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The Causes of Toothaches

Posted on January 03, 2020

A toothache describes pain, sensitivity or soreness around the teeth. Symptoms can come on slowly or strike suddenly and can be difficult to trace. Common symptoms of toothaches include:

  • Aches: Dull, sharp or throbbing pains can be constant or triggered by pressure.
  • Sensitivity: Toothaches can lead to oversensitivity to hot and cold temperatures and sweet food items.
  • Swelling: Gum tissue surrounding a toothache can become red, swollen and tender to the touch.
  • Taste: Toothaches may be caused by infections or decay, creating a poor taste in the mouth.
  • Odor: Sometimes, toothaches can cause noticeable changes to your breath.
  • Headaches: Toothaches can lead to headaches and may also be accompanied by a fever.

Cold compresses, over-the-counter medication and rinsing with salt water can all offer temporary relief from toothache pain — but it won’t eliminate the underlying cause. Here is a look at what can cause toothache pain.

What Can Cause a Toothache?

Toothache pain is often the result of damage to the tooth pulp, a condition known as pulpitis. The pulp is a cluster of vessels, tissues and nerves located in the center of the tooth. If the pulp is damaged or irritated, it will cause a toothache. Damage to gum and jawbone tissue can also cause toothache pain. Common causes of toothache pain include:

  • Tooth decay: Tooth decay is the leading cause of toothache pain. Tooth decay results from a buildup of damaging bacteria on tooth surfaces. The bacteria produce destructive acids, which can lead to cavities. Brushing and flossing each day can prevent tooth decay, but in some cases, the damage is a result of genetic causes.
  • Tooth abscess: A tooth abscess is a bacterial infection at the tip of a tooth root or along the sides. Abscesses cause toothaches by destroying gum tissue, which threatens the surrounding teeth. Treat an abscess as early as possible to prevent tooth extraction.
  • Damaged fillings: Impacts and hard foods can damage or unseat fillings. Bacteria can build under, around and in place of a filling, causing tooth decay and pain. Complete removal of a filling exposes a filled cavity to food, liquids and air, causing discomfort.
  • Teeth grinding: Grinding teeth is a destructive habit many people are unaware they have. Tooth grinding, also called bruxism, damages and weakens teeth. Repeated grinding can chip, crack and move teeth, causing toothache pain. Grinding can be caused by stress, anxiety and a misaligned bite.
  • Other causes: Other causes for toothaches include periodontal disease, gum recession and tooth shifting. If you are experiencing any toothache symptoms, schedule a dental exam for diagnosis and treatment.

Can Stress Cause Toothaches?

In addition to the above causes, stress is also a potential cause of a toothache, but not for the same reasons. Instead, stress can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth. Those actions put stress on your teeth and your jaw muscles, which can manifest as a toothache.

Toothache Treatment

The best way to treat a toothache is through prevention. Avoid smoking or using tobacco products, brush and floss daily and visit with your dentist at least once per year for an exam — even if everything seems fine.

If you’re already suffering from a toothache, treatment begins with isolating the cause of the symptoms. Toothaches can also cause sinus pain and earaches depending on the cause. Contact a dentist at the earliest sign of pain to help prevent permanent damage.

Toothache causes and severity vary by individual. In any case, eliminating a toothache means eliminating the cause. Depending on the underlying triggers, toothache treatment can include:

  • Dental examination and X-rays
  • Removal of tooth decay and fillings
  • Replacement of broken crowns or fillings
  • Root canal in the case of a tooth abscess
  • Deep cleaning, draining and antibiotics
  • Tooth extraction for damaged or impacted teeth

Treat the Causes of Toothaches

Toothaches can be signs of serious dental complications. Home remedies are temporary solutions with limited effectiveness. Toothache pain will return and grow in severity over time. Make an appointment with 209 NYC Dental to treat the cause of your toothache. Call us at 212-355-2290 or visit us online to schedule an appointment.

About Dr. Benjamin Ahn

Meet Dr. Benjamin Ahn, a top-rated general, and cosmetic dentist and one of the best Invisalign dentist practicing at 209 NYC Dental, a multi-specialty dental practice in Midtown East Manhattan.

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