Common Causes of Tooth Pain: A Troubleshooting Guide

April 1, 2020

Tooth pain can send you on an urgent quest for solutions to this annoying, sometimes agonizing source of discomfort. Some toothaches indicate an acute problem with the tooth itself, while others suggest some other condition, including referred pain from other disorders.

The more clearly you understand the origin of your tooth pain, the more effectively you can deal with the problem by seeking out the appropriate treatment. Here are some common causes of tooth pain to help you troubleshoot that tooth pain.

Thin, Decayed, or Damaged Enamel

Tooth enamel naturally wears down with age. This hard outer coating protects and insulates the softer dentin and sensitive nerve tissue within the tooth. As it grows thinner, you may experience aches or pains when your teeth come into contact with heat, cold, or certain types of foods.
Tooth decay can also cause pain. A cavity in your tooth enamel may greatly reduce the amount of protection for inner nerve tissue, or it may even expose the nerve tissue to heat, cold, and pressure. A dark spot on the tooth that corresponds to the location of pain indicates a probable cavity.

Teeth can suffer acute damage that exposes their inner pulp of nerve tissue, causing sharp pains when you chew. If you see a crack or chip on a painful tooth, you may need to have a crown placed to correct the damage and protect the tooth’s stability.


A cracked, broken, or seriously decayed tooth may develop a painful infection. Bacteria can enter the tooth and attack the pulp, sometimes going into the roots and then the jawbone if left untreated. This development may cause the pain and facial swelling associated with a dental abscess.

Dental infections and abscesses require immediate attention, and not only to relieve your pain, but to get the infection under control. Bacteria in a tooth or jaw can travel to your heart, brain, or other vital organs and be life threatening in some situations. Prompt treatment removes this danger while also easing your discomfort.

Not all infections that cause tooth pain actually occur in the teeth. A sinus infection can put pressure on your sinus cavities and associated nerves, referring pain signals to the teeth. If you suffer from headaches, congestion, and/or a runny nose in addition to a toothache, suspect a sinus infection.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Pain in your back molars may stem from impacted wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth typically don’t have enough space toward the back of the jaw to erupt normally. The tight fit may force them to grow in at an angle, pressing against other molars in the process. This pressure can cause intense pain.

In addition to the pain of impaction, wisdom teeth can trap food particles, cause gum infections, jaw abscesses and most frequent, massive decay because they are so far back they aren’t able to be kept clean enough. This problem alone would present you with sufficient reason to get these troublesome teeth extracted.

Wisdom teeth usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. If you fall into this age group and you notice that your rear molars have become sore or painful, you should get your wisdom teeth checked.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMD or TMJ, can refer pain to the teeth. A misalignment or other problem in these jaw joints can sometimes create a toothache-like discomfort in addition to neck pain, facial pain, headaches, and clicking or popping noises when you move your jaw.

Tooth pain accompanied by any of these other symptoms may indicate the presence of TMD. You may also feel as if your top and bottom teeth don’t mesh together properly when you close your jaw. Your dentist may also notice abnormal tooth wear related to chronic tooth clenching or grinding (bruxism).

TMD can respond to a number of treatment methods. You may benefit from relaxation techniques, a nighttime bite guard, anti-inflammatory medications, trigger-point injections, heat therapy, low-level laser therapy, or surgical intervention.

Vanyo Dentistry is here to help you with all of your teeth concern ad any pains you might have. We may even discover another reason altogether for your tooth pain, providing solutions to ease your discomfort and protect your dental health. Contact our office today to learn more and schedule an appointment.