Treating toothache with alcohol is wrong — Fatunde
An orthodontist and Executive Director, Dental Outreach for Africa, Dr. Adejoke Fatunde, discusses toothache and its treatments with TOLUWANI ENIOLA
What is toothache?
Toothache is the pain that originates or is related to the teeth and supporting structures. It becomes chronic when it progresses over an extended period of time. It may start with sensitivity or mild pain and gradually progress to pain with increasing intensity or prolonged periodicity, eventually leading to loss of function.
What are the causes?
Chronic toothache may be a progression of untreated acute pain initiated by dental decay or infection of the gums (gingivitis) and supporting structures referred to as periodontal disease or periodontitis. Other causes include grinding and clenching of teeth, as well as physical and chemical trauma to the teeth.
It occurs from lack of adequate care for the teeth and its supporting structures. It may also be associated with uncontrolled underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, other heart diseases, diabetes etc. which are highly prevalent in Nigeria.
A research conducted in the echocardiogram unit of the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria over a period of six months reported a significant association between chronic periodontitis and hypertension.
The researchers recommended that emphasis should be on a regular preventive dental visit as a way of decreasing negative events in cardiovascular health. Similar findings have been reported in other populations.
Can cold water and sugary drinks trigger it?
Cold water may aggravate existing lesions. However, sugary drinks in contact with teeth for an extensive period of time serve as a substrate for the bacteria in the mouth to produce acid which when in contact with the teeth demineralises the teeth, and reduce the hardness and integrity of the protective enamel layer. This initiates the process of dental decay and may make the tooth more sensitive. It may also erode supporting bones and cause inflammation of the gums, starting the process of gum disease.
How can it be treated?
The first step is to visit a dentist. A dentist will do preliminary investigations, including taking x-rays to determine the cause and the appropriate treatment.
What habits can make it a recurring problem?
Failure to clean the teeth with chewing stick or toothbrush before bedtime is one of them. This allows food to sit in the mouth overnight while bacteria in the mouth breaks food down to acid. This sets the stage for dental decay and gum disease. Also, failure to floss between teeth; food between teeth can do the same as above. Lack of visit to the dentist is also common. The dentist will examine and treat incipient lesions. The dentist will also direct the hygienist to do necessary cleaning. This helps to remove dental plaque that is not easily accessible to self-cleaning.
What stage is tooth removal advisable?
Tooth removal is necessitated when a tooth has lost a significant amount of its structure or supporting structures.
What are the options for tooth removal?
Once a tooth has deteriorated to the point of needing removal, there is almost no alternative. It is best to allow the removal and then follow with replacement of the removed tooth to preserve the function and the structure of adjoining or opposing teeth.
How best can toothache be prevented?
This can be done in a lot of ways. One good way is to clean the teeth with chewing stick or toothbrush twice daily and flossing in between teeth so that all food and debris are removed from the teeth. This will help to prevent tooth decay as well as inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and the supporting structures of the teeth, also referred to as periodontal disease. Avoidance of excessive consumption of refined sugar will help to prevent dental decay.
Avoidance of excessive alcohol intake or very sour or acidic substances which may leach the protective covering of the tooth, called enamel, and expose the sensitive parts of the tooth to irritants and infection.
How often should one visit a dentist?
It is recommended to have dental check-ups twice a year for children and adults. If periodontal disease is already in progress, the visits may need to be increased to three to four times a year.
What other ways can toothache be treated?
Treatment options depend on the diagnosis or the problem. The best option is preventive care achievable by the following: Cleaning with chewing stick or toothbrush twice daily. Visiting the dentist at least twice a year. Healthy eating and control of medical conditions
Can change of toothpaste cause toothache?
