Understanding Different Types of Tooth Pain and Their Causes

As many of us know, tooth pain can make accomplishing daily activities very challenging. Toothaches are a common oral health issue. In fact, within the last 6 months, approximately 55% of adults have experienced a toothache. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that greater than 40% of adults have reported pain in their mouth within the last year.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Oral Sedation

Tooth pain often signifies that something may be awry in the mouth. There are many potential causes of tooth pain, including cavities, chipped teeth, oral infection, and gum disease. Toothaches need to be addressed immediately to avoid further pain and health problems.

What is Toothache?

A toothache is the sensation of pain inside or around a tooth. Toothaches are commonly the result of tooth decay or infection, which require treatment from a dental professional. If you are experiencing tooth pain of any kind, it is always best to consult with a dental professional as soon as possible to avoid worsening the condition.

Different Types of Tooth Pains

Dull, Persistent Ache

An ongoing dull pain is often the most common type of toothache pain. There can be many causes of this sensation, ranging from food debris stuck between your teeth or underneath the gums, teeth grinding, or a tooth abscess.

Sharp Pain

A sharp pain is often intense and can leave any one uncomfortable for a period of time. This is typically caused by tooth decay that has stimulated nerve pain from inside of the tooth.


Sensitive teeth can be annoying, especially when you are trying to enjoy the foods and drinks you love. You may experience tooth sensitivity to cold or hot items. Sensitivity can be caused by many factors, such as tooth decay, teeth grinding, and gum disease.

Throbbing Pain

Throbbing pain typically indicates that the tooth’s nerves are infected. Root canal treatment may be necessary to remove the infection from within the tooth and prevent it from spreading to other teeth and systemically throughout the body.

Pain When Biting

Pain when applying pressure on a tooth, like when biting into your favorite snack, is a warning sign that something abnormal is going on in the mouth. The pain could be caused by a tooth infection, fracture, or other oral condition.

Common Tooth Pain Causes

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is a common culprit of many oral issues, including toothaches. Oral bacteria produce acids from the sugars we consume, leading to breakdown of the teeth. As the outer layer of the tooth breaks down (dental enamel), the tooth become more sensitive and eventually the tooth’s nerves can become exposed and trigger pain.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is typically a result of poor oral hygiene that led to an accumulation of harmful oral bacteria. Red, swollen, and bleeding gums tend to characterize gum disease, which can make your teeth and gums ache from oral inflammation. If left untreated, tooth pain can worsen, and permanent bone loss and gum recession can occur.

Tooth Fractures or Cracks

Tooth cracks or fractures can cause tooth pain, as the sensitive inner layers become exposed to harmful oral bacteria. Although accidents happen, taking the necessary preventive measures to protect your teeth can help you maintain a healthy smile. For instance, you should always wear a protective mouth guard when playing contact sports to avoid oral trauma and subsequent tooth pain.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding and clenching are commonly caused by stress. This can cause toothaches, teeth to become worn down or fractured, facial and jaw muscles to become strained, and many other damaging health side effects. Your dentist may recommend the use of a custom-made dental night guard to help protect the teeth from damage.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a serious life-threatening oral infection that requires immediate treatment. Harmful oral bacteria can trigger infection that penetrates deep into the innermost layer of the tooth, the dental pulp. Signs and symptoms of an abscessed tooth can include facial or oral swelling, throbbing pain, pus around the affected tooth, dark colored gums, and bone loss.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are often the last teeth to come in, appearing in the far back end of the mouth. As they develop and begin to erupt, you may experience pain in the back of your mouth.

These teeth tend to not have enough room to enter the mouth, often causing them to become trapped underneath the gums. In some cases, your dentist may recommend for wisdom teeth to be extracted.

Dentists' Approach to Treating Toothaches

Examination and Diagnosis

An examination performed by your dentist is necessary to properly diagnose and treat dental issues like toothaches. They will perform an oral cancer screening, dental X-rays, and certain diagnostic tests to determine the affected tooth and necessary treatment plan.

Dental Fillings

In the case of a mild to moderate cavity, dental fillings are often the recommended treatment to eradicate dental decay and tooth pain. They may use tooth-colored composite resin or silver dental amalgam fillings to reshape the tooth to its original structure after removing the tooth decay.

Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment is a safe and effective procedure that removes bacteria from the innermost layer of the tooth, the dental pulp. Once the infection is removed, the dentist will fill the root with a sealing material that helps keep bacteria out of the tooth.

Tooth Extraction

In severe cases in which the tooth damage is extensive, your dentist may recommend extraction of the tooth to eradicate the infection and tooth pain. Your dentist will offer great treatment options for replacing the tooth, such as dental bridges, implants, or removable prostheses.

Antibiotics or Medication

Antibiotics may be recommended to treat a toothache by attacking oral bacteria to help eliminate the dental infection. In addition, over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen may be indicated to help temporarily alleviate the painful symptoms of a toothache.

Tips for Preventing Tooth Pain

In some cases, toothaches will occur out of nowhere and try to ruin your day. The best way to help prevent toothaches from occurring is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time using a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Flossing in between your teeth at least once is day is also essential for removing cavity-causing bacteria. An antibacterial and fluoride containing mouthwash can also be helpful to use daily to keep oral bacteria at bay.

Do your best to limit your consumption of sugary foods and beverages and implement a healthy diet full of tooth-friendly nutrients to keep your smile healthy. A key to lowering your risk of developing toothaches is to keep up with your regular dental check-ups and cleanings so that dental issues can be caught early before worsening.

Understanding and Managing Tooth Pain with Gentle Dental

No one wants to experience tooth pain, but thankfully your dentist can help eliminate your pain if it’s to happen to you. It is important to call your dentist right away if you experience a toothache that lasts longer than two days, have facial swelling, a fever, or trouble swallowing, chewing, or speaking.

Our trained team at Gentle dental is here to help you understand and manage tooth pain, stopping it in its tracks before worsening. We can help determine the cause of your nagging toothache and offer comprehensive dental care services to meet any of your individual needs.