Sometimes our teeth hurt when we expose them to hot or cold drinks. Or they might hurt when we bite or chew. In some cases, they just hurt all the time, either as a constant dull ache, or something worse and more debilitating. Whatever the type of pain, a toothache means one thing: something is wrong.
The Most Common Causes of Toothache
There are many reasons why teeth might hurt, and each of them require different treatments and considerations. Below are the most common causes of toothache, and what you can do about them.
Tooth sensitivity is when you feel a sharp, painful response to either hot or cold stimuli in the mouth. It could be a cold drink, ice cream, or even just particularly chilly air on a winter day.
The primary cause of tooth sensitivity is exposure of the tooth’s dentin. Dentin lies beneath the tooth enamel, and is particularly sensitive to temperature and pressure. If your enamel is too thin on a tooth, the dentin can become exposed to these pressure and temperature changes.
Enamel can wear thin for many reasons – decay, lack of proper oral hygiene, or even some diseases and medications. Loose fillings, chips, and cracks in the teeth can also expose dentin.
Remineralization of the teeth is one way to protect dentin and lessen tooth sensitivity. Unfortunately, while tooth enamel can be repaired, it cannot be replaced. If too much is missing, there’s no real way to build it back up. Tooth sensitivity can then become a chronic problem requiring ongoing attention.
If there is another underlying cause, such as trauma to the tooth or infection, treating those underlying causes can alleviate sensitivity.
Acid-producing bacteria in the mouth will slowly decay teeth over time if proper oral hygiene isn’t practiced daily. As this bacteria builds up and produces more and more acid, the teeth will start to form cavities.
Toothache is one of the first things people will notice with tooth decay, although by the time the tooth hurts the decay is already quite advanced. This can present itself as sensitivity or chronic soreness, but will often be more noticeable when biting or chewing with the affected tooth.
Proper oral hygiene and keeping sugary foods to a minimum are the best ways to prevent tooth decay from occurring. Once it does occur, getting a proper check and clean from the dentist, along with filling up any cavities, should fix the problem.
Whether it’s gingivitis or an infection within the tooth itself, a toothache is a common indicator of infection.
With gingivitis, the pain is more likely to be quite dull, and mostly flare up when biting and chewing. If the gum starts to recede from the tooth, this can also lead to sensitivity.
If the tooth is infected within, this can lead to chronic, debilitating pain requiring a root canal treatment.
In either case, treating the underlying infection is the best way to treat the toothache. For gum disease, this will require a thorough clean at the dentist, and proper diligence with personal oral hygiene at home.
Root canals are a more involved process whereby infected tissue is removed from the inside of the tooth. After a root canal procedure, the pain should subside completely.
Chips, cracks and breaks in teeth will, quite predictably, lead to toothache.
Often this will be noticeable – it’s fairly obviously when a tooth has become chipped, particularly if it’s one of the front tooth. However, cracks and fractures can sometimes be quite fine, and difficult to spot with the naked eye. A trip to the dentist should reveal these hairline fractures under x-ray examination.
Veneers and crowns are the best way to treat chips and cracks, as they will restore the damaged part of the tooth to proper health and better appearance.
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause quite severe toothache in surrounding teeth. This can either be constant, chronic pain, or intense pain when biting and chewing.
Removal of the impacted tooth will typically clear up the toothache. If the impacted tooth has caused an infection as well, this will also need to be treated.
Interestingly, a toothache doesn’t always mean something’s wrong with your mouth. Sinus problems, such as blocked or inflamed sinuses, can cause pressure on nerves that in turn result in toothaches. Clearing the sinus problem should treat the toothache.
The Best Thing To Do When You Have Toothache
If you suffer from a toothache, don’t ignore it. Visit your dentist as soon as possible so they can examine the cause and get treatment started as early as possible. It may be an easily treatable condition, or it may indicate something a bit more complex – in either case, your dentist will be in the best position to diagnose and treat the problem if you see them early on.