What Causes Toothaches?


Toothaches can result in sharp or dull pain in or around the tooth itself. There are several reasons why your tooth may be aching, and several symptoms may be accompanied by a toothache.

We’re going to discuss the common reasons for toothaches as well as when it’s time to see a dentist.


Common Toothache Causes

The following can cause your teeth to ache or hurt:

  • Tooth Decay: When tooth decay occurs, this can cause the outer layer of your enamel to become damaged. For example, this would include a cavity or exposure of the tooth’s nerve, which can cause pain.
  • Abscessed Tooth: An abscess occurs when an infection grows with in the root of the tooth, or between the gum and the tooth itself. This occurs when severe tooth decay is present.
  • Tooth Fractures: Teeth that are fractured or cracked will typically ache. This is caused by the lack of tooth enamel protecting the tooth due to the fracture.
  • Dental Work Damage: Dental work that has been performed can become damaged. A good example of this is damage to a cavity filling or crown.
  • Grinding or Repetitive Motion: Tooth grinding or repetitive motion, such as chewing gum, can cause your teeth to ache. Stopping this repetitive motion will often cause the pain to cease.

Symptoms of a Toothache

Toothaches are easily recognized. They can be very painful and keep you up at night. The following symptoms are most commonly seen when a toothache is present:

  • Sharp, throbbing or dull pain.
  • Pain experienced when pressure is applied to the tooth.
  • Swelling around the tooth, or swelling of the gums.
  • A low-grade fever.
  • Drainage from the infected tooth, which may have a foul taste.

In the event that you notice your cheeks or gums are severely swollen and there’s a pocket of fluid in the location, you’ll want to schedule an emergency dental visit. This is a sign of an abscess that has formed due to an infection of the tooth.

When Should I Visit a Dentist about a Toothache?

You don’t want to run to the dentist every time you have a slight toothache. But, there are times when you should see your dentist for an aching tooth, including:

  • The toothache persists for longer than 1 to 2 days.
  • The pain is severe.
  • You have pain when opening your mouth.
  • The toothache has caused a fever.
  • There is visible swelling of the mouth or gums.

Dental Visit

When you visit the dentist for toothache, he or she will perform a thorough examination of your mouth. This will likely include x-rays to determine if a cavity has formed in the mouth, and to see exactly what’s happening inside of the tooth. The gums, jaw, tongue and throat will be examined as well as the teeth in an attempt to determine why the aching has occurred.

In the event that severe tooth decay has occurred, you may need a root canal or the tooth may need to be removed.

If a cavity has formed, you will likely need to have the area cleaned and filled with a dental filling. Preventing toothaches is as easy as following a dental routine daily. This means brushing your teeth 2 to 3 times daily and flossing.