What causes toothache pain?

Even if you take great care of your oral health, you’re probably familiar with the pain and discomfort a toothache can bring. Knowing what’s causing your toothache is the first step to getting treatment and making the pain go away.

What is a toothache?

There isn’t only one type of toothache. But did you know that your toothache symptoms can give you and your dentist an indication of what’s causing the problem?

Toothaches may be mild or severe.

You may feel a constant pain or only intermittently, such as at night or when your teeth are put under pressure by biting and chewing. It can often be difficult to pinpoint exactly where in your mouth the pain is coming from. You may also notice swelling around your tooth, discharge from an infected tooth or gum, or other symptoms such as a headache, fever or jaw pain.

What causes toothaches?

If your tooth feels painful, this usually means that the soft inside of the tooth (the pulp) has become inflamed. The pulp contains sensitive nerve endings, which transmit pain signals to your brain.

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The most common reasons for a toothache are:

Tooth Decay:

If plaque breaks down the enamel surface of your tooth, this can cause cavities to form, which exposes the sensitive pulp. You may have tooth decay if you feel a sharp pain when eating or drinking, especially hot or cold food and beverages.

Your dentist will remove the decayed part of your tooth and may replace it with a white filling, or they may perform a root canal if the pulp is infected. If your tooth is too badly decayed to repair, it will need to be extracted.

Cracked Tooth:

There are many ways a tooth can become damaged. If you feel a sharp pain when chewing, you may have a cracked or chipped tooth, even if you can’t see the damage. You should get your teeth examined by a dentist as soon as possible to prevent the damage and the pain becoming worse.

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Damaged Filling:

If a filling gets damaged or falls out, your dentist will clean the area and place a new one.

Worn Enamel:

Sensitive teeth can also mean that the enamel has gradually worn down over time. You should switch to a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and talk to your dentist about restorative treatments.

Abscessed Tooth:

Severe and continuous toothache can indicate the presence of an abscessed or infected tooth. This needs to be treated by your dentist as soon as possible, to prevent bone loss.

Impacted Wisdom Tooth:

If a wisdom tooth doesn’t emerge fully from the gum, this can irritate the gum tissue and cause pain as it pushes against your other teeth. Your dentist will usually recommend wisdom teeth removal.

Teeth Grinding:

If you have the habit of grinding your teeth when you feel stressed, when you’re concentrating or when you’re asleep, this can put pressure on your teeth and wear down the enamel. Your dentist may recommend a number of treatments, including custom-fitted night-guards.

Related Article: Why Custom Mouthguards are a Great Investment

Infected Gums:

Gum disease can cause pain in the teeth as well as the gums. If it’s left untreated, it can cause teeth to loosen and fall out. Fortunately, gum disease in its early stage (gingivitis) can usually be reversed by following good oral hygiene and keeping six-monthly dental appointments.

Infected Sinuses:

If your toothache is accompanied by a blocked nose or pressure in your sinuses, you could have a sinus infection (sinusitis). You should speak to your dentist or doctor about treatment options.

Injured Jaw:

If your toothache started after an injury or trauma to your jaw, it may be related to a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Your dentist can tell you more about TMJ dysfunction treatment.

Talk to a dentist in Kansas City! If your toothache lasts longer than one or two days, it’s causing you severe pain and discomfort, or you have other symptoms, you should make an appointment with your dentist right away.


Contact us immediately if you are experiencing tooth pain or schedule your appointment to meet with any of our skilled dentists at one of our three conveniently located dental office locations within the Kansas City area, including Lee’s Summit / Independence, the Country Club Plaza and Downtown Kansas City. The gentle dentists and expert team at Thomas L. Anderson and Associates look forward to working with you to treat your dental emergency, achieve proper oral health and a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to review your policy! Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment and become part of our dental family.