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What's Causing My Tooth Pain?

Dr. Hellwig Feb 23, 2016

A man holding his hand to his jaw in painTooth pain has many causes. Although most tooth pain is caused by a dental problem, in some cases, it may be unrelated to dental health. If you suffer from tooth pain, it's important to seek treatment to determine the underlying causes of pain. Restorative dentistry treatments can alleviate tooth pain while also restoring the health and beauty of your smile. Pinpointing the cause of tooth pain is the first step in the treatment process. To learn more about the causes of tooth pain, schedule a consultation with our San Diego, CA dentist, Dr. Peter Hellwig.

Tooth Pain Caused by Dental Issues

Tooth pain is one of the biggest signs of an oral health problem. Most people with tooth pain experience it as a result of a dental issue, like tooth decay or loose filling. If tooth pain is ignored, it can lead to further dental damage. Seeking treatment can relieve dental pain and protect the teeth from additional damage. If you experience tooth pain, it may be caused by:

  • Enamel erosion: Enamel erosion can cause increased tooth sensitivity, and if left untreated, may lead to decay. Enamel, the outer layer of the teeth, can become worn from consuming acidic, sugary foods and drinks, or from aggressively brushing the teeth.
  • Tooth decay: When plaque is left on the teeth, acids produced by bacteria within the plaque may eat away at the tooth's enamel, eventually leading to tooth decay and dental pain.
  • Dental cavities: Untreated tooth decay can degrade the tooth's enamel and dentin, and eventually reaching the inner pulp tissues, resulting in a painful dental cavity.
  • Root canal infection: Root canal infections occur when bacteria infect the pulp and nerve tissues within the tooth. Root canal infections are extremely painful because the tooth's nerve is directly impacted.
  • Chipped or broken tooth: Chipped or broken teeth can cause tooth pain and make it difficult to eat. Chipped and broken teeth are at increased risk of decay because the inner layers of the teeth are exposed to acids and bacteria.

Other Causes of Tooth Pain

Tooth pain isn't always caused by dental damage. Sometimes tooth pain is caused by strain or pressure on the teeth or even within the sinuses. Although the teeth may be healthy, it's still important to undergo a dental exam to determine the cause of dental pain. Some other causes of tooth pain include:

  • Teeth grinding: Chronic teeth grinding, also called bruxism, can make the teeth sore from the strain and pressure of grinding the teeth back and forth. If left untreated, teeth grinding can lead to dental damage such as tooth erosion and fractures. 
  • Sinus issues: The sinuses are located above the upper palate, which is why sinus problems can cause tooth pain. Tooth pain caused by sinus issues, like sinus infections, is generally felt on both sides of the mouth within the upper teeth and is usually accompanied by nasal congestion.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder: Sometimes tooth pain is not actually tooth pain but rather referred pain from the jaw, as with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). TMD, commonly marked by a clicking sound in the jaws, is a condition in which the jaw joint doesn't move correctly. TMD can make opening and closing the mouth difficult or painful. When TMD is aggravated, the jaw may hurt even when not moving, leading some to interpret the pain as tooth pain.

Discover Your Treatment Options

Dr. Hellwig offers a variety of treatments to restore oral health and alleviate tooth pain. To find out which treatments are right for you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation.

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