What Is a Toothache?
A toothache or tooth pain is most often caused when the nerve to a tooth is irritated, but there are numerous other reasons for a person to experience tooth pain. Risk factors for toothache include dental infection, gum disease, plaque, dental decay, injury, cracked teeth, poorly placed fillings or crowns, failing or leaking fillings or crowns, loss of a tooth (including tooth extractions), temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea. There are instances, however, where pain originating from outside the mouth radiates to the mouth, thus giving the impression that the pain is of tooth origin. This often happens when there is a problem with the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ), ears, nerves, sinuses, or muscles. Occasionally, heart problems can give a sensation of tooth pain. Pregnancy can also be a risk for tooth problems that lead to pain. Due to fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy, pregnancy gingivitis and tooth decay can occur.
One can prevent the majority of dental problems through basic oral hygiene home care
-- flossing and brushing. There are many different products, such as xylitol- and fluoride-containing rinses and toothpaste, and having teeth professionally cleaned on a regular schedule. The dentist may apply sealants, varnishes, and fluoride, which are especially important in children but can also be valuable to adults and the elderly, too.
What Causes a Toothache?
Toothaches occur from inflammation of the central portion of the tooth called pulp. The pulp contains nerve endings that are very sensitive to pain. Inflammation to the pulp, or pulpitis, can be caused by anything that has contact with the tooth. Common causes of tooth pain are the following:
- Dental cavities/tooth decay
- Temperature sensitivity -- hot or cold liquids or foods
- Hot or cold air
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Orthodontic movement -- braces
- Abscessed tooth
- Impacted wisdom tooth
- After a crown, a tooth will sometimes become sensitive after a crown is prepared or cemented.
- Periodontal disease
- Gum recession -- exposure of the tooth root that was covered by gum or bone
- Tooth fracture
- Acid erosion
- Damaged or broken fillings or crowns
- Cold sore or canker sore
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/2/2017
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