Changing toothpaste is unlikely to cause toothache. Toothpaste is only an adjunct to the toothbrush in cleaning the teeth. Cleaning helps prevent toothache by removing food debris and plaque which will prevent dental decay or gum disease. When one has toothache, it is important to continue with effective cleaning, but changing toothpaste alone does not stop or cause it. Toothpaste that contains fluoride is effective against tooth decay and it is recommended, especially for children. Tooth sensitivity may respond to potassium nitrate containing toothpaste such as Sensodyne for adults.
What foods can combat toothache?
Food cannot combat toothache once it starts. However, toothache can be avoided or prevented by healthy eating to aid healthy teeth. Teeth have blood vessels and whatever we eat also flow through the vessels and to the supporting bone just as infections can flow to and from teeth through the blood vessels. Avoidance of excessive sugary foods helps to reduce susceptibility to tooth decay. Limiting exposure of teeth to alcohol reduces leaching of protective substances from teeth.
What wrong methods do Nigerians use in treating toothache?
The use of alcoholic drink such as schnapps is wrong. Alcoholic drinks all have a high concentration of acid. Use of acid water and other caustic substances worsens the pain and causes damage, although people may experience temporary relief with these.
Can toothache lead to death?
Yes. Untreated toothache may result from infection of the tooth and this may track to the brain, causing a brain abscess. In other cases, toothache and related infections can also track to the vessels of the heart or aggravate existing medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes etc. Cases of death from untreated toothache are documented.
How concerned should Nigerians be about issues of dental care?
Awareness of the need for good oral health is a message that must be preached to all. The mouth is the window to the body and the mouth-body connection is a vehicle to health as it is to disease. With Nigeria’s low dental manpower strength, prevention of dental diseases rests with effective oral health care. This will also help to improve medical health.
Going for a dental check-up is important for oral health. It allows timely detection and management of dental diseases and helps to limit the complications.
Health facts: Toothache
A toothache is a common problem that occurs for many reasons. The reason we have a toothache often dictates the proper treatment of it. Below are some facts:
Orthodontic work: Braces, retainers, and other alignment devices are a common cause of aching in teeth. Pain usually occurs right after adjustments, which tighten or move teeth, but the pain normally subsides after a few days.
Misaligned teeth or impacted wisdom teeth: Misaligned teeth can push against other teeth, forcing them out of line as well. This causes pain in the process. Impacted wisdom teeth can also be extremely painful.
Improper brushing or flossing: Sometimes, people brush and floss their teeth far too hard. This results in irritated, inflamed, and bleeding gums. This can cause gum recession causing teeth to become unstable, and causing pain at the same time.
Teeth grinding: Teeth grinding or bruxism is another common reason for tooth, jaw, neck, and related muscle pain. Bruxism can also result in sore jaw bones and joints, headaches, and even cracked or chipped teeth, all of which are very painful.
Damaged fillings or dental sealants: Fillings that cover deep pits, grooves, or tooth fractures, protect vulnerable interior parts of the tooth. When these fillings are damaged, the sensitive inner tooth becomes exposed. This can result in a pain that is anything from a dull ache to a sharp, piercing sensation.
Temperature sensitivity: If you experience sharp tooth pain during, or very soon after, eating or drinking hot or cold foods, it might mean you have sensitive teeth. Your tooth enamel may have been worn down and your tooth’s dentin (the layer where the tooth’s nerves live) exposed. To help protect these nerves, try a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth or consult us.
Tooth fractures: Teeth can be cracked or chipped in a variety of ways, including falls, sports, impacts, or biting down on something hard or sticky. If you feel pain in a fractured tooth, fracture has probably reached the middle of the tooth where the nerve endings are.
Gum disease: Gum disease is characterised by a dull pain in the mouth, red, bleeding gums, and sometimes tooth pain. If untreated, teeth, gums, and bones can be damaged or lost, and surgery may be necessary.
Tooth decay: The most common reason for a painful toothache is good old-fashioned tooth decay, leading to cavities. If a toothache becomes less of an ache and more of a sharp pain, tooth decay may have reached the centre of the tooth. This results in intense pain that makes it difficult to carry on with normal life.