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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

5 More Tips to help with the agony that is toothache.

a kid with a toothache
Few people can withstand the pain and agony of a toothache. Whether it’s two in the morning, finals week at school, or a particularly busy day at the office, toothaches make our lives miserable. The dentist’s office may be a long drive away, and you may have not set up an appointment days earlier. While some people would bravely go through a day with a toothache, it’s only a matter of time before they finally surrender to the agonizing, writhing pain. If you do not have some painkillers on hand or you’re a long way from seeing a dentist, here are five simple ways to dull the pain of a throbbing toothache.
Suck In Air
For aching teeth that are not sensitive to air, you can try to suck in air towards the tooth. You can use a drinking straw or shift your tongue to draw air into the offending tooth. The air-sucking technique works a lot like the small air blower your dentist uses to dry out yourteeth before an extraction, a root canal session, or a dental filling procedure. The aim is to keep your tooth as dry as possible, which makes the nerves in the pulp less sensitive to the pain.

Try Sugarless Gum
Sometimes contact with air is all that’s needed to cause a throbbing toothache. Dentists use substances like gutta-percha or silver amalgam to fill in cavities and other dental caries, which are a major cause of toothache. While there is no substitute for a professional dental filling procedure, you can opt for a temporary solution before you can go to a dentist.
Sugarless chewing gum is a good way to prevent air coming into contact with a painful cavity. After you have chewed all the flavoring out of the gum, it should be sticky enough to serve as a temporary filling for your cavity, at least for the next few hours until you can get to the dentist. Spicy peppermint gums also work well, as long as they are sugar-free. Chewing gum rich in sugar can irritate your already sensitive tooth, and will only prolong your agony.
Cold Water Remedy
an ice cold glass of water
Painful teeth that are not sensitive to low temperatures can be numbed with cold water. The neat thing about cold water is that it is always available from a refrigerator, a tap with hot/cold knobs, a water dispenser, or a convenience store. Cold water works particularly well for aching molars, impacted wisdom teeth, or a mild tooth abscess. The soothing feel of cold water can also soothe your nerves, and momentarily distract you from the pain. Here is a way to use the cold water remedy effectively:
  • Do not use ice-cold water, carbonated beverages like soda or beer, or crushed ice. Use plain cold water from a water dispenser or a drinking fountain.
  • Hold a small mouthful of cold water in your mouth, and swish it around to the painful tooth. Hold it as long as you can, and gently try to flush out the debris embedded in the cavities or crevices.
  • Repeat the process until the pain subsides.
Hot Water Remedy
People with sensitive teeth may find the cold water remedy even more painful and agonizing than the toothache. Serious tooth decay problems can sometimes be made worse by the cold water remedy. If the painful tooth is sensitive to cold water, you can use hot water to dull the nerves inside the pulp. Hot drinks like coffee or tea can also help draw out some pus from abscessed teeth. Here is a way to use the hot water remedy effectively:
  • Use water that’s hot enough for you to hold in your mouth. You can also try soups, as long as it is not a cream soup or a sweet soup. If you insist on drinking coffee or tea, do not add sugar or milk. Do not add cold water to cool down the drink; the point is that the liquid should be hot enough for you to hold in your mouth.
  • Slowly drink half a mouthful of the liquid, but do not swallow it.
  • Swish the liquid around your mouth to the offending tooth, and hold it there for about five seconds.
  • Repeat the process until the pain subsides.
a man drinking coffee
Brush Away
You can’t brush away the toothache, but brushing can help dislodge food particles stuck in crevices or cavities. Toothpaste also contains some chemicals that can partially numb the pain from the cavity or the gum line. Brushing is also a very helpful and welcome distraction. Brush as long as you can until you feel the pain subside, and then proceed with a hot water or cold water remedy.
a kid brushing his teeth
These helpful remedies are not substitutes for a dental appointment, but are ways to help you cope with the pain of a toothache when you don’t have painkillers at hand, or if you do not have home remedies like clove oil or peppermint extract. There is no guarantee that these remedies will cure you of a toothache, because only a dentist can perform the necessary procedures to heal the painful tooth. At least, these remedies can help you get through a day without having to scream in horrifying agony.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Special thanks to for this fascinating insight to how our soldiers dealt with the agony of toothache

