Maybe you feel a dull, throbbing pain in your jaw. Maybe one side of your mouth hurts when you bite down on something. Maybe you get a sharp pain whenever you drink a cold beverage.
Toothaches can take a lot of different forms, but they usually have one thing in common: they tend to be a symptom of an issue that a dentist will need to address.
Even if the pain subsides on its own, that doesn’t mean the issue has resolved itself. Toothaches often come back (and sometimes with a vengeance!). If your tooth or jaw is hurting, there’s a good chance that your body’s telling you that something is wrong – don’t ignore it.
The most common causes of dental pain include:
- tooth decay – if bacteria in plaque erodes the enamel surface of your tooth, this can expose the sensitive nerve endings within the underlying tooth structure (dentine) and can continue to infiltrate into the centre of the tooth reaching the pulp.
- gum disease – if plaque remains beneath the gum, it can damage the bone that supports your teeth and the roots of your teeth as well. This causes teeth to loosen and ache.
- abscesses – tooth decay and gum disease can cause an abscess to form below or alongside the tooth root, which causes pain and spreads infection.
- trauma – if your tooth gets chipped or cracked, this can also expose the pulp and put you at risk of infection.
- impaction – if a tooth doesn’t emerge fully from the gums, it can irritate the surrounding nerves, causing pain. This is most common with wisdom teeth and other molars.
- bruxism (teeth grinding) – if you grind your teeth at night or during the day, this causes the teeth to wear down over time exposing the sensitive middle layers of teeth and can also strain the surrounding supporting structures.
- misaligned teeth – if your teeth are crooked or not properly aligned, this can cause uneven pressure in the mouth and may require orthodontic treatment.
The most important step is to see your dentist as soon as possible, your dentist will take an x-ray to determine the reasons for your toothache and make a plan for treating the tooth.