The term tooth pain is often associated with dental pain and tooth decay, and the cause of that pain is not always clear.
While the most common cause of tooth pain in people with dental health issues is dental decay, the exact mechanism behind it is still not well understood.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and Johns Hopkins University have now shown that the infection of the tooth root causes tooth pain and other symptoms of decay.
They describe this finding in a recent study in the journal Nature Medicine.
“This is the first report showing that the presence of dental plaque can trigger tooth pain,” said senior author Dr. Mireya T. Giorgi, a professor of dentistry at UM MD.
“We have shown that it’s the dental plaque itself that triggers tooth pain.
In other words, it triggers the decay process.”
Dr. Gioi said the team looked at the results of a large population of healthy volunteers in a hospital setting.
The volunteers had previously received the antibiotic azithromycin, which was designed to treat plaque-related symptoms, and were monitored daily for their dental health.
“The dental plaque is present in the tooth cavity and is not only responsible for the pain but also other symptoms, like tooth sensitivity, tooth flossiness, tooth decay and dental caries,” said co-author Dr. Ralf Köhl, a postdoctoral researcher in Giois lab.
“This is why we wanted to understand whether the plaque is the main cause of the pain.
It could be the other side of the coin, and that’s where the new study comes in.”
Gioi and his colleagues analyzed data from the participants’ dental records.
The team found that people with lower plaque levels had lower pain thresholds, but the difference was not statistically significant.
“People who had more plaque in their teeth were less likely to have tooth pain, and people with more plaque had a more severe pain,” Gioig said.
“The results showed that the higher the plaque levels, the more painful the symptoms.”
While there is no cure for tooth pain that causes no pain, the researchers suggest that the plaque could help prevent the infection and its symptoms.
“We found that if the plaque in the teeth is replaced, the plaque can help prevent plaque-induced pain,” Köhler said.
Dr. Tania R. M. Löscher, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the findings offer important insights into the biology of the disease and how it affects the oral health of people with health conditions.
“There is currently no known treatment for the oral disease that is associated with plaque and associated with increased pain, especially if you have chronic plaque,” she said.
“As a preventive measure, dental plaque could provide an additional mechanism to prevent plaque infection in people who are at high risk of tooth decay.
It might be one way to reduce the risk of oral disease.”
Giorgi is continuing to work with other researchers to develop new treatments for plaque-associated symptoms.
In addition to Gioisi and his team, the research was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).###