what causes a toothache

Many Americans suffer from toothaches at some point in their life. Despite what most people think, a toothache doesn’t necessarily indicate a cavity. Toothaches can stem from an array of causes and conditions. If you’re suffering from a toothache, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these causes. Read on below to learn the most common causes of a toothache.

What Is A Toothache:

A tooth ache is considered any pain, soreness, or ache in or around a tooth. This includes tooth sensitivity, pain when chewing/biting, sharp pains, and dull aches.

What Causes A Toothache:

1. Cavity

Although cavities aren’t the only cause of toothaches, they tend to be the most common cause. Cavities are a form of tooth decay that starts on the outer surface of the tooth. As plaque builds up it feeds on the sugars from what you eat producing a type of acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causing a cavity to form in the outer surface of the tooth. As the cavity gets worse and the decay spreads inward towards the dentin, you may experience sensitivity to temperature and touch.

what causes a toothache - cracked tooth2. Cracked Tooth

Overtime pressure from biting and chewing can weaken our teeth. Once weakened it only takes a hard object like ice or a popcorn kernel bite at the right angle to cause a tooth to crack. With a cracked tooth you will likely feel pain when biting or chewing. Sensitivity to hot and cold temperature foods are common in a cracked tooth as well.

Depending on how severe the crack is, your dentist may recommend a crown, root canal, or full removal of the tooth. Since cracked can get worse overtime it’s best to get to your dentist ASAP to get your cracked tooth examined and taken care of.

3. Tooth Abscess/Infection

A tooth infection or abscess can cause a painful toothache. A dental abscess is a buildup of bacteria inside the pulp chamber that becomes infected. The pressure from this buildup can cause severe pain and swelling.

A good way to tell an abscess or tooth infection from other causes of toothache is to check for a fever and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If you have either of these symptoms during a toothache get into your dentist ASAP because you most likely have a tooth infection. Tooth infections are no cause for concern if treated properly and quickly; however, if left untreated they will progress and cause serious medical issues.

what causes a toothache - impacted tooth4. Impacted Tooth

Teeth become impacted when they cannot move into their proper position because they are being blocked by other teeth, gums, or bone. Most people are familiar with impaction in reference to wisdom teeth. Although impaction can happen to every tooth, wisdom teeth are the most common to become impacted because they are the last to erupt.

Impaction commonly causes pressure and pain around the site of the tooth and many times can cause jaw soreness as well. If you’re feeling pressure and pain around the gums of your last molar you and you haven’t had your wisdom teeth removed your toothache may indicated impacted wisdom teeth.

5. Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis and periodontist, is the infection of the gums that surround the teeth. When gum diseases is allowed to progress it can cause the gums to be detached from the teeth. This exposes the tooth’s roots which can causes extreme sensitivity and toothaches.

If you think your toothaches are caused by gum disease book an appointment with your dentist ASAP. The later stages of gum disease are extremely serious and can lead to irreversible damage. The sooner you begin treating your gum disease the better the outcome.

6. Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is fairly common and is caused by the erosion of enamel, the outer most protective layer of the tooth. Many people who have sensitive teeth experience sensitivity to cold air, cold or hot liquids, and sweet or sour foods.

If you suffer from tooth sensitivity try using toothpaste made for sensitive teeth, such as Sensodyne. These types of toothpaste contain compounds that help block sensations from traveling from the tooth surface to the nerves.  Your dentist may also advise an in-office application of fluoride gel/varnish to help strengthen your enamel and dentin, thus leading to less sensitivity.

what causes a toothache - sinus infection7. Sinus Infection

Tooth pain sometimes is not caused by a toothache but a sinus infection or sinus congestion. Because the upper teeth are located directly under your sinuses, sinus infection can make your teeth feel more sensitive and even cause pain or discomfort in the upper teeth.

If you think your tooth pain is stemming from sinus issues, try taking a decongestant to see if it lessens or alleviates you toothache.

8. TMJ

Sometimes pain that is interpreted as a toothache in one of the molars is actually stemming from the jaw.  If you think your tooth pain is stemming from your jaw, you may have TMJ disorder. The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. When irritated by an injury, inflammation, or overuse it can cause discomfort and pain at the site of the joint and the surrounding areas. A common way to identify TMJ over a toothache is if the majority of the pain is located at the temporomandibular joint and if your jaw clicks or pops when opening and closing.

What Now?

To help relieve your toothache your dentist will need to figure out what is causing your toothache. Your dentist will most likely narrow down the type of toothache you’re experiencing by asking you questions such as; does it hurt to eat? Has it woken you up in the middle of the night? Is it sensitive to hot or cold food? If these questions and a physical examination of the tooth aren’t enough to identify the cause of your toothache your dentist may take some X-Rays to identify the problem.

If you’re suffering from a toothache of any kind schedule an appointment with our office by calling 703-291-4666. Our dentist will be able to identify what’s causing your toothache and take steps to relive the pain.