Toothache in the trenches

First World War literature abounds with accounts of toothaches experienced on the battlefields of France. In that most famous memoir Goodbye To All That Robert Graves8 relates 'Then I got toothache which forced me to take a horse and ride twenty miles to the nearest army dental station at corps headquarters. I found the dentist under the weather, like everyone else. He would do nothing at first but grumble what a fool he'd been to offer his services to the King at such a low salary. "When I think," he complained, "of the terrible destruction to the nation's teeth now being done by unqualified men at home, and the huge fees that they extract for their wicked work, it makes me boil with rage." There followed further complaints against his treatment at headquarters, and the unwillingness of the R.A.M.C. to give dentists any promotion beyond lieutenant's rank. Later he examined my tooth. "An abscess," he said. "No good tinkering about with this; must pull it out." So he yanked at the tooth irritably, and the crown broke off. He tried again, damning the ineffective type of forceps which the Government supplied, found very little purchase, and broke off another piece. After half an hour he had dug the tooth out in sections. The local anaesthetic supplied by the Government seemed as ineffective as the forceps. I rode home with lacerated gums.'

The poet Edmund Blunden9 described his wartime dental experiences 'Long tramps day and night ruined my feet, but I had to walk to Poperinghe in great misery to have a tooth put to rest or die in the attempt. In daylight one might be unlucky over getting a lift on that hazardous road, which could be seen between its trees from the German and from our front line. I was. The tooth was pulled, back I went, and saw again the tipsy water-tower and the sole surviving pinnacle along the road through Ypres with illogical happiness. By the station I noticed some newly installed howitzers, and there was a suspicious quickness among those now passing out of Lille Gate, but even so, the dentist had been settled with.......... I could dilate upon other drama that occurred towards July 31, 1917; there was, for instance, that tooth of mine, which our Irish doctor painfully extracted for me by muscular Christianity in the wood, surely the last afternoon we were there; as many of my signallers as were off duty stood around with a hideous pleasure, and one or two begged to offer their compliments on so great a fortitude!'

Toothache tales: Part 1

Gargoyle from unknown church in Southern France, 13th century (BDA Museum LDBDA C33)

The Irish poet and writer Monk Gibbon10while serving in France '... began to suffer tortures from toothache. Watson mocked at my groanings and writhings, although I assured him he had been just as bad over his chilblains. Mosse, whom I was beginning to like greatly, was more sympathetic and departed down the road one night to fetch me oil of cloves from his billet........

Joy-rides were few, unless one could count a trip or two to the Canadian dentist at the hospital in the Citadelle in Doullens. Though he was in no way responsible for my unit he accepted me as a patient during my worst throes and afforded me some temporary alleviation.......

Our first halt was at Authie and our horses found themselves back on their old lines. I was once more in the throes of toothache, and, after the meal, made my way to the hospital in the chateau to beg a doctor there to take mercy on me and to remove the tooth. But the offending molar deceived him, just as it had deceived my Canadian friend at the Citadelle, and I was assured that it would be a 'great pity to take it out'. After a chat about Ireland and the gift of some aspirin, I returned to my billet and, with the help of Mosse's oil of cloves, managed to get a reasonable night ignorant of what torments still lay ahead of me........

Billets for the night varied greatly. After being in the saddle all day one welcomed a comfortable bed, but not infrequently this involved us in long arguments with some old woman. Oil of cloves had become useless for my toothache. If anything it seemed to aggravate it. I had read somewhere in a comic paper of standing on one's head as a remedy, and, in desperation one night, kneeling up in my sleeping bag, I lowered my head until I was more or less in the position advocated. The diary recorded my tortures.

Nearly went mad. Crying, praying. Stand on head, and it at last stops and I get to sleep. Late getting up next morning and across to breakfast. I indignant with Haines because no fish cakes for brekker......

