A toothache is one of the most common conditions that brings people to our office. Ideally, you should see a dentist regularly for preventive treatment. This can help your heart as well as your teeth. However, if you’re the kind of person who only looks for treatment when you experience pain, here’s a brief guide to the potential causes of your pain. 

young man holding cup and suffering from toothache

Tooth Decay

The most common cause of tooth pain is tooth decay, also known as cavities. Cavities are caused by oral bacteria, which excrete acid that dissolves tooth enamel. This creates the hole in your tooth that we call a cavity. Tooth pain related to a cavity might be constant, or it might be triggered by pressure, acids, sugar, or temperature changes. 

Chipped or Cracked Teeth

Damage to your teeth can also cause toothaches. Minor chipped teeth can induce sensitivity to pressure or temperature. More serious cracks can cause constant pain and greater sensitivity. You might also have minor stress cracks on your teeth, called craze lines, that don’t cause any pain or sensitivity at all. 

Eroded or Worn Teeth

You might experience toothaches if your teeth are seriously worn or eroded. Tooth erosion is caused by acidic foods and drinks. Tooth wear occurs because of contact with other teeth and with hard foods. 

Both causes can weaken the protective layers of the tooth around your nerve, which can cause sensitivity to pressure and temperature. In extreme cases of erosion or wear, you might experience constant toothache. 

Infected Teeth

If left untreated, a cavity can progress into the nerve chamber of the tooth. When this happens, you have an infected or abscessed tooth. This is a very serious condition and should be treated as an emergency. A toothache related to an infected tooth is often very painful and either constant or long-lasting after exposure to pressure, acids, sugar, or temperature changes. 

Note: you can have an infected tooth without toothache. Pay attention to symptoms like bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, localized warmth, swelling, discharge, and fever. 

Failing Restorations

Restorations like fillings and crowns repair damaged teeth and prevent related toothaches. However, when restorations start to fail, you might experience pain or sensitivity related to temperature, pressure, acidity, or sweets. Except in cases of poorly designed or placed restorations, the cause is usually secondary decay: cavities developing under or around the restoration. 

Gum Disease

Gum disease is an infection of the tissue around the teeth. As the infection progresses, it exposes the tooth roots, which aren’t well insulated against temperature changes. Temperature sensitivity is a common symptom of gum disease. More advanced gum disease might be linked to pressure sensitivity and constant tooth pain. You might also develop cavities under the gum line. 

Other Causes of Toothache

Sometimes, your toothache isn’t coming from a tooth. It could be related to sinuses, nerve degeneration, or jaw muscle soreness. A dental exam helps eliminate tooth-related causes of pain so you can track down the true source of discomfort. 

Let Us Treat Your Toothache

If you are experiencing toothache, we can help. We will examine your teeth and find the root cause of the pain and recommend treatment. We can also recommend ways to head off future toothaches before they occur. 

For help with toothache or other dental problems, please call (949) 551-5902 today for an appointment with an Orange County dentist at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.