Understanding the Causes of Tooth Pain

Mar 24, 2016 @ 09:00 AM — by Sharon B. Mateja, D.D.S.

A woman holding her hand to her face, in painTooth pain has many causes, most of which can lead to severe oral health problems if ignored. Fortunately, restorative dentistry treatments can repair dental damage, improving your oral health and alleviating tooth pain. To determine your underlying causes of tooth pain, schedule a consultation with Rancho Cucamonga, CA dentists Sharon B. Mateja and Brenda Kuekels.

The Causes of Tooth Pain

Tooth pain is most often caused by an oral health problem, such as tooth decay, and should not be ignored. Treating tooth pain begins with determining the cause in order to stop pain at the source and restore oral health. Some common causes of tooth pain include:

  • Enamel erosion: Enamel erosion is most commonly caused by the acids in the foods we eat and drink. It occurs as the acids dissolve the protective outer layer of the teeth, called the enamel. Enamel erosion can cause increased tooth sensitivity, making eating and drinking painful.
  • Tooth decay: Tooth decay occurs when plaque and food remnants are left on the teeth, allowing the acids from the bacteria within plaque to erode the teeth. Tooth pain is often one of the first signs of tooth decay.
  • Root canal infections: Root canal infections occur when the inner structures of the tooth, including the nerve and pulp tissue, are exposed to bacteria as a result of tooth decay or trauma.  Root canal infections are extremely painful because they directly affect the tooth's nerve.
  • Abscessed tooth: Pus-filled pockets, called abscesses, can develop around the tooth roots as a result of the spread of root canal infections or gum disease and are another possible source of tooth pain.
  • Gum recession: Gum recession, often caused by gum disease, can advance to a point in which the tooth roots are exposed to bacteria and plaque, increasing the risk of tooth decay and dental pain.
  • Fractured or chipped tooth: Fractured or chipped teeth can expose the inner structures of the teeth, causing pain or increased sensitivity when eating. Fractures and chips also leave the teeth vulnerable to decay.
  • Loose dental fillings: Loose dental fillings can allow bacteria and food remnants to enter the tooth, causing dental pain.

Other Issues May Manifest as Tooth Pain

Sometimes tooth pain is not related to an oral health problem and may be felt in otherwise healthy teeth. In such cases, tooth pain may actually be an indication of a general health issue. If oral health issues are ruled out as the source of tooth pain, it may be time to see your primary care physician to determine the underlying cause, such as:

  • Ear infections: Due to the proximity of the ears to the jaw and teeth, the pain of ear infections is sometimes felt as tooth pain.
  • Sinus infections: The sinus cavity sits above the upper palate of the mouth, and this is why sinus infections can cause tooth pain. Tooth pain associated with sinus infections is typically felt on both sides of the upper teeth and is commonly combined with nasal congestion.
  • Heart issues: Acute tooth or jaw pain can sometimes indicate an oncoming heart attack or angina attack.

Alleviate Tooth Pain with Dental Treatment

Seek relief from tooth pain with treatment from Drs. Mateja and Kuekels. Schedule a consultation to find out which treatments are right for you.

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