Tooth pain, also known as toothache, is a widespread oral health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of Americans have some type of mouth discomfort each year. Toothaches can be minor to severe and caused by anything from a piece of food trapped in the gum to a major bacterial infection.
While some toothaches are very transient and may go away on their own, more serious ones require the attention of a dental specialist. In truth, most patients see the dentist because they are in pain. Here are seven common causes of toothache that you shouldn’t neglect.
1. Tooth decay
By far, tooth decay is the most common reason for toothaches. Nine out of ten people who visit their dentist with a toothache have tooth decay. Tooth decay begins with tiny cavities that damage the tooth's enamel without causing pain. You may suffer discomfort and sensitivity if the decay penetrates the enamel and affects the tooth's inner layer (the dentin). It causes severe and extreme pain as it reaches the inner layer (the pulp).
2. Gum disease
Gum disease develops when plaque and tartar build up on your teeth, mainly due to a lack of dental care, such as brushing and flossing. Plaque and tartar can irritate your gums and cause them to become inflamed over time.
In other cases, this inflammation develops quite near the tooth, which many individuals confuse with a toothache. Gum disease can also cause your gums to recede over time, which, if left untreated, might eventually destroy the bone that supports your teeth.
3. TMJ (temporomandibular joint)
TMJ can cause dental discomfort. TMJ is the joint that connects your lower jaw to the rest of your skull. You may have TMD if you have jaw discomfort or soreness that is accompanied by headaches, earaches, ringing in the ears, jaw locking, limited range of jaw movement, teeth grinding (bruxism), dizziness, or tooth sensitivity. Your dentist can evaluate your condition and provide a personalized treatment plan to alleviate your TMD.
4. Impacted wisdom tooth
Wisdom teeth erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. While these teeth may not necessarily cause problems with the rest of your permanent teeth, they can become impacted, which means they become caught in the jaw behind the permanent teeth. These wisdom teeth will need to be removed if they cause pain, infection, or damage to the permanent teeth.
5. Teeth grinding
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common cause of tooth, jaw, neck, and associated muscle pain. People who grind their teeth usually do it when sleeping or under stressful conditions. Excessive teeth grinding entails clenching the jaw aggressively and grinding the top and bottom teeth against one other.
This can cause aching jaw bones and joints, headaches, and even fractured or chipped teeth, which are all quite painful. The most effective method for treating bruxism is to have a custom mouthguard, which is worn while you sleep to reduce the strain on your teeth and jaw.
6. Cracked or fractured teeth
Repeated variables, such as teeth grinding, bite alignment abnormalities that place excessive chewing stress on particular teeth, teeth weakened by multiple fillings, and chewing on ice, hard sweets, or popcorn kernels can cause cracks and fractures to form over time. A crack or fracture can cause acute pain when you bite down on anything.
7. Dental abscess
When tooth decay reaches the tooth's root, the root, and surrounding tissue are at risk of becoming infected. This will cause pulsing pain, making it difficult to identify which tooth is impacted. This is a very dangerous issue that should be addressed immediately since it might lead to serious complications.