Are you experiencing sensitive teeth or tooth pain and wondering what the cause might be? Discover some of the most common tooth pain causes to get the treatment you need.
Tooth pain can range from a dull, annoying ache to excruciating pain that prevents you from functioning in your daily life. One thing is certain—when you have a toothache, you want to find relief as quickly as possible. Identifying the source of the problem is the first step in receiving the treatment you need to stop the suffering.
Let’s take a closer look at the ten most common reasons for sensitive teeth and tooth pain to help you determine what may be causing your discomfort.
1. Exposure to Cold and Hot
Do you notice a sharp, sudden pain when you take a drink of hot coffee or a bite of ice cream? If so, you may have tooth sensitivity. While in some cases, the sensitivity is normal, in other cases, it may be due to a more serious issue such as worn fillings or tooth enamel, tooth fractures, gum disease, or exposed nerves.
Minor, fleeting pain tends to be related to worn enamel, while more severe, prolonged pain indicates a dental problem that requires immediate dental attention.
2. Grinding Teeth
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is when you grind your top and bottom teeth together subconsciously when awake or at night (nocturnal bruxism). The grinding action wears down the enamel on teeth and can cause tooth fractures that lead to pain. You may also experience jaw discomfort from grinding or clenching.
3. Tooth Abscess/Infection
A tooth abscess or infection is typically a result of tooth damage, advanced tooth decay, or gum (periodontal) disease. The pus present in the abscess is due to bacterial infection around or in the root of the tooth. An abscess can also occur between the tooth and the surrounding gum area.
Pain from an abscessed tooth is often characterized by a persistent throbbing that may keep you up at night. You may notice visible gum swelling or a pimple-like spot on the gum that is filled with pus. Other symptoms include a foul odor or taste in the mouth, a discolored tooth, or pain and swelling in the surrounding lymph nodes, jaw, or face.
A tooth abscess is a leading reason people seek emergency dental services due to the severe pain and discomfort. Left untreated, the infection can lead to serious damage to teeth and gums as well as other health problems, so it is critical to seek immediate dental treatment.
4. Stress that Leads to Jaw Clenching
Can stress make your teeth hurt? Absolutely. When you are under stress, you may experience jaw tension and clenching. Many people do this without knowing it. The pressure and clenching action can eventually wear down the teeth enamel and lead to chronic tooth sensitivity and pain.
If you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw or tooth pain, you may be clenching your jaw while you sleep. Your dentist can recommend treatment options to prevent tooth damage from jaw clenching.
5. Cracked or Broken Tooth
A cracked or broken tooth can result from a variety of issues, such as biting something hard, using your teeth to open or hold objects, trauma, teeth grinding, or neglecting to treat cavities. The injury may be small, or it can be severe, extending into the tooth’s pulp or below the gum line.
The pain resulting from a broken tooth is usually most intense when you are chewing food. Sudden tooth sensitivity to hot and cold may also indicate a cracked tooth. Keep in mind, you can experience pain from a cracked tooth without a visible injury. Even a slightly cracked tooth that you cannot see with the naked eye may cause discomfort. Whatever the case, a cracked or broken tooth requires a dental appointment as soon as possible to alleviate pain and prevent further damage.
6. Tooth Decay
Sometimes tooth pain is the result of nothing more than tooth decay, also known as a cavity. Because the decay can occur at the top or sides of your tooth enamel, you may experience decay and pain even if you can’t see the cavity. While cavities are one of the most common dental issues, it’s important to get proper treatment before they turn into a more serious infection or abscess.
Symptoms of tooth decay include sudden onset pain or sensitivity, mild to sharp pain when eating or biting down, visible pits or holes in teeth, or brown or white stains on the teeth surface.
7. Sinus Pressure or Infection
In some cases, tooth pain may not be a problem directly related to unhealthy or damaged teeth. A sinus infection or inflammation can cause pressure and pain, specifically in the teeth closest to the sinuses—the upper rear teeth. The infection or swelling compresses the nerve endings of the teeth, which causes a painful sensation. A dentist can help you determine if the tooth pain is related to teeth or if you may be suffering from a sinus-related condition.
8. Food or Item Lodged Between Teeth
If you have a dull, persistent ache in a tooth, you may have a piece of food or an item lodged between two teeth. People who do not floss regularly or tend to bite on objects like plastic pen caps can get food or foreign objects stuck in their teeth, which creates pressure or pain. Rinsing the mouth and flossing should dislodge whatever is there. If not, it’s a good idea to seek the services of a trusted dentist for removal.
9. Infected Gums or Gum Recession
Gum infections and recession are common reasons for tooth pain, especially in older adults. Because the gums are the tissue that covers teeth roots and protects nerve endings, receding tissue exposes the sensitive nerves causing pain and leaving you vulnerable to infections and gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.
If you have a sudden onset of pain or sensitivity in your teeth, you may have infected or receding gums. In addition to pain, other symptoms of gum recession or infection include tender or swollen gums, longer-looking teeth, and tooth discoloration.
10. Teeth Bleaching Procedures or Products
While teeth whitening products like strips, gels, and in-office procedures have become popular in recent years, they can lead to tooth pain and sensitivity. The pain from whitening is often temporary and tends to go away if you stop using the product. For best results and a lower risk of pain from a whitening procedure, it’s best to go to a reputable dentist with experience performing the treatment.