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The 10 Most Common Causes of a Toothache

By Kirk Kimmerling D.D.S. on September 16, 2017

Aside from being painful, a toothache is often a symptom of a serious dental issue.  It's important that you determine the exact causes of a toothache so a dentist can provide proper treatment.

A toothache can be dull and throbbing or sharp and focused. Regardless of what type of pain you're feeling, an aching tooth can be quite debilitating. You need to seek treatment immediately to ensure the problem doesn't escalate.

In American, more than a quarter of adults have cavities that have not been treated. This is due to either improper dental care or neglecting to visit the dentist regularly. If gone untreated, a cavity will likely turn into a more serious problem requiring more invasive treatment.

Identifying the Causes of a Toothache

By educating yourself on the primary reasons for toothaches, you may be able to determine your particular dental condition. No course of action should replace visiting a dentist, but it never hurts to inform yourself.

To help you out, we've identified the most common causes of a toothache.

1. Gum Disease

Also called Periodontal disease or Gingivitis, gum disease is caused when bacteria attack the gums at or below the gum line. When this happens, the gums may become swollen and sore. Bleeding while brushing can even occur.

You may perceive pain in a tooth when in fact gum disease is the culprit. You may also notice that the gums are receding away from the teeth. If gone untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth and bone damage which will need to be corrected with surgery.

2. Tooth Grinding

Many people have problems grinding their teeth while asleep or when anxious or stressed. This condition, also called bruxism, can be one of the primary causes of a toothache today. This serious condition can also lead to chipped teeth and problems with sore jaw bones and headaches.

A person is often asleep or simply unaware when this happens. Therefore it is often gone untreated and can cause painful damage to teeth and muscles. A dentist can help by fitting a mouth guard that can be worn to prevent further damage.

3. Poor Brushing Technique

Many people don't pay attention to the way they brush their teeth. Sometimes damage can be caused by brushing and flossing too hard. This can cause the gums to become inflamed and teeth to become irritated.

Insufficient brushing will also leave food and bacteria between teeth which leads to cavities. It's important that you learn healthy brushing and flossing techniques and perform them regularly. Speak to your dentist if you feel you have poor brushing habits.

4. Cavities

This is one of the other primary causes of a toothache. Cavities are caused by unhealthy eating and poor dental hygiene. Buildup of bacteria causes erosion of the outer layer of the tooth.

If gone untreated, a cavity will eventually affect the inner portions of a tooth and cause serious pain.  It can also lead to the necessity of a root canal. If you're experiencing a toothache you need to see your dentist to determine if a cavity needs to be filled.

5. Oral Abscess

If a cavity is left untreated it can spread to the root and gum tissue surrounding a tooth. This can result in an abscess on the gum tissue which can be very dangerous. This will most likely lead to serious pain in and around the infected tooth.

An abscess is often associated with a throbbing pain. It can sometimes be hard to determine exactly which tooth is infected. This needs to be addressed immediately to avoid further spread of the infection.

6. Chipped or Broken Tooth

A fractured tooth may just be a minor chip or a more significant break. This can be caused by biting down on something hard or a more substantial impact. Regardless of the severity, they can both be one of the causes of a toothache.

If a small crack in a tooth spreads to the nerve ending, serious pain will follow. You may think a tiny chip or crack can be left alone. But a minor break may eventually spread and cause serious pain and even infection.

7. Impacted Wisdom Teeth

An impacted wisdom tooth is one that has not broken through the gum line. This happens when a wisdom tooth has growth in sideways or crooked. When this happens, instead of erupting through the gum line, it impacts or pushes against other teeth.

An impacted wisdom tooth is creating pressure against the teeth around it. This pressure will build and can cause intense pain. An impacted wisdom tooth will likely have to be removed to avoid alignment issues with other teeth.

8. Orthodontic Adjustment

Alignment measures like braces or retainers can often lead to toothaches and general soreness. These aches will typically go away on their own. If they don't, your dentist needs to be notified in order to make adjustments.

Braces and retainers must be tightened in order to help move teeth during the alignment process. This often leads to tooth and jaw pain. If you feel the pain is excessive or is not going away, it's time to talk to your dentist.

9. Lost or Damaged Fillings

When teeth are damaged through chipping or from cavities they are sealed with fillings in order to protect the tooth. A crown may also be used to cover a damaged tooth. But these usually don't last forever.

When a filling or crown is lost or damaged, the damaged tooth is exposed to bacteria and temperature changes. This will lead to either dull or severe pain. The filling or crown will need to be repaired in order to protect the vulnerable tooth.

10. Sensitive Teeth

One of the most common causes of a toothache is sensitive teeth. This happens when the top layer of enamel is too thin or wearing away. Brushing too hard or over-bleaching can cause this.

If you notice a toothache when drinking cold or hot liquids, you may have sensitive teeth. It's probably time to talk to your dentist.

Don't Ignore Toothaches

If you've looked at all the causes of a toothache and determined the problem, don't wait to contact a dentist. Ignoring a toothache can lead to further dental issues requiring more extensive treatment.

At Verde Pointe Dental Associates, we specialize in restorative dentistry. We can diagnose your dental issue and provide a wide range of treatment options. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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Marietta Office

3698 Largent Way
Ste 202
Marietta, GA 30064

More Info Directions (770) 423-4900