After a further bout of agonising toothache while on trek, I rode into St.Venant to a field ambulance. This dentist also wanted to stop the tooth. But I declared that it had had its last chance. Out it came, after putting up a forceful resistance. It was 'a divil' according to the dentist; quite hollow below the surface of the gum, and on the point of forming an abscess. Looking into its cavernous depths, I could understand the agony which it had caused me.

Monday, 1 August 2011

I absolutely dread toothaches. They are like unpredictable time bombs that just erupt with no warning whatsoever. I was stricken with swollen gums a few days back. As always visits to the dentist is purely agonizing. From the bitter cold of the clinic to the drilling sounds of ‘teeth borer’ – everything at a dental clinic is unfriendly and hostile to me.

Guess what I was not the only one who shared the same opinion. After my appointment, this middle age guy stared at me blankly as I walked out of the room. His face held a familiar look – the look of fear. His first words to me was not “Hi”, instead our conversation snowballed into something like this:

Guy: How was it? Was it painful?
lee: It’s not that painful (only to comfort him). You will be fine.
Guy: Is the dentist gentle?
lee: Yeah he is (this is true)
Guy: You seem ok
lee: Nods (Glad I manage to mask my fear. Imagine if I came out all pale, he would have shivered and ran out!)
Guy: I’ve not been to the dentist for many years. I’m actually scared. (For a middle age man to confess to a stranger that he is scared, that really is something!)
lee: (Manages a look of comfort) You will be fine. Dentist is nice. Whatever you do, don’t move too much even when it is painful!

Oh I’ve heard too many horror stories of dental patients. Let’s not get into that. For now my gums are healing, swelling has gone down. Caz even bought beers to brighten my day. The dentist took an x-ray and discovered that both my wisdom teeth were stuck under the gums. Eventually (which means in the near future) I will need to go for surgery to extract the little white rascals. Gives me shudders even thinking about it.

I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet to go through this. Share your tooth surgery story and provide me some comfort. I’d love to hear about it. Email me or drop me a comment.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Thanks to Rich burridge for sharing his unimaginable pain

There's been an unexpected blogging break over the last few days from me, due to extreme toothache.

This is long, but it does capture the "fun" I've been having.

It all started about 3-4 weeks ago with a mild toothache. Now anybody who really knows me, knows that I have a very bad gag reflex (or a very good one, depending on how you look at it). Because of this, just the thought of visiting a dentist fills me with trepidation.

Even for something as seemingly trivial as this, it took four attempts to get an X-ray of what was believed to be the problem tooth, and it ended up with me having to hand hold the small X-ray film that I had to put in my mouth. To cut a long story short, my dentist couldn't see anything wrong. He suggested seeing if it got worst, and then we'd react accordingly.

Tuesday this week, it got worse.. Somebody suggested to me that it might be a sinus infection so I went to see my doctor. She was skeptical about this (because I didn't have the other things you normally get with a sinus infection, like fever and nasal problems), but she prescribed some anti-biotics called Amoxicillin. After taking just three of these capsules, I hit the jackpot with the side effects. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

This brings us up to Wednesday morning. America's Independence day. My doctor isn't working that day, so I phone up the emergency number and the on-call doctor tells me to stop taking the Amoxicillin. He then suggested trying to control the pain with Advil, and if that didn't fix it, come up to the Urgent Care facility in Palo Alto, to get something more powerful to control the pain.

By lunchtime the pain was a lot worst. Rather than go all the way up to Palo Alto, we just went to the ER at our local hospital (with Lynea and Duncan providing moral support. Okay, Lynea providing moral support and Duncan being forced to come along because we couldn't just leave him. Thankfully Nintendo invented the DS for occasions just like this).

The nurse there asked me to describe my pain on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is "pain? what pain?" and 10 is "OMG. This is the worse pain I've ever experienced". As I'd suffered through an impacted wisdom tooth in 1985, I couldn't claim a 10, so I said 8. Again, to cut a long story short, I came out of there with a prescription for some serious pain killers. This surprisingly only took just over an hour. As Lynea pointed out, we were probably lucky in that all the burn victims hadn't got there yet.

