Happy National Toothache Day!

Yes, there actually is a day honoring something we’d all like to avoid: a painful, throbbing toothache. Why? No one knows.

Googling around the internet reveals a few different theories on the origin of National Toothache day. Some say it’s in honor of Saint Apollonia, the patron saint of dentistry. Her feast day is February 9th, and she’s often pictured holding a set of pinchers with a golden tooth, or a necklace with a tooth charm. She lost her own teeth during a very heated argument about religion with an angry mob.

Others think the date might be a reference to the dental damage that can be caused by sugary treats, since the Hershey chocolate factory opened on February 9 1894. Or perhaps its part of February’s focus on dental issues: National Children’s Dental Health Month, Pet Dental Health Month and National Tooth Fairy Day all occur this month.

Whatever the reason, a toothache is nothing to celebrate.

What Causes Toothache?

Aching teeth can be caused by tooth decay, gum infections, a broken tooth whose inner core is exposed to the air, or old dental work that needs to be replaced. Decay is the most common cause of tooth pain.

Dental decay is often caused by bacterial activity on the teeth. These bacteria are fueled by the carbohydrates in sugary foods, and create acid which eats away at teeth. Erosion, in contrast, is caused by acids in drinks and foods, or from regurgitated stomach acid as it passes through the mouth.

When the enamel erodes, dentin is exposes to heat, cold, and acids in the foods you eat and drinks you consume. When bacteria enters the inner layers of the teeth, inflammation and infection cause the living tissues in your teeth to send increasingly frantic messages to the brain. Your body is telling you to take your teeth to the dentist.

Beyond dealing with the pain, and hopefully saving the tooth, getting fast treatment for dental infections is important to prevent its spread to other parts of the face and skull – possibly even to the bloodstream and respiratory system.

Avoiding Dental Decay

No matter how devoted you are to at home care, regular exams and professional teeth cleanings are critical. Checkups involve more than a quick peek at your teeth – your dentist will screen you for oral cancer, tooth decay and gum disease. Caught early, these conditions are far easier to manage.

Even people who are super-dedicated to good oral hygiene will inevitably miss a bit of plaque here and there, which can harden into tartar. Removing tartar is not something that you can do at home, without risking the chance that you’ll cause more dental damage with abrasive toothpastes, scraping and whatever other weird DIY dentist trick YouTube may be recommending today. Your hygienist will safely clean hardened dental plaque that’s impossible to remove at home, and any trapped debris.

Your dental care team is the absolute best source of information on oral hygiene practices and addressing your oral health concerns. Don’t wait until a problem arises to check in with your dentist!

If you’ve been skipping regular checkups and cleanings due to budget concerns and no dental insurance, consider getting a dental savings plan. These plans are an affordable alternative to dental insurance, providing plan members with discounts of 10%-60% on the majority of dental services.

If you had a dental plan, you wouldn’t have to worry about how to afford the dental care that you need. Instead, you could be celebrating one of the other holidays that fall on Feb. 9 2016, including Chocolate Day, Bagel Day, Extraterrestrial Culture Day, International Pancake Day, Mardi Gras and/or national Pizza Pie Day.

Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com.

Join. Save. Smile.