Why Do My Teeth Hurt? Causes of Severe Toothaches

If you’ve ever experienced a severe toothache, then you know it’s nearly impossible to just “grin and bear it.” Even Shakespeare is famously quoted as saying, “There was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently.”

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Toothaches are a real pain.

Take it from Shakespeare — sitting around and waiting for the pain to go away isn’t worth it. And in most cases, the pain won’t go away without dentist intervention. There could be a few different things going on.

1. Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, also called a cavity, is a very common reason for severe tooth pain. 

A cavity occurs when bad bacteria grow and turn into a hard and sticky plaque on your teeth. Left alone, the bacteria in this plaque will eat through the hard enamel layer of your tooth and cause a cavity.

This cavity will often look like a small white, brown, or black spot on your tooth. While these spots are generally painless at first, over time the decay will spread toward the inner layer of your tooth. That’s where the discomfort begins. You might notice symptoms like tooth sensitivity to temperature and pressure.

Your dentist can help relieve pain from a cavity through…

  • A filling to repair the cavity
  • A dental sealant to prevent future cavities
  • Antibiotics to get rid of any infection

If you don’t fix a cavity, the decay can eventually spread to the root of your tooth, hitting your nerve. This will be very uncomfortable and typically requires a root canal to fix the tooth, relieve pain, and restore your health.

2. Gum disease

Gum disease is an infection of your gums and is typically characterized by inflamed, red, and swollen gums. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to gum recession, which exposes the roots of your teeth. These roots can be sensitive to cold, touch, and chewing, causing you pain!

Gum disease can have negative effects beyond just mouth pain. The disease has been linked to issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and even stroke. 

Your dentist can help prevent, treat, and stop gum disease from progressing through various minimally-invasive and surgical treatments.

3. Tooth fracture

Your teeth are incredibly strong. But chomping down on a hard piece of food like a cherry pit, ice, or popcorn kernel can cause cracks or splits in your teeth.

A tooth fracture allows bacteria, food particles, and water to sneak in and irritate or infect the pulp and nerve. Thus the reason for the throbbing pain in your tooth and jaw.

To relieve pain, your dentist can repair the fracture with dental glue, a veneer, or filling. In some cases, a crown or even a root canal may be necessary.

4. Bruxism

Do you clench and grind your teeth? This issue is known as bruxism, and it usually happens at night while you sleep. You might not even realize you’re doing it.

Clenching and grinding your teeth can cause issues for your whole mouth — from tooth erosion and increased risk of cavities to fractured teeth. If you suffer from bruxism, you will eventually realize something isn’t right by way of tooth, gum, and jaw pain.

Your dentist can help relieve pain and stop the bruxism habit by making a custom mouth guard for you. Depending on how much damage bruxism has caused your teeth, you may also need to have some teeth repaired.

5. Tooth abscess

If decay is left untreated, it will eventually reach the pulp of your tooth, killing the tissue. This dead tissue can cause infection and inflammation, creating what’s known as an abscess.

A tooth abscess is quite uncomfortable and a common source of toothaches. This pain won’t just disappear on its own, so you’ll want to get this taken care of right away! 

Your dentist will get you started on antibiotics to kill the tooth infection and will drain and clean out the abscess. You’ll want to get to the root of the issue, which may also involve treating gum disease, a cracked tooth, or severe decay. In some cases, the tooth will need to be extracted and restored with an implant.

6. Impacted wisdom teeth

If your wisdom teeth are growing sideways, are too crowded, or are prevented from moving into their proper position by other teeth, they can become impacted. This impaction creates a lot of pressure in your mouth, leading to jaw pain and soreness. 

Impacted or partially erupted wisdom teeth can also put you at risk for gum disease, decay, and infection. There’s a reason so many people end up having their wisdom teeth removed!

7. Loose dental crown

Think of a crown like a cap for your tooth. It typically covers your entire tooth and is meant to restore a tooth suffering from severe decay or other issues. With proper care, a crown can last a lifetime. However, just like a real tooth, accidents happen and it might become loose.

A loose crown can be the result of clenching or grinding teeth, cracking a tooth, and years of wear and tear without proper care. When a crown becomes loose, bacteria can sneak underneath, causing an infection and triggering nerve pain.

Thankfully, there is an easy fix! Your dentist will clean out your tooth and repair the crown or replace it with a new one. Good as new and no more pain!

Relax during your treatment with sedation dentistry

When you’re suffering from mouth pain, the last thing you want is to sit in a dentist’s chair and endure more discomfort. Additionally, the fear of an uncomfortable dental treatment might keep you from calling the dentist until the pain becomes unbearable. 

Thanks to modern treatments and techniques, fearing the dentist is a thing of the past. But when you need a little extra help to relax and relieve discomfort, sedation dentistry is an option.

At First Impressions Dentistry, we offer a variety of sedation options — from laughing gas and oral sedation to conscious IV sedation, you will feel completely relaxed and feel no discomfort during your treatment.

Suffering from a toothache? Here’s what to do

If your mouth, jaw, or gums are in pain, it’s important to contact a dentist right away. 

Pain is your body telling you something isn’t right. Without talking to a dentist, any toothache home remedy relief you find will only be temporary. Letting the pain go untreated will lead to larger, more painful issues down the line. 

After you’ve called your dentist and scheduled an appointment, you can help ease the pain until your appointment with a few temporary pain relief tricks:

  • Taking an over-the-counter pain medication
  • Do a warm salt water rinse
  • Use a cold compress for 20 minutes at a time
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