Your Dental Guide on Tooth Pain Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What really causes those sharp tooth pains? Read on to find out

Tooth pain can mean a lot of things

Toothache, what almost all of us must have gone through at some point in life, is one of the worst types of pains you will ever experience. Needless to say, it is a direct indicator that your dental health might be compromised.

Tooth pain is not generally life-threatening, however, it should still be taken seriously. If left untreated for a long time, it can cause serious damage to gum health and lead to tooth infection.

In this detailed guide, you can learn about the significant areas of tooth pain. This includes insight into the causes, toothache remedy and preventive treatment for tooth pain.


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What can be the possible causes of tooth pain?


The causes of tooth pain and gum abscess can vary, and the most common reason can be dental cavities. Also known as tooth decay, cavities are permanently damaged areas of the teeth.

Due to prolonged ignorance of dental hygiene, plaque hardens on the surface of the teeth, creating holes in the enamel. The question arises: who is prone to getting cavities? Well, anyone with teeth can suffer from them. However, they are still more common in young children, teens and older adults.

Types of cavities

Cavities, if left untreated for a long time, can be the prime cause of toothache and tooth abscess. There are three types of cavities

  1. Smooth surface cavities that appear on the sides of your teeth.
  2. Pit and fissure cavities, which can be seen on the bumpy surfaces on the top of your teeth.
  3. Root cavities; that appear below the gum line and on the top of the teeth.

Cavities are caused due to tooth decay when neglected dental health leads to permanent damage on the enamel of the teeth. If teeth are not cleaned properly, the food particles, bacteria, and natural acids in the mouth can combine to form plaque.

If you do not regularly clean your teeth or avoid routine dental check-ups, the acid in plaque can go unnoticed and begins to erode the enamel, causing further damage to the second layer of the teeth called ‘dentin’.

Ignoring your dental health and taking regular dentist visits for granted can put you through serious pain. To avoid being in this situation, one must take care of teeth and take a preventive approach rather than only referring to the dental health practitioner for tooth pain relief.

Abscessed tooth: What is it, and what are the symptoms?

Abscessed tooth can be another cause of tooth pain. It is a condition in which a pocket of pus is formed in the different parts of your teeth due to bacterial infection. In medical terms, it is also referred to as dental abscess.

An abscessed tooth can not only cause moderate to severe toothache, but in extreme cases, the pain can even radiate to your neck and ears.

Depending on the location, there are three most common kinds of dental abscesses:

  • Abscess that forms at the top of a tooth’s root is called a periapical abscess.
  • Abscess next to the root of a tooth is called a periodontal abscess. It can also affect the bone and surrounding tissue.
  • An abscess on the gum (or gum abscess) is called a gingival abscess.

Symptoms of abscessed tooth

The key symptom that indicates that you might have tooth abscess is intense pain in your gums or near your teeth. The pain starts suddenly and keeps worsening over time. Other symptoms include sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, reactivity to biting or chewing due to the pressure, swelling around the face, jaw, or cheek areas.

How to differentiate between other tooth infections and tooth abscess?

While the symptoms can overlap, there are certain symptoms that are more common in a tooth abscess. These are:

  • intense pain that travels to your neck, ear or jaw
  • the pain gets more severe when you lie down
  • you can see some swelling and facial redness
  • experiencing pain while biting or chewing
  • red and swollen gums
  • discolouration and lose teeth
  • fever and odd/bitter taste in the mouth
  • tooth sensitivity and bad breath

What is the cause of dental abscess?

Before getting into tooth pain relief, it is important to understand what causes dental abscess in the first place. Abscessed tooth or abscessed gum is caused when bacteria gets into teeth and gums. But the situation also varies according to the following scenarios.

  • Bacteria entering the teeth pulp mostly through a cavity can cause Periapical abscess. The soft, inner part of the teeth is called the pulp. It is very sensitive as it is made up of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues.

  • Periodontal abscess is primarily caused due to any underlying gum disease. However, it can also happen as an outcome of an injury.

  • Gingival gum abscess occurs as a result of a foreign element, for example a tiny bristle of toothbrush or food particle, embedding in the gum.

Damaged fillings: another possible cause of tooth pain

If you have had a filling in the past and you are experiencing tooth pain now, these both can be interlinked. A toothache may also occur as a result of damaged or suffered filling. There can be a number of factors that can lead to damages in dental fillings.

