What’s Causing My Tooth Pain?

Reviewed on 1/15/2021

What is a tooth pain?

Tooth pain is a common problem that most people will experience in their life. It can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that is very hard to ignore.
Tooth pain is a common problem that most people will experience in their life. It can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that is very hard to ignore.

Tooth pain is a common problem that most people will experience in their life. It can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that is very hard to ignore. It can impact your sleep, concentration, and even your eating habits.

Some toothaches are so severe that you are unable to cope with the pain. If you’re experiencing tooth pain, it usually means it’s time for a trip to the dentist. It can be a dental emergency. 

Signs and symptoms of tooth pain

Sensitivity to hot and cold 

Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold is fairly normal and doesn’t usually require immediate medical attention. You may feel a sharp pain in your tooth when you have hot or cold foods, like hot tea or ice cream. It can also signal a loose filling, small cavities, or in some rarer cases, gum disease

Pain while chewing 

Sharp pain while biting down can be a sign of tooth trauma, a broken filling, or more advanced tooth decay. A sharp, shooting pain usually signals that the pulp, or central nerves, of the tooth is affected. 

Lingering pain after meals 

This symptom can mean the pulp of your tooth is inflamed or dying. Lingering pain is usually caused by deep tooth decay or trauma to the tooth.

Food particles stuck between your teeth can also cause discomfort after meals. You can help avoid this by flossing your teeth after eating. 

Constant pain and pressure

Constant pain to the tooth and surrounding area can be a symptom of tooth abscess, or an infection of the tooth. It is usually accompanied by red, inflamed gums and extreme sensitivity around the tooth. 

There may be swelling in localized areas near the tooth. People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention quickly. You may need a root canal

Dull ache and jaw tiredness 

An achy or tired jaw can be a symptom of bruxism. Bruxism is a disorder in which you unconsciously grind your teeth or clench your jaw. 

You may also feel the effects of bruxism in the sinus. The upper teeth and sinus share some nerve endings, so it’s possible to feel pain and tension in the two interchangeably.

QUESTION

What causes tooth decay? See Answer

Causes of tooth pain

The main reasons you might feel pain in your tooth could be: 

Tooth decay

People of all ages can have tooth decay. Sugary drinks and snacks are the biggest cause of tooth decay. When you eat or drink something sugary, the bacteria on your teeth convert that sugar into acid. This acid wears away at your tooth enamel until it penetrates it and creates a cavity.

There are three layers to the tooth:

  • Enamel, the hard outer layer
  • Dentin, the softer middle layer
  • Pulp, the nerve or root 

The more layers a cavity has penetrated in the tooth determines how severe the cavity is, and usually how much pain the patient feels.

Trauma to the tooth

Tooth trauma happens when your tooth is broken by a force. Tooth trauma is very common in sports. It can also happen while eating something hard or difficult to chew. 

A chipped tooth is the most common dental trauma. It is less common to dislodge an entire tooth or break a large portion of the tooth. The treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. It’s important to seek medical treatment after tooth trauma or the tooth could become abscessed.

Abscessed tooth

Abscess in the tooth is an infection. It happens when bacteria gets into the pulp, or center, of the tooth. It’s characterized by swelling of the gums, pain, redness, and sometimes fever.

There are different treatment options for an abscessed tooth. It depends on the severity of the abscess. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection, or they may perform a root canal if the tooth pulp is beyond repair. 

When to see the doctor for tooth pain

You should see the dentist for tooth pain if: 

  • Your toothache is severe
  • The pain lasts longer than 1 or 2 days
  • You develop a fever, earache, or pain when opening your mouth wide

Diagnosis for tooth pain

Your doctor will perform a dental assessment first. They might administer an x-ray so they can see the inside of your tooth. This is an important step in diagnosing the problem.

They may ask you questions about the level of pain you have and where it started. They might perform other tests based on what they suspect the problem is. 

Treatments for tooth pain

Your dentist has several strategies to treat your tooth pain. After locating the source of the problem, they will perform the procedure that’s needed. Before that happens, they will administer anesthesia so you won’t feel any pain during the procedure.

The most common dental procedures for tooth pain are: 

  • Filling
  • Root canal
  • Tooth extraction

You can help prevent tooth pain and decay by maintaining a dental routine and flossing your teeth daily. 

SLIDESHOW

Mouth Problems: TMJ, Canker Sores, Painful Gums and More See Slideshow

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References
American Association of Endodontists: “Tooth Pain.”

American Association of Endodontists: “Traumatic Dental Injuries.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Bruxism.”

Merck Manual: “Overview of Tooth Disorders.”

Mount Sinai: “Toothaches.”

Mouth Healthy: “Abscess (Toothache).”

Mouth Healthy: “Cavities: What are They and How Do We Prevent Them?”

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