Tooth pain is serious. It can range from mild and manageable to excruciating and painful. Either way, tooth pain can throw off your entire routine and motivate an urgent visit to your dentist.
A variety of factors can cause tooth pain, organized into two categories – dental and non-dental.
Dental Tooth Pain
Cavities are the leading cause of tooth pain. A cavity is a hole in a tooth caused by bacterial decay leading to the loss of tooth structure (enamel and dentin). Although a cavity might not show any symptoms at first, pain can increase as it becomes larger or exposes the nerves in the tooth. An abscess is a more severe type of tooth decay where infection enters the nerves and pulp in the tooth and spreads outside the tooth.
Another common cause of tooth pain is damage caused by a crown or filling falling out, broken or chipped teeth due to trauma, or by grinding while asleep.
Gum disease, common types including gingivitis or periodontal disease, is another leading cause of tooth pain. Characterized by redness and swelling of the gum tissue, it specifically causes gum pain but commonly causes tooth pain as well. For example, gum disease can cause inflammation of the tissue surrounding the teeth leading to recession or bone loss as well as pain.
For people who still have their wisdom teeth, in can be painful once they start to erupt above the gum tissue surface. Wisdom tooth pain may not be as severe as an advanced cavity, but you should consult with your dentist regarding removal if they become symptomatic. Poorly positioned wisdom teeth can cause gum inflammation and/or an infection.
Non-Dental Tooth Pain
There are other conditions we often never associate with oral health that can cause tooth pain, such as:
- Sinus pain or infection
- Cluster headaches
- Heart attacks
- Viral infections
- Nerve disorders
- Drug abuse
- Vitamin deficiencies
If you’re concerned about mouth/dental pain, schedule a dental appointment for a professional exam. Depending on the situation, a dentist or oral surgeon can then help you determine the best course of action.