Tooth Pain – Causes, Symptoms Treatments

Excerpt: The mouth has a significant amount of exposure to threats and outside ailments it has to defend against. Pain is often an early warning sign for many dental issues that could be serious issues or temporary setbacks.
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The mouth has a significant amount of exposure to threats and outside ailments it has to defend against. Pain is often an early warning sign for many dental issues that could be serious issues or temporary setbacks. Since tooth pain, in general, has such a wide variety of potential causes, let’s talk about some of the most likely issues.

Tooth Pain – What causes it?

Oral pain, either toothaches or other oral pain are typically caused by one of the following problems:

 

All of these issues could also be considered a dental emergency depending on how advanced the issue is.

A toothache may show these symptoms

If it’s a toothache causing the pain, then you may feel it’s effects in the following ways:
 
  • Different types of tooth pain – This may be take on a variety of attributes, it could be, sharp & throbbing, consistent, or only felt when pressure is applied to the tooth.
  • Local swelling – The gums around the tooth may be swollen, red or puffy.
  • Fever or headache – Certain dental issues like infections and dental abscesses can cause these symptoms.
  • Foul tasting drainage from the infected tooth.

When should I see my dentist about tooth pain or toothache?

Just feeling severe or ongoing pain from a tooth is enough to consider it a dental emergency. Call a dentist if you experience the following symptoms:
 
  • Severe pain – If the patient thinks the pain is severe then it’s time to call the dentist, if the pain is disruptive to your regular activities then it could be an emergency.
  • Ongoing pain – If the pain is present over a few days and does not go away then it’s a sign that something is wrong.
  • Fever, earache, or pain when opening your mouth – Infections will cause even your most basic movements to feel uncomfortable. If you have an unexplained fever it’s time to make a dentist or doctor’s appointment.
 
Notes: it may be difficult to tell if it is a “normal” amount of pain, or it’s severe. If you’re unsure you can always call our dental clinics to assess the situation.

Summary – What causes tooth pain and when should I call someone?

There are numerous reasons for a tooth ache, you should be concerned if it’s, intense, consistent, or if you have an unexplained, fever, swelling, or pain with mouth movement.

broken teeth

Depending on the fracture, you may not feel any pain at all, it’s possible you could fracture part of the tooth so you just feel pieces of the tooth. If you suddenly feel like you chewing on something that resembles the texture of sand, or bits of stone, you probably broke a tooth. If you’re unsure you can feel around your mouth with your tongue to find any jagged spots. Our mouths are pretty sensitive, so if there’s anything different that shows up you should be aware of it almost immediately i.e. broken tooth, missing tooth, swollen gums, etc. 
 
If you ever experience a fractured, broken, chipped, or knocked-out tooth, please see our emergency services page.

Tooth Decay

Your enamel can break down from acid and bacteria build up among other things. Since the enamel acts as armor for the sensitive parts of your teeth, you will almost definitely experience pain if this decays. The pain could also signal an infection, if enough bacteria gets in the cavity it can infect the inner pulp of the tooth and put you at risk of having a dental abscess

Abscessed Tooth

Every tooth has a type of tissue called “pulp”, if this dental pulp gets infected then your tooth will become abscessed. The infected pulp will need to be removed through root canal therapy. If this infection is left untreated, then you could experience even worse symptoms. When you have a root canal procedure, the dentist will likely recommend you also get a dental crown, the crown is to provide more protection and longevity to the tooth.

Damaged Fillings, Crowns, Or Dental Appliances

If you ever damage a crown, filling, or appliance, you should immediately call a dentist. A crown and filling are meant to add protection and support. If these are broken it will make that tooth immediately vulnerable again. Appliances like braces and Clear Aligners are meant to apply pressure to teeth so they move into a more optimal position. If your appliances break you will have to pay for them again and you may loose progress.

Teeth Grinding (bruxism)

Teeth grinding puts a large amount of pressure on your teeth and gums. This can be damaging as you make wear down the enamel causing exposure, or you could break the teeth. Bruxism is a dangerous affliction as the user is most likely doing this unconsciously. Your dentist should be able to spot signs of bruxism even if you’re unaware that you’re doing it.

Infected gums

It may difficult to tell if the pain is coming from the tooth, or a local infection of the gums. Or if you have gingivitis or periodontitis, this can directly impact the tooth in a number of ways. Infected gums are generally painful, swollen, red and or puffy. They may also bleed when during flossing or brushing. Gums are a significant early indicator if you are concerned about something more serious.

Summary – What caused my tooth pain?

There are a number of reasons tooth pain could be caused, here are a few common issues:

  • Fractured/knocked out tooth
  • Tooth decay
  • Abscessed tooth
  • A damaged filling, crown, or dental appliance
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Infected gums

Tooth pain DIY relief

If you’re experiencing pain at home and you can’t get to the dentist, here are some DIY tactics you can try

  • Cold compress – Lightly hold an ice pack or a cold bag against your jaw. (Frozen peas and meat both work great for substitutes).
  • Elevating your head – The blood in your head can create pressure on the tooth, elevating your head can relieve some of this pressure.
  • Salt water rinse – Salt has anti-microbial properties, mix a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water and gently swish it around your mouth.
  • Medicated ointments – There are OTC products that have been formulated to help get rid of tooth pain temporarily.
  • Hydrogen peroxide rinse – Mix a small cup with half water and half hydrogen peroxide. Gently swish and spit, DO NOT swallow the mix, it isn’t fatal, but it’s not recommended.
  • Garlic – Crush real garlic cloves and immediately mix it to a paste. Brush or apply the paste to the tooth that is in pain. The allicin resulting from the crushed garlic can have a antimicrobial effect

Summary – What caused my tooth pain?

There are a number of reasons tooth pain could be caused, here are a few common issues:

  • Cold compress
  • Elevating your head
  • Saltwater rinse
  • Medicated ointments
  • Hydrogen peroxide rinse
  • Garlic

What should I do about tooth pain?

Rate the tooth pain on a scale of 1-10, if it’s anywhere from a 6.5 up (moderate to severe) you should call your dentist and ask them about the best course of action. Pain is only relative to the one experiencing, so if they say it feels painful enough, it probably is worth getting checked out. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Not every dental emergency will be painful, you can break a tooth and not feel pain at all. If you do have an emergency, treat it sooner than later, regardless of how little pain you feel.

Our emergency dental clinic is open all year around, just in case.

Call ahead to book your emergency dental appointment. If you do call us we will do our best to get in you the same day, or as soon as we can.

These emergency dentist procedures have a very wide range in cost, we have some of our procedure fees listed here. Or you can call us to get a more specific estimate.

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