Toothaches: they can range from mildly annoying to downright debilitating. In fact, toothaches are one of the leading reasons that people visit the dentist’s office. When considering a toothache– which is pain in or around the tooth– most people assume the cause is tooth decay, or a cavity. While this is often the case, decay isn’t the only cause of toothaches. What else can cause that throbbing pain in your mouth? Let’s consider some other potential culprits behind your toothache:
Abscessed tooth. An abscessed tooth is a severe infection located at the root of the tooth or in between the gum and the tooth. This painful infection can be caused by a number of factors including severe tooth decay, injury to the tooth, and gum disease. The infection can also spread from the root of the tooth to the surrounding bones. How can you know if your toothache is caused by an abscessed tooth? Only your dentist can tell you with certainty, but some of the symptoms you should look out for include:
- Severe and persistent tooth pain
- Swollen glands in the neck
- A general feeling of being ill or uncomfortable
- Foul-smelling breath
- Tooth sensitivity, specifically to hot or cold food and drinks
Bruxism. Bruxism– or the grinding and clenching of teeth– can also lead to tooth pain. Most people clench or grind from time to time without any ill effects. However, chronic bruxism– either during the day or while sleeping at night– can lead to a number of oral health concerns. This is because persistent grinding wears down the protective enamel, leaving the dentin layer exposed. This causes extreme tooth sensitivity and even pain. Bruxism can also cause teeth to fracture and, if left untreated, can ultimately result in tooth loss. So, could you be unknowingly suffering from bruxism? Some common symptoms include:
- Tight jaw muscles
- Face, neck, or upper back pain
- Disrupted sleep due to nighttime bruxism
- Tooth sensitivity
- Flattened, chipped, or fractured teeth
Periodontal disease. Periodontal disease– otherwise known as gum disease— might also be a potential culprit behind your tooth pain. The earliest stage of gum disease, gingivitis, results in inflammation of the gums due to bacteria built up in plaque. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, and ultimately result in the loss of teeth. How can you determine if your tooth pain might be related to gum disease? Of course, a visit to your dentist is necessary for a definitive diagnosis, but consider the following symptoms of periodontal disease:
- Bleeding gums, particularly during tooth brushing
- Gum recession
- Foul-smelling breath
- Gums that are swollen, red, or tender
- Teeth that are loose or shifting
Tooth trauma. Tooth trauma can range from relatively mild, such as a slightly chipped tooth, to an injury that causes one or more teeth to completely dislodge. Tooth trauma can be caused by a number of events, but the most common culprits are accidents and sports-related injuries. Dental treatments will vary depending on the nature and severity of the injury, but it’s important to seek help immediately for tooth pain related to tooth trauma.
When should I see my dentist?
Sometimes, toothaches resolve on their own relatively fast. So, when is a trip to the dentist warranted for a toothache? The following factors should prompt an immediate call:
- Your toothache is severe. If your toothache is interfering with your ability to perform daily activities without significant pain, it’s time to head to the dentist.
- You have a fever, which could signal an infection. Left untreated, infections can spread to the bloodstream.
- You have ear pain or pain when opening your mouth wide.
- Your tooth pain has persisted beyond 1-2 days.
Contact you dentist in Aurora today to learn more about some common causes of toothache and how we can help you achieve your healthiest smile.