to a toothache. Some of these include the following:
Abscess – An abscess is a painful infection that occurs at the root of a tooth or in the gums that surround it. Trauma, severe decay, or gum disease can lead to an abscess.
Decay – Cavities cause damage to tooth enamel and the internal dentin layer. They occur when the mouth’s bacteria is turned into acid, which attacks and causes decay.
Damaged Filling – Dental fillings are made to last, but they still fail from time to time, and that can lead to pain.
Gum Infections – If your gums become infected, you may experience pain in your teeth.
Fractured Teeth – Even a hairline fracture can lead to pain in your teeth.
Repetitive Action – If you grind your teeth or chew too roughly, you may cause damage to your teeth that leads to pain.
Since the face and mouth are filled with nerves, the pain from toothaches can be severe. Unlike other body parts, teeth are confined, and blood is restricted in the area. When an infection begins, pressure builds.
As this pressure becomes too great, the problem starts to affect the nerves and results in noticeable discomfort. As pain becomes overwhelming, it is necessary to visit a dental care provider for relief.
How to Prevent Toothache
It is possible to take some preventive measures so that a toothache does not develop.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene. The best way to prevent decay that leads to pain is by following a regular oral hygiene routine. For example, it is important to brush and floss daily. This removes food particles that become stuck on and in between teeth. Rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash is important as well.
- Avoid Sugary Food. To avoid problems that cause toothaches, it is best to limit the amount of sugary foods that you eat. Even when you do consume these items, it is wise to brush your teeth immediately.
- Visit Your Dental Provider Regularly. When you schedule a yearly visit with your dental provider, you will receive a professional cleaning. Also, this professional will perform a routine exam so that small problems are detected before they become large and painful.
This occasion is the perfect time to pay attention to your oral health. It does not require a person to be in pain, but it will help to educate individuals who want to learn how to better care for their mouths. No matter how you celebrate, remember to smile big and to appreciate your teeth.
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A dental check up is usually pretty quick. Therefore, it may not seem particularly reliable to the average patient. Unless you have gum disease or another oral condition, each exam likely involves the exact same services. This may make you wonder whether it’s really necessary to schedule appointments every six months.
However, aside from the usual cavity check, most patients probably aren’t aware of the numerous types of examinations their dentists perform. This shroud of mystery could very well explain the hesitancy or anxiety many patients experience before each visit.
Here’s a simple breakdown of every exam that takes place each time you go to the dentist for a check-up:
Tooth Decay/Cavity Exam
That metal stick with a thin, curved end your dentist uses to touch the surface of your teeth is a sickle probe, aka an “explorer.” This instrument can detect cavities, but that’s just one of its many functions.
The explorer can also determine how much enamel, plaque and tartar are on your teeth. In addition, it tells your dentist how hard each tooth is.
X-rays are another part of the tooth decay and cavity exam. They allow the dentist to see decay and cavities that have just begun to form. They are especially helpful in areas that are not easy to see, like the tiny gaps in between teeth.
In addition to spotting tooth decay and cavities, this exam can identify the cause of each problem. Moreover, it helps your dentist figure out what kind of treatment to use.
Periodontal probes look much like a sickle probe. However, they have a blunt edge, which is used to assess the state of your gums. Your dentist will use one to measure pocket depth, or the amount of space between your gum tissue and tooth.
The numbers your hygienist calls out are measurements read off the periodontal probe. Numbers between one and three are generally healthy and normal. They will then compare the findings with previous measurements. This helps them to determine the presence of gum disease. A loss of connective tissue is a sign of bone loss.
Pocket depth must be measured and recorded twice a year in order to monitor changes in bone and tissue attachment levels. Many patients with gum disease don’t find out they have it until it’s too late. Therefore, it is crucial that you go in for a checkup on a regular basis.
Oral Cancer Exam
That blue light some dentists shine in your mouth comes from a VELscope. This is used to examine the mucous membrane (the oral mucosa) lining inside the mouth.
Any abnormalities in this area could be an early sign of oral cancer. If caught early through an oral cancer exam, there is a good chance minimal surgery will help prevent the cancer from spreading.
A Joint/bit exam is when your dentist puts his or her fingers near your ears and asks you to open and close your mouth. In this exam, your dentist is checking your Temporal Mandibular Joints (TMJ), which connect the jawbone to the skull.
If the dentist detects poor bite alignment, tenderness in the joint and connecting muscles, or any particularly sensitive areas, the patient might have a TMJ disorder. The exam will help the dentist identify the cause of the problem and figure out what type of treatment to use.
Teeth cleaning removes plaque and biofilm, which is a layer of oral bacteria that can stick to your teeth. The process also removes calculus, a byproduct of hardened biofilm. Having plaque, calculus and biofilm removed at least twice a year dramatically decreases your risk of developing cavities, gum disease, and even bad breath.
Now Does It Seem Worth It?
These exams are purely routine and do not include the services your dentist could provide for any individual problems you might have.
So when you consider everything your dentist does in a single visit, doesn’t it make sense to say that a check-up is most definitely worth your time and money?
Skipping the dentist increases your chances of developing potentially serious oral health problems. Remember, your dentist is trying to address issues before they become a threat to your health. If she succeeds, your two visits per year could be the only days you spend in the dental chair!
Read next: Dental Health Screening: Why Regular Checkups Help Protect More than Just Your Teeth