What Your Tooth Pain May be Telling You

Man with tooth pain talking to dentist

When you have a toothache, the pain can be excruciating and prevent you from being able to go about your daily routine. However, not all toothaches are created equal. Certain types of pain, the location of the discomfort, and the intensity and duration of the pain can be telling you different things about what’s going on in your mouth.

Understanding the kind of oral pain you’re experiencing is the first step in receiving the proper treatment.

Here are common types of tooth pain you may experience and what it could could mean:

Sensitivity to Hot & Cold

You might be eating ice cream and get a sharp, shooting pain in one or more teeth. Your morning coffee might send you rushing for the sensitivity relief gel that you’ve become accustomed to using. Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a wide range of different ailments. Commonly, it’s due to a tooth having cracked or fractured. It could also be a sign that you have a cavity that needs a dental filling or an existing filling has either broken or fallen out. This can expose the sensitive dentin and nerve inside of the tooth, which is more susceptible to hot and cold sensations.

If you whiten your teeth a lot, your smile might be sensitive because of the products being used. In this case, it’s important to stay away from whitening products until your tooth sensitivity issues have settled down.

Constant Aching in One Tooth

If you can pinpoint the exact tooth that is causing you pain, it’s very likely that your tooth needs a root canal. A root canal is most often needed when decay and bacteria have reached the nerves of the tooth. In other instances, a severe break or crack in the tooth may require a root canal. Your dentist can perform an examination and do an x-ray to determine what is causing the pain that you’re experiencing. If the pain is isolated to just one tooth, infection or irritation of the nerves of that tooth are most likely the cause. Without prompt treatment, you may eventually end up with a dead tooth.

Severe Gum Pain

If your gums are sore, swollen and inflamed, this could be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease. For more localized swelling, it could be something as simple as a piece of food lodged between the tooth that has been allowed to sit and irritate the gums, like what you’d find with popcorn kernels. Gingivitis is treated with deeper cleanings and specialized treatment to help heal the gums and reverse the damage. For those with periodontal disease, more extensive treatment may be required, especially if bone loss is present.

Acute Jaw Pain

If your pain is more towards the jawline, this could be a sign of a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problem or even grinding of the teeth. Most people who grind their teeth do so in the middle of the night when they aren’t even aware of it. If you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, dull headache and a toothache that you can’t pinpoint, this could be a sign that you grind your teeth at night. Special mouth guards can help to prevent the grinding if this is the problem.

In some cases, acute jaw pain could also signal an ear infection since this area is so close to the jaw. An ear infection can cause swelling, which results in pressure felt in the jaw. If your jaw pain is accompanied by a fever, there is a chance you have an ear infection and should see a health professional for treatment.

Orofacial Pain

Orofacial pain is a generalized term referring to any type of pain in the mouth or on the face. The majority of all orofacial pain is dental-related, but a growing number of health professionals are realizing that orofacial pain can be connected to heart disease and a poor cardiovascular system. Your first step is to visit the dentist who can determine what the orofacial pain is and what could be causing it. If no known dental cause is found, they may refer you to a medical doctor.

If you recently had a tooth extracted, worsening orofacial pain could also be a sign that you have developed dry socket. This is a painful dental condition that occurs when a blood clot fails to develop after a tooth extraction. You should consult your dentist right away for additional treatment.

Dull Yet Persistent Pressure

A dull, persistent pressure could be a sign that your wisdom teeth are impacted and may need to be removed. If you currently have one or more of your wisdom teeth and do not have adequate room for them to fully grow in, the result could be a dull aching in the mouth. The feeling of pressure may not be necessarily painful, but it is disruptive enough to be irritating. Because impacted wisdom teeth can create pressure on all your teeth as they grow, the pain isn’t always isolated to the back of the mouth. There are home remedies to reduce wisdom teeth pain you can try prior to seeing your dentist.

Sharp, Throbbing Pain

A sharp, throbbing pain in your teeth is most often associated with an infection. The pain will be there whether you’re eating something or just relaxing at the end of a long day. This is the type of pain for which most people seek treatment because it can be the most excruciating and disruptive. Your dentist can take an x-ray of the area to determine if an infection is present and can prescribe antibiotics or other treatment as needed. If left untreated, an infection can eventually result in bone and tooth loss.

Although these are typical types of oral pain and the common reasons as to why you may be experiencing that specific discomfort, it’s crucial to see your dentist for a professional diagnosis and treatment plan. If you are ever in pain or experiencing a sensation that is not familiar to you, don’t hesitate to contact your dental office to schedule an appointment. The dental professionals will be able to assist you in relieving your tooth pain and treating the underlying cause.

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About the Author

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Dr. Joan Landron

Currently serving the community at Absolute Dental since August 2008, Dr. Joan Landron graduated from Temple University School of Dentistry in 1997.

She further honed her skills with a general practice residency at Metropolitan Hospital and underwent specialized training at New York University’s Implant Program for General Practitioners. Specializing in services such as X-rays, examinations, cleanings, crowns, and more, Dr. Landron brings a comprehensive approach to general and cosmetic dentistry, including implants.

A proud member of the American Dental Association, Nevada Dental Association, and Southern Nevada Dental Association, she cherishes her free time by spending moments with family, reading, and maintaining her health through exercise. Dr. Landron takes immense pride in being a part of the Absolute Dental team and is dedicated to her patients at the Absolute Dental – Nellis in Las Vegas, ensuring they receive the best care possible.

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