Why does it hurt, doctor?

This is a simplified guide for patients meant to help them describe more accurately the kind of toothache or dental pain they experience, as well as other symptoms that may accompany dental discomfort or pain (swelling, fever, etc.) that need to be correctly identified during the diagnose process. Should you get to the dental office accusing toothache, your dentist is going to investigate the matter prior to proceeding with the treatment.

How should I describe a toothache or dental pain to my dentist?

Toothaches are always annoying and patients tormented by dental pain or discomfort often find it difficult to express exactly what they feel when asked to do so. Here are some useful terms and suggestions that may help you be more accurate in describing your experience:

  • severe pain—a very difficult to manage type of pain, this one usually occurs as a result of inflamed pulp or acute apical abscess;
  • gnawing ache—a dull and persisting pain that usually occurs in pulp inflammation, acute apical abscess, or because of mechanical causes (foreign body, such as food, stuck between teeth);some patients are imprudent enough to take over the counter pain killers home in order to postpone their visit to the dentist as much as possible;
  • throbbing pain—occurs in situations of acute apical abscess, gingival abscess (gumboil) that sometimes develops in patients with some sort of periodontal condition, or inflammation of the pulp chamber of a tooth;
  • mild pain—easily manageable even without the use of pain killers, mild pain may occur in the first stages of decay formation, chronic apical abscess, or thin, demineralized or otherwise compromised dental enamel which causes dentin exposure;
  • intermittent pain—a discontinuous type of dental ache that can be associated with multiple dental conditions: cavities, inflammation, abscess, etc.;
  • persistent ache—long lasting dental pain, most likely connected to acute apical abscess;
  • short-lasting pain or discomfort—not a particularly severe pain, more like a transient discomfort, that appears as a result of periodontal abscess, dentine exposure, or early cavity formation; unless you can get rid of it with Sensodyne, you should probably pay a visit to your dentist;
  • contact reaction—your teeth may hurt in contact with a series of thermal, chemical or mechanical stimuli; reaction to cold foods is usually a sign of exposed dentine, early decay or inflammation of the pulp chamber; pain reaction to hot foods may be a symptom of hypersensitive teeth, but may as well indicate a more severe condition, such as inflamed pulp or acute abscess at the end of root; reaction to tapping usually occurs when some form of abscess is present.

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