Wednesday afternoon at 1:45pm saw me taking the first of the Vicodin tablets. The prescription said to take 1-2 tablets every 4 hours as needed. Strangely enough, the pain started getting worst as this point. Probably the result of all the poking and prodding by the attending physician at the hospital. By 2:30pm, I decided to take another one. The medicine then started to kick in. I took one more just before bed.

This morning I woke up, very light headed and very nauseous. Nausea is one of the side-effects of Vicodin (along with many others including mood swings. Oh boy, am I looking forward to those!) Today would have been the day I would have liked to make another appointment with my dentist and try to find out exactly what the problem was, but he's on vacation (returning on the 9th). He gave an emergency number for another doctor, and I spoke to a nice lady there called Patty. I fully explained things to here, and she referred me to an oral surgeon down in Sunnyvale. Lynea and I were in his office at 10:30am (Duncan was over with one of his friends).

This doctor had one of those machines which can take an X-ray externally. You just strap on the lead padding, bite down on the mouth piece and stand perfectly still for about thirty seconds. You have no idea of the relief I went through when I realized they weren't going to try to wedge any of those little white X-ray films in my mouth. After checking me and the X-ray over, the doctor determined that it looks like I'm going to need a root canal on tooth #12.

With the pain under control, this can now wait until my normal dentist returns next week. Then, because of that gag reflex, the actually dentistry will have to be done under general anesthesia. This doesn't worry me at all. I've been very happy with previous work done the same way.

So I'm going to take it easy for the rest of the week. One thing I learnt over thirty years ago. Never try to do any software engineering when you are light-headed. In those days, it meant if you'd been down the pub lunchtime. Nowadays, for me, it just means when you are under heavy medication.

I'm cutting back on the Vicodin, putting a nice buffer of IB Profen in its place. Starting to eat and take fluids again. Hopefully tomorrow the nausea and light-headedness will be fully gone.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The agony of the dentists drill....OUCH!!!

I devour any literature on teeth – from Dracula, via Pam Ayres, to Martin Amis's Experience – because I know, in the primordial depths of my being, that dental disaster is both my heritage and my destiny.

My mother spent inordinate amounts of time in the dentist's chair with dying molars and ill-fitting bridges. Her pallid terror proved infectious; none of her children could hear the word "dentist" without gibbering with dread.

Worse still, the practitioner we were (briefly) dispatched to was an old-fashioned sadist, who drilled our teeth without anaesthetic. Never has "this won't hurt" been such a dirty lie. The result is that my older brother hasn't visited a dentist for over 20 years (he says the pain stops once a maverick tooth has crumbled down to its stump). My older sister once fainted in the reclining chair, only coming to when she heard the distant sound of acute distress, and opened her eyes to find she had bitten the dentist's hand.

My fear of dentistry is so much greater than my vanity that I let 10 years pass before sorting out a green front tooth. This dread was not helped by the fact the first port of call after my dental hiatus was my wife's then specialist, who had all the sympathetic manner of Rosa Klebb, and declared that I needed 12 fillings (the true tally was four).

But even now that I have finally tracked down a superb practitioner, whose skill, patience and soft, petite blondeness dispel all thoughts of Olivier's psychotic drilling in Marathon Man, I endlessly defer appointments. Which is how I ended up last week, after an 18-month truancy, with an angry throbbing toothache that raged up the side of my face. My saintly dentist fitted me in for an emergency appointment, and gave me a double dose of anaesthetic in a magnificent attempt to calm my rising panic.

Suffice to say, the cavity I'd neglected had become a cavern, necessitating a root canal last Saturday. Which is the point where the world divides into pearly-mouthed super-beings, who have never known a moment's molar trauma, and the metal-filled masses, who trudge down the dark path of endodontic procedures. Taxi drivers, school-gate mums and a woman in the Co-op have all shared intimate details of their own dental Armageddon this week. So there's one thing you can say for root canals: they're terrific levellers.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Another tale of woe!!

