Tooth pain can range from mild and fleeting to throbbing and constant but the mechanism behind what you’re feeling is often the same: the nerves in the pulp chamber at the center of your affected tooth or teeth are responding to stimuli and sending out a warning in the form of a disagreeable sensation that something’s not right. Here are the top 10 reasons your teeth might be causing you discomfort:
- Dental Caries (Cavity). Certain oral bacteria feed on food particles trapped in your mouth and produce acid that over time can eat through the protective tooth enamel into the sensitive dentin below.
- Enamel Erosion. Acids in your diet and gastric acids from acid reflux (GERD) and vomiting can wear away tooth enamel.
- Gum Recession. Gums can recede over time, exposing the sensitive tooth roots. Brushing too vigorously and/or using a toothbrush that’s too hard can contribute to gum recession.
- Recent Dental Work. Dental work can inflame pulp tissues and cause temporary sensitivity that should subside as the pulp heals.
- Loose, Old, or Lost Filling. Fillings seal off areas of past decay. If they don’t fit right or are dislodged, air, food particles and bacteria can infiltrate and irritate exposed nerve endings.
- Chip, Crack or Fracture. Teeth may be weakened over time due to pressure caused by biting and chewing as well as teeth grinding (bruxism) and jaw clenching. What starts as thin lines in the enamel can evolve into chips, cracks and fractures that expose nerve endings.
- Periodontal Disease. This is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth caused by a buildup of bacterial biofilm (plaque) along the gum line that triggers inflammation. In severe cases, the infection can travel to the end of a tooth root or through accessory canals and gain entrance into the dental pulp.
- Abscess. An abscess is a pus-filled sac caused by an infection. It can occur at the base of the tooth root or in the space between the tooth and gum.
- Tooth Grinding (bruxism)/Jaw Clenching. Referred to as parafunctional habits, these behaviors exert extreme stress on teeth and wear them down, causing increased tooth sensitivity and jaw soreness.
- Referred Pain. Sometimes pain originating in another tooth or outside the dental area — sinus congestion or infection for example — may radiate around the mouth and give the impression of pain for a specific tooth.
As you can see, pain is a warning of all sorts of threats to your oral health. Your dental professional can help you identify the cause and appropriate treatment so you can feel better and protect your smile.