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Why Do I Have a Toothache?


Tooth pain is uncomfortable and can be difficult to self-diagnose and self-treat. If you are experiencing a toothache, it’s important to get a full oral exam by a dentist to determine the root of the problem. A few common reasons for toothaches include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Grinding teeth
  • Tooth eruption (in babies and children)

A sinus or ear infection, TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder), or tension in the facial muscles can cause discomfort in the teeth, but are usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as a headache. Pain around the teeth or jaws in general can be signs of an underlying medical condition, so it’s important to see your dentist if such pain exists.

Normal Symptoms Of A Toothache

Toothaches are generally caused by tooth decay or gum disease. The most common symptoms include pain or sensitivity when eating, especially sweet or sour food. Sensitivity to temperature is also a common symptom. This type of irritation occurs when the pulp, or the inside of the tooth, has experienced some sort of decay.

Sharp, stabbing pains when biting down are often symptoms of a cavity or a cracked tooth. A dull, throbbing pain may be a sign of an abscessed tooth or infection, and those should be treated by a dentist immediately.

If you have pus surrounding the irritated tooth, the tooth may have become abscessed, which causes the surrounding bone to become infected. Pus could also be a sign of advanced gum disease, which is usually characterized by inflamed gums that bleed when flossed.

See your dentist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms along with your toothache:

  • Fever
  • Foul tasting discharge
  • Continuous, lasting pain
  • Swelling around the tooth
  • Intense pain when you bite

How To Alleviate The Pain Of A Toothache

Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can – many dental offices offer emergency treatment to patients who are in pain. If left untreated, toothaches can also develop into a far more serious issue.

If you are unable to see your dentist right away, here are a few tips to help with the pain of a toothache:

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Rinse with warm salt water
  • Gently brush and floss around the teeth, removing as much built up plaque or stuck food as possible
  • Apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth to help alleviate any swelling

How To Prevent A Toothache

Many toothaches can be prevented with proper and consistent oral care. Patients who maintain a routine of dental health are less likely to experience toothaches. Be sure you are brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing regularly to prevent toothaches. Regular visits to your dentist will also help.