Thanks to for this contribution.

A throbbing and painful tooth is a horrible nightmare for anyone to go through. It is something that most of us have experience in one time of our lives. When the pain gets so bad, everything else in your life will go into a blur except that painful overbearing PAIN that gets so BAD.

But what happens if the pain comes in during a late Saturday nite or a holiday and you cannot find a nearby dentist?

Pop in an aspirin or panadol? It can be a solution except you will keep popping and the bad news is after a while, it may not even work.

Then what happens if you are in the middle of nowhere that you cannot even pull the offending tooth out yourself with a pair of pliers even if you want to. What do you do?

Personally, I have two experiences of being ‘attacked’ by a serious toothache when dental access is not there. The method’s not conventional, but it works…

The First Time

In the year of 2004, I took about 10 days off from work to attend a meditation retreat in Cameron Highlands. I have attended some meditation classes years before during university but like many working adults, life just got too exciting and fast paced that I well, sort of slipped off the practice.

So, in the meditation hall in the hills of Cameron Highlands, I had problem settling my mind because only the a day before, I had stayed back late at work to finish off some work before the holiday. So the high speed geared mind that was so used to thinking on my feet and working under pressure was not about to show any signs of slowing down. My mind was everywhere except being present to where I was, seated on top of the cushion. It goes everywhere, to my work, my direction in life, the past and the unknown future. When I opened my eyes to peek at others sitting on the hall, everyone seemed to sit still and were deep in concentration. And me…. I tried and forced, but I just could not settle my restless mind.

Then it came…… the toothache.

In the afternoon after lunch, it started as a dull discomfort. By evening, it became a full blown absolutely painful episode. My wondering mind stopped dead on its track and I was completely overwhelmed by the pain. It was only the second day and there was another 7 days to go. Gosh, how am I to live through it?

Because I was cornered then, I had no other choice but to deal with the pain. If I am at home, I would have taken some painkillers or, at painful rate it is, pull the $%#% tooth off with a pair of pliers with my own hands. But I was hundreds of kilometres away from home up in the hills and I am not going to bother the helpers or disturb other meditators with my ordeal.

I just observed the pain- I’ve learned years ago that physical pain is the result of element imbalance in the body. But why we suffer is because we identified the pain as ourselves- when it is just a physical dis-ease minding its own business. This means that due to our adversion to anything that we perceived as unpleasant and the instrict for self preservation and survival, the physical pain brings on to emotional pain to the heart. So dealing with it is a matter of perspective- when we see the physical pain for what it really is and is able to separate the emotion pain away, we let go of the trauma that we cause ourselves as the result of attaching to the pain. It does not mean the pain is not there- it’s there, but it will remain nothing more than it is- a physical discomfort as the result of element imbalances in our physical body.

Up to that point, I only understood those facts in theory. It is the real experience that forces you to put into practice what you have learned. I was desperate and had not choice…then I remembered something in the past….

Years ago in university, once, I remember sitting cross legged for so long in a meditation class that I felt my knee was about to break into two- it was as if someone was trying to break my knee by hitting it with a huge stick. And something in me challenged me not to give up and sit through the pain- the pain shot and become so unbearable that I was literally shaking and breaking out in cold sweat. It rose to a peak, so bad that finally my mind let go of the pain- and then the pain was suddenly gone- it was replaced by a cooling sensation running through my knees. I then realised that the physical pain is not there to spite anyone. It just happens when you sit too long- similarly the pits of our lives are not there to spite anyone- we want the peaks, but we have to accept the pits in life. It was a momentarily insight but when the intense pain shifted from my knee to my butt, I did not stay long enough to fight the battle.