  • Wearing off naturally: Although dental fillings are carefully made to be durable and sustainable, they still may not last a lifetime. Due to their daily tasks like chewing and biting, they can wear off over time, resulting in tooth pain.

  • Improper usage: One thing you should be mindful of, to avoid pain in the first place rather than looking for toothache remedy later, is that dental restorations are not natural teeth. They have limitations and should only be put through what they can endure. Chewing hard or sharp items can cause damage to them and lead to extreme pain.

  • Neglected dental health: When dental restorations are installed, your teeth are thoroughly cleaned. However, if you do not take care of hygiene after it, the bacteria grows inside the mouth and forms secondary cavities. They continue to damage the teeth to the point that they no longer can support the restorations, leading to tooth pain and damage.

Sinusitis, a possible cause of pain in the teeth

Other than these, tooth pain can also be caused due to sinusitis. Sinuses become inflamed fungal or bacterial infection in your sinus. As sinuses are close to the upper teeth, they can result in pain in teeth too.

Result of an injury or fractured tooth

If you are looking for the origin of the pain to proceed for toothache remedy, you should also investigate any possible fracture or injury. Even if not the whole tooth, a small crack in the teeth due to biting on something hard can lead to tooth infection as well.

Depending on how severe the crack is, the dentist will either suggest a crown or a cap to cover it. In extreme cases, when the crack is deeper, an implant will be performed to replace the damaged tooth.

Emergence of wisdom teeth

Emergence of wisdom teeth can also be a cause of toothache. If your wisdom teeth are coming out of your gum in a non-symmetrical way without enough space, it can cause extreme tooth pain.

Once they are out in an improper and non-aligned proper shape, you are vulnerable to tooth infection or inflammation as these areas are difficult to access with a toothbrush. While patients do complain of pain in this case, it may not be as severe as cavities.

Other tooth pain causes: Bruxism (teeth grinding), TMJ disorders, and receding gums

Bruxism, the habit of grinding teeth

Most of the people who are habitual grinders don’t even realise they are doing it as the habit has settled in their subconscious mind. However, such people are prone to bite down suddenly, causing extreme pain. Not only toothache, but teeth grinding can also lead to stiffness of jaw, headaches and discomfort in facial muscles.

If you are finding it hard to get over the grinding habit, you must also refer to the dentist and see what they suggest. Curbing or eliminating the habit can be an effective toothache remedy.

TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) disorder

TMJ, standing for "temporomandibular joint", is a joint that connects the jaw with the sides of your head. TMJ allows you to talk, chew and yawn among other things. Any disorder, abnormality, or dysfunction in TMJ can also cause toothaches. The sensation is similar to clenching pain and can be felt near the ear.

One of the key symptoms of TMJ disorders is that the patient experiences a popping or clicking sound when they open their jaw. The pain either fades away on its own, or your dentist will recommend you to exercises for tooth and jaw pain relief.

Receding gums and sensitive teeth

Receding gums can also cause tooth pain. Gum recession, which is caused as the enamel on the gum line wears away, can make teeth extremely sensitive. As a result, the patient can experience pain every time they consume cold or hot foods.

If you are scared of having a cold drink because it will hurt your teeth, you must refer to the dentist immediately. They will be able to recommend you preventive measures, specialised toothpaste, and/or other products to keep the pain away.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some effective tooth ache remedies?

The moment you feel the first tinge in your teeth, it's better to immediately consult the dentist. They will perform detailed diagnostic procedures and conduct x-rays to ascertain the cause. In some cases, they may prescribe antibiotics and medication for tooth infection.

In the case where pain is not treatable with medicines, the practitioner might suggest surgical treatments.

The following treatments work for toothache remedy:

  • Root Canal: This treatment will remove an infection as the cause of tooth pain and provide instant relief.
  • If you are experiencing a severe sharp pain on biting, it will require a thorough evaluation by the dentist or endodontist within 24-48 hours.
  • If you are experiencing sharp pain in teeth, elevating your head at night might help in easing it.
  • If you cannot immediately consult a doctor, try an over-the-counter painkiller when you are awake.
  • Dentist visits can cause anxiety, but don’t let that hold you back from seeking immediate help. Delay in treatment can worsen the situation, even causing irreparable tooth loss.
Looking for a dentist?
Find dentists near you and book your next appointment online