Many people who experience tooth pain wonder if they should see a dentist or just wait and see if it goes away. People worry that they are overreacting or could lose a tooth if they go to the dentist. Most patients just want reassurance that their tooth or teeth are going to be OK and that the toothache can be fixed. Patients never want to hear the dreaded treatment suggestions of root canal or extraction.

There are many causes of toothaches ranging from temporary and harmless to very serious.

The five most common causes of toothaches are:

  1. Gum Recession
  2. Tooth wear, medically known as Abfraction
  3. Loss of enamel
  4. Tooth decay
  5. Cracked teeth

Gum Recession and Tooth Wear

Gum recession and tooth wear (abfraction) are the most harmless causes of tooth pain. Recession, caused by loss of gum tissue over the root structure of the tooth, allows anything we eat and drink to possibly aggravate the tooth nerve and cause discomfort. For example, cold water can cause sensitivity as it flows over the root.

Tooth wearing is often caused by grinding of the teeth (bruxism) at night or during the day. Teeth grinding creates micro movements causing loss of tooth structure and creating a “wedge shape” near the gum line, which creates sensitivity. Teeth grinding can also result in TMJ, which is a moderate to severe pain in the jaw caused by over-clenching jaw muscles.

Loss of Enamel

Loss of enamel could be anywhere from minor to severe depending on how much tooth enamel has been lost. It is usually caused by an extended acidic environment, GERD, bulimia, sucking on limes/lemons etc., and may require restorative work to correct.

Tooth Decay and Cracked Teeth

Moderate to the most severe cases of tooth pain are usually caused by decay and tooth fracture. Decay is a result of weakened tooth structure caused by increased bacteria, sugar and acid in the mouth. This environment, coupled with irregular brushing and flossing, is a prime environment for tooth decay to thrive. The larger the decay, or cavity, the more likely a person is to have tooth sensitivity or a throbbing toothache.

Lower white fillings after treatment for cavities

The most serious cause of tooth pain is tooth fracture. The best-case scenario treatment for a cracked tooth is a crown or possible root canal, and the worst case is an extraction.

Don’t delay treatment!

If you are experiencing chronic tooth pain, make an appointment at Floss to get your teeth and mouth checked.