Why Do My Teeth Hurt? 8 Likely Causes To Know

Dental pain is a very uncomfortable condition that can have a huge impact on your daily life, making it become so difficult to perform simple tasks or activities such as talking, chewing, swallowing, sleeping or even being attentive at work.

When we talk about tooth pain, the first thing that comes to mind most of the time is cavities, however, that is not always the case. There are a number of things that could make your teeth hurt. It could happen that a healthy looking tooth would hurt, other times, there might be some visible sign of a problem with the tooth.

Regardless of what the cause of a toothache is, there is no doubt that it can not be ignored. It is always good practice to visit a dentist for a proper assessment to rule out more serious causes of tooth pain. In this article, we would discuss the various possible reasons why a tooth could ache. Knowing the reason why you have tooth pain would help you become less anxious and guide you on getting appropriate treatment.

What Are The Causes of Tooth Pain?

Various things could lead to a toothache. The causes could be dental or non-dental in origin.

Non-Dental Causes of Tooth Pain:

1. Sinusitis:

Sinus infections can cause pain in the teeth, especially in teeth close to the sinuses in the upper posterior area of the jaw. Aside from the usual runny or stuffy nose and other symptoms of sinus infection, tooth pain is also a symptom associated with sinusitis. It is important to find out what the actual cause of tooth pain is, especially when there is no obvious problem with the tooth, to rule out any serious underlying factors. The approach to relieving the dental pain would be to treat the cause of the sinusitis.

2. Ear infection or Eustachian tube congestion:

Congestion in the ears could be a sequela of cold. There would be pressure in the eardrum and the ear would feel like it is filled with water. You may also experience “popping” sensation in the ear. The ear could also be infected. This condition can cause toothache pain of the back teeth on the side with the affected ear. It could also be felt as a radiating pain coming from the ear down the face on the affected side.

Dental Causes of Toothache:

1. Tooth sensitivity:

This is a very common cause of dental pain. The teeth can get sensitive for a number of reasons. It could happen as a result of excessive oral care, that is, brushing too vigorously with a hard bristled brush or excessive use of very strong oral care products that can leach in through the enamel and get to the dentin.

2. Previous tooth trauma:

It is possible for a tooth that got traumatized many years ago either from a fall, a blow or even chewing some kinds of food to become painful years later.

At the time of the injury, the nerves in the tooth may have gotten irritated, although the tooth showed no immediate signs of being hurt. When this happens, it is advisable to have regular follow up checks with your dentist to watch out for any changes in the tooth.

The pulp containing the nerves may die and the tooth may change color, then begin to cause pain and become sensitive. In this case, the line of treatment is usually a root canal therapy.

Depending on the specific situation, the tooth may need an extraction. In either case, the dentist would determine what treatment option to take and what rehabilitative measures would follow, for example, restoring with a crown or bridge.

3. Grinding or clenching teeth while sleeping:

This habit is known as bruxism. It is a subconscious behavior and can increase the pressure on the teeth leading to muscle and teeth pain. Also, long-term bruxism can cause the biting surface of the teeth to wear off, further causing complications such as temporomandibular joint pain.

Bruxists could benefit from a device called a “night guard”. It functions by relieving the pressure off some teeth and helping to evenly distribute pressure throughout the mouth. Here’s our review of the best night guards.

4. Tooth decay:

Sometimes called cavities or dental caries, is a very common cause of a toothache. Cavities develop when the pH of the mouth becomes acidic. When you consume foods that are starchy or contain sugars or refined carbohydrates such as cake, bread, candy, cereal, milk, etc, they tend to cling to the surface of the teeth, especially the biting surface of the posterior teeth.

These food substances get broken down by bacteria in the mouth, converting them to acid. Now, there is a good mix of food debris, acid, and bacteria in the mouth. These mix with saliva to form dental plaque which adheres to the teeth.

The acid in the plaque then goes on to dissolve the hard tooth structure, i.e the enamel and dentin in a process called “demineralization”. Eventually, the weakened enamel would cave in, causing a cavity.

Some ways to combat food decay from a dietary approach include drinking fluoridated water, food rich in calcium, chewing sugar-free gum and eating fruits and vegetables rich in fiber. Having good habits and practices such as brushing after consuming sticky foods and snacks, and choosing healthier food and beverage alternatives also ways to reduce the likelihood of developing tooth decay.

5. Recent dental work:

Having a dental procedure done on your teeth such as a filling or recently fitted braces could cause some sensitivity in the first few days following the procedure. Sometimes, filled teeth may feel painful when you bite on it even after you have had the filling for a while. In this case, you may have to get it checked as it may need to be taken out and redone.

6. A cracked or broken tooth:

A cracked or broken tooth could be as a result of an external blow to the mouth, a fall, biting suddenly on a hard object like a stone in food or your fork, or even as a result of grinding or clenching your teeth.

When a tooth is cracked, it becomes very painful to chew or bite food. The tooth may also feel sensitive to cold or hot drinks. Cracked tooth poses a risk for tooth decay and even tooth loss. It is necessary to visit your dentist to assess and treat a cracked tooth.

Wrapping It Up

In summary, we have looked at a few reasons why you may have pain in your teeth. Sensitive teeth may benefit from using toothpaste and mouth rinse specially formulated for sensitive teeth.

Also, maintaining optimum oral hygiene habits by brushing and flossing would decrease the chances of developing tooth decay.

Dental pain should never be a reason to deviate from maintaining good oral hygiene. At the same time, the use of oral care products such as analgesic mouth rinses and gels that relieve pain should never be substituted for professional care which you ought to receive from your dentist.

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Chioma Udechukwu, BDS

Dr. Chioma Udechukwu graduated with a bachelor's degree in dentistry (BDS) from the University of Lagos and spent years practicing dentistry. She relocated to Canada to pursue her dental career in a more enabling environment while continuing to work on her passion of educating everyday people about their oral health.
Chioma Udechukwu, BDS

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