Recalling that experience, I decided to try that in that class. I started by zooming into the pain- since I could think of nothing else anyway. I observed it and refused to let any stray thoughts dwell in because the moment I lost my attentiveness or mindfulness, the emotional pain came back. Then after about 30 minutes of struggling with it, I was felt that the ache was just a throbbing or pulsating sensation on my tooth- much like how the heart beats. It is only in our unguarded moments that the automatic assumption comes in associated with the pain with scripts like ‘this is killing me’ that I feel the suffering rose up to an unbearable level. But if my mind was sharp enough, I could see the emotional label coming and I did not give it the chance to get stuck. No way, if I as much as to let my mind dart off, I am really gone for.

I did nothing during the evening of day 2 except staying with the pain, observing it and disassociating the emotional label to it.

And the next thing, something that I had not expected happened- the toothache… it just went away as suddenly as it came. It is as if when I understood and learned to focus my mind, it just went away. Just like that. It was a strange incident but I suddenly ‘get it’ and learned how to bring a wondering mind back.

The Second Time

I got another major toothache attack last year August when I was staying in a remote area in Thailand. The pain got blown up to a cresendo level- spreading to earache, sore throat and headache- all on the same side of the aching tooth. Again, there was no access to any dental clinic. There was no painkillers or no pliers around- so again, I had to deal with it by focusing on the pain, and separate the emotion identification with the physical pain. It is just something that you go through once, and the second time, it gets easier.

All I did the second time around is to identify where the pain is most severe- is it the ear ache, sore throat, toothache or the headache. I found that the tooth ached the worst- and I just zoomed in to observe it. With my attention not leaving the pain, it was again reduced to a pulsing movement in the tooth. It works once you are able to break through the automatic assumption that being in pain is bad, unacceptable and you have to get rid of it. Instead, accept it and see it for what it truly is- just a physical discomfort that gets blown out of proportion.

Of course, I could not be at the pain all the time- I had other things to do. The next day, any moment that my mind was not at the present like if I am sweeping the floor but my mind is somewhere else, I felt the toothache and the emotional suffering associated with it came back. Then, all I did was focus again and accepted there was physical discomfort and stop rejecting or feeling that the pain had no right to be there. After going back and forth like this, the toothache was gone the next day when I woke up from sleep.

On both the cases above, I dealt with the problem tooth when I got back home. You have to because toothache is also really a sign of infection- you must see a dentist immediately before the pain spread and infection sets in (do you know an infected tooth can infect another tooth resulting BOTH teeth to be extracted?). But I am relaying the above experience to give you an idea of how to deal with pain, toothache or any pain for that matter when you are cornered and have no other choice.

Meditation works

Meditation is an excellent tool to bring the mind in focus- and it is continuously to be recognised as very effective in relieving stress. New age gurus like Jack Kornfield and James Aurthur Ray praises the benefits of meditation in their books and seminars. If your mind is not focused, there is no way you can get important assignments done. World class athletes and Olympic champions will not be able to break records and win medals if the cheers of the crowd distracts them. They have learned to be very focused in their game

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Robert Burns poem about toothache

Even the legendary scottish poet Robert Burns suffered with the dreaded toothache, here is a famous poem chronicling his own particular suffering.

My curse upon your venom'd stang,
That shoots my tortur'd gooms alang,
An' thro' my lug gies monie a twang,
Wh' gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi' bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

When fevers burn, or ague freezes,
Rheumatics gnaw, or colic squeezes,
Our neebors sympathize to ease us
Wi' pitying moan;
But thee! - thou hell o' a' diseases,
They mock our groan!

A' down my beard the slavers trickle,
I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle,
While round the fire the giglets keckle
To see me loup,
An' raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were i' their doup!

Of a' the numerous human dools
Ill-hairsts, daft bargains, cutty stools,
Or worthy frien's laid i' the mools,
Sad sight to see!
The tricks o' knaves, or fash o' fools
Thou bear'st the gree!

Where'er that place be priests ca' Hell,
Where a' the tones o' misery yell,
An' ranked plagues their numbers tell
In dreadfu' raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear'st the bell
Amang them a'!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o' discord squeal,
Till daft humankind aft dance a reel
In gore a shoe-thick,
Gie a' the faes o' Scotland's weal
A townmond's toothache!