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Home > Health Library > Toothache and Gum Problems
Toothaches and gum problems are common. But you can usually prevent them by taking good care of your teeth and gums. Keeping your teeth, gums, and the bones around your teeth healthy requires regular brushing, flossing, and good nutrition. Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste that's approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
Sometimes you may have tooth pain when you touch a tooth or when you eat or drink foods that are hot, cold, sweet, or sour (a sensitive tooth). Mild sensitivity can be caused by shrunken (receded) gums or a worn-down tooth. Moderate to severe sensitivity can mean that you have a cracked tooth, a dental cavity, or a lost filling. Seeing a dentist for treatment can prevent the tooth from dying.
The most common cause of a toothache is tooth decay. But you might not have a toothache in the early stages of decay. Other reasons for a toothache might include:
Sometimes a toothache can be caused by another health problem, such as:
Healthy gums are pink and firm and don't bleed easily. Now and then, your gums may bleed if you brush your teeth and gums too hard, use a hard-bristled toothbrush, or snap dental floss hard against your gums. Be gentle with your teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss carefully to help prevent bleeding gums.
Gingivitis is a gum disease that causes red, swollen gums that bleed easily when brushed. Because gingivitis usually doesn't cause pain, many people delay treatment. If not treated, gum disease can cause more serious problems with the gum tissue.
Periodontitis is severe gum disease. It's caused by long-term infection of the gums, bone, and other tissues that surround and support the teeth. It can progress until the bones that support the teeth are damaged. In this late stage, teeth may become loose and fall out or need to be removed. Early treatment of gum disease is important to prevent tooth loss.
Other causes of gum bleeding, swelling, and pain include:
Smoking and using other tobacco products increases your risk for gum disease. Smokers have a higher chance of having gum disease throughout their mouths than nonsmokers. But you might not have symptoms of bleeding or swollen gums. That's because the normal bleeding immune response is affected by tobacco use. Chewing tobacco or using snuff may push back the gums in the area of the mouth where the tobacco is inserted. Constant irritation caused by tobacco products increases your risk of oral cancer.
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Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause mouth problems. A few examples are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Try these tips to help treat a sensitive tooth, toothache, or gum problem.
You can reduce sensitivity to heat, cold, or brushing.
Try these tips for caring for a loose tooth.
Teeth that are slightly loose but still in their normal position should tighten up in 1 to 2 weeks.
Mouth injuries that are forceful enough to knock out a tooth may also damage other teeth or other structures in the mouth or face, such as the roof of the mouth, gums, lips, or cheeks. A permanent tooth can sometimes be put back into its socket (reimplanted). The best results occur if a dentist puts the tooth back in the socket within 30 minutes. Chances of successful reimplantation are unlikely after 2 hours.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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