The Most Common Causes of Tooth Pain Explained

May 16, 2016

mouth_pain.jpgThere are not many things more annoying, or even debilitating, than a toothache.

It can keep you up at night, make your days seem to last forever, and suck all the enjoyment out of mealtimes. More importantly, it can potentially be a sign of a serious health concern, and shouldn’t be taken lightly, even if your pain threshold is higher than most.

What causes tooth pain, and what should you do if you experience it?

The following list of symptoms will breakdown the most common causes of tooth pain and the best practices for treatment to help you get on with your life:

Symptom: Mild, momentary pain when eating hot or cold foods

"It can keep you up at night, make your days seem to last forever, and suck all the enjoyment out of mealtimes. "

This type of tooth sensitivity is very common and usually is not a cause for serious concern. While some individuals naturally have more sensitive teeth, a hot or cold sensitivity that appears suddenly could be a sign of a minor issue such as a small cavity, a loose filling, or a slight recession of the gums.

The first thing you should do is switch to a toothpaste made to treat sensitive teeth. These pastes include ingredients designed to lessen the pain of tooth sensitivity and to promote protective layer of fluoride over the tooth surfaces that are particularly sensitive.

If the sensitivity or pain worsens, or persists for more than a few weeks, make an appointment with your dentist to have it checked out.

Symptom: Dull, throbbing ache, especially in the upper teeth

Generally, this kind of pain is not localized to a particular tooth but affects the entire jaw.

If it tends to appear most often first thing in the morning or is brought on by stressful situations, it’s likely due to teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. If it’s accompanied with sinus pain throughout the face and head, it’s likely a symptom of sinus pressure or infection.

Treating bruxism that’s brought on by stress requires learning to relieve stress in other ways and to get out of the habit of clenching and grinding your teeth. Bruxism that occurs at night can be treated by your dentist using a custom-designed mouth guard worn overnight.

Temporary sinus pain and pressure can usually be treated with over-the-counter decongestants or antihistamines, but a sinus infection will require prescription antibiotics.

Symptom: Sharp, instant pain when you bite down on something












Sharp pain when you bite down could be a sign of a more serious dental issue. 

There are a number of possible causes for this kind of pain, but all of them should involve your dentist.

It may be a sign of physical trauma, such as a crack in the tooth itself or a loose filling. It could also be a sign of significant tooth decay or damage to the pulp (the portion of the tooth where tissue and nerves reside.)

Your dentist will either be able to immediately diagnose and treat the cause of the pain or will refer you to a specialist (such as an endodontist or oral surgeon).

Symptom: Lingering pain brought on by hot or cold foods

Unlike the relatively minor sensitivity described above, this is a more severe and longer lasting pain brought on by hot or cold.

This is usually a sign of significant damage to the pulp of the tooth in pain and could require a root canal to properly treat. See your dentist as soon as possible to have this treated, as infection could be a threat if the pulp is severely damaged.

Symptom: Persistent, severe pain accompanied with swelling in the gum

This is the kind of pain that cannot be ignored, no matter how well you suffer through it.

Most likely, this is caused by an abscessed tooth, a tooth in which the root has become infected, resulting in swelling of the gum, severe pain, and potentially bone loss at the site of the infection.

It’s important to see your dentist immediately for treatment. Depending on the severity of the abscess, treatment may include antibiotics, root canal, or endodontic surgery.

Don’t ignore tooth painTooth_Pain.png


One of the worst things to do for your oral health is to ignore tooth or gum pain. 

Many people consider tooth pain, especially if it’s not severe, to not be cause for alarm. They do their best to chew on the other side or avoid whatever kinds of foods or drinks bring on the most pain. A main reason for ignoring this issue is because treating a small toothache can feel like a waste of time and money.

Keep in mind, though, that untreated tooth pain commonly gets worse. The underlying cause of the pain is usually progressive, and in some cases it can progress very quickly. Also, remember that tooth pain can be a sign of much more serious conditions beyond a cavity or even an abscess. If the pain is accompanied by fever or difficulty breathing or swallowing, it can be a sign of a larger infection.

If you’re dealing with any kind of tooth pain, big or small, don’t let expenses stand in the way of getting the relief you need. A discount dental plan helps alleviate this issue for individuals and families without dental coverage so they can take care of tooth pain quickly and affordably.


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