A toothache is a pain around the teeth or the jaws that is usually caused by a dental cavity. Most other toothaches are caused by infection, decay, injury, an exposed tooth root or gum disease.
Sometimes pain can originate from other areas of the face and radiate to the jaw and give the appearance of tooth pain.
These pains can sometimes be attributed to issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and cause severe pain that may range from mild to excruciating.
Additional areas outside the mouth that may result in tooth pain include earaches, sinus issues, and even heart problems.
What Causes a Toothache?
Toothaches are caused from inflammation of the central portion of the tooth called the pulp.
The pulp is composed of very sensitive nerve endings that are normally protected by a healthy tooth.
If these nerves are inflamed for reasons such as cavities, trauma, or infection, you may experience pain.
How Do I Know If I Have a Toothache?
Having pain in the teeth is just one of the many indications that there may be some greater problem with your oral health.
You may also have pain that is experienced when your teeth are exposed to pressure, or hot or cold foods or drinks. Other signs that indicate that your toothache needs professional care:
- Pain when chewing
- Sensitivity to hot or colds
- Bleeding around your teeth or gums
- Swelling around your tooth
- Swelling in the jaw
Toothache Treatment at Home
If you have mild tooth pain you may seek to remedy your toothache at home. Try over-the-counter pain medications that contain acetaminophen as directed on the packaging.
You may also want to avoid very hot or cold foods as these may make the pain worse. If pain/discomfort persists for more than two days you should seek professional help.
Seeking Professional Treatment for your Toothache
If you have tried the above at-home remedies and are still experiencing significant pain it may be time to consult a dentist.
Your dentist will perform an evaluation of your teeth and help to determine the cause of your tooth pain and develop a solution.
In most cases, the pain can be treated with medications and antibiotics. If these alone will not help you to find relief, a dental filling, extraction, or a root canal may be necessary to treat your toothache.
Common Causes of Toothaches
Most toothaches occur because of poor dental care, injury or trauma, diet, impaction, eruption or TMJ disorders. Below is a brief explanation on how these can result into tooth pain.
Your dental health can have significant influence over the problems that may arise with your teeth. The most common cause of a toothache is a dental cavity.
Cavities are holes in the outer layers of the teeth that are caused by tooth decay which make sensitive nerves in the tooth pulp more susceptible to pain.
Cavities are generally formed because of poor dental care results in tooth decay (bacteria) in the mouth that softens the protective layers of the tooth around the pulp.
After cavities, gum disease is the second most common reason for toothaches.
Gum disease is also a result of poor dental health and occurs when the gum tissue around the teeth becomes inflamed.
To treat gum disease and the pain that is derived from it, your dentist will likely recommend an improved oral hygiene regime as well as the removal of the bacterial plaque and tartar that may have accumulated around your teeth.
Gum disease can result in tooth loss as it can lead to abnormal loss of bone that surrounds the teeth causing teeth to shift and/or become loose.
It is recommended that all patients visit their dentist at least twice a year to prevent the onset of gum disease or minimize its effects by catching it in its early stages.
Pain in the teeth may also be caused by exposed tooth roots. Gum disease and resulting bone loss can cause the roots of the teeth to become exposed.
Exposed roots may be extremely sensitive to cold, hot, sour foods and pressure because the healthy bone is no longer around to protect them.
Impacted or Erupted Teeth
Commonly referenced in regards to wisdom teeth, impaction and eruption can result in pain in the mouth. An erupting tooth is a tooth that is growing out of the gums.
Impacted teeth are those teeth that have not emerged into their proper position and remain under the gums and/or bone.
When eruption or impaction occurs your dentist will commonly recommend pain medication, antibiotics or extraction to treat your tooth pains.
Temporomandibular joint pain can occur around the ears or lower jaw. TMJ disorder (TMD) can be caused by a number of different issues including arthritis, grinding of the teeth (bruxism), poor bite alignment, facial trauma, and stress.
If TMD is causing your pains, the remedy will be determined based on thorough diagnosis. Treatment may range from over-the-counter medications, bite appliances, orthodontics, a warm moist compress, or a combination of therapies.