There’s almost nothing worse than a bad toothache. In fact, some women have even compared severe tooth pain to the pain of childbirth! Whether your tooth discomfort is mild, moderate, or severe, it shouldn’t be ignored. The pain is your body’s way of letting you know there’s an underlying problem going on that you need to take care of. If you don’t, it may get worse.
Causes of Tooth Pain
Diagnosing the reason behind your tooth pain is best left to your dentist. You may be able to determine the cause for the pain, such as cold or hot food, but avoiding those temperatures doesn’t fix the actual problem.
Some common causes of tooth pain include:
- Cavities – Cavities can occur in baby and adult teeth. These are areas of the tooth that are permanently damaged, usually by decay. The decay leaves behind holes that allow air to get to the nerve, causing the pain you feel.
- A cracked tooth – If you bit into something hard or had trauma to the head, you could have a cracked tooth. Some cracks start so tiny you don’t even notice them, but they will continue to get bigger until they are treated. Meanwhile, even tiny cracks can cause pain and discomfort.
- Gingivitis – Lack of oral hygiene skills, not flossing, and heredity can cause gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums. You’ll notice sensitivity in your teeth and bleeding gums, and if you don’t take care of this disease, it can turn into periodontitis.
- Periodontitis – When the infection of gingivitis is left to go for too long, it becomes serious and damages the gum and the jawbone. This condition is called periodontitis, and it’s typically accompanied by symptoms of tooth pain, bad breath, and swelling in the gumline.
With a comprehensive dental examination or a limited evaluation, your dentist can quickly determine the reason behind your tooth discomfort and help alleviate the pain.
Other Causes of Tooth Pain
Some more serious reasons for chronic pain in your mouth area are caused by more than tooth problems. But your dentist can still diagnose and treat these conditions, like:
- TMJ – TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects your skull and jaw. Damage to it results in pain that is called TMJ syndrome, or sometimes TMD (disorder).
Injuries to the teeth or jaw, misaligned teeth or jaws, grinding, clenching, stress, and other factors can result in TMJ. Symptoms can be similar to neck and ear pain, which makes this one of those conditions that can occur for a while before you think to ask your dentist.
Common symptoms of TMJ include jaw pain, ear discomfort, headaches, popping in the ears or jaw, pain in your temple, and locking jaw.
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. In dentistry, an occlusal splint, stabilization splint, or bite guard may be prescribed. These are dental appliances that keep your teeth aligned and prevent grinding.
- Bruxism/ Clenching and Grinding – Bruxism, commonly known as clenching, occurs when you unconsciously grind or clench your teeth. This can happen when you’re awake or asleep.
Teeth grinding when you’re awake is usually caused by stress or anxiety. Nocturnal grinding happens because of an abnormal bite, misaligned teeth, or a sleep disorder like sleep apnea.
Mild cases of teeth grinding may go away on their own, but chronic grinding can be dangerous. When you grind your teeth over a long period, they can fracture or loosen, resulting in tooth loss that requires root canals, crowns, implants, or dentures to fix.
If this is a chronic problem for you, we can evaluate your situation to see if you are a sleeping teeth grinder. Symptoms of this include a dull headache or jaw discomfort when you wake up. Your dentist will look for signs of wear on your teeth, also. If this is determined to be your problem, a mouth guard could be prescribed.
Daily teeth grinding requires retraining of habits, like cutting back on caffeine and avoiding alcohol. These can make grinding worse. You’ll also need to stop yourself from chewing on pencils, pens, gum, or any non-food items.
- Gum Disease – Signs of this disease usually start out with red, swollen gums. You probably have bad breath and don’t notice it yourself, but others may. If your gums are bleeding when you brush, it’s time to get checked out by your dentist.
Another sign of gum disease might be shrinkage of your gum line. This causes your teeth to look longer, but in this case, receding gums is not a good thing.
Sensitive teeth can also be another sign of gum disease. When cold drinks are painful, you could have receding gums that are letting the dentin, or the sensitive part of the teeth, be exposed.
If left too long, gum disease can result in wiggly or moving teeth. This is because the disease attacks more than the gums: it decays the bones that hold your teeth in place. The softening of the bones lets your teeth shift.
With gum disease, you’ll need to have a series of treatments before it is gone, and in some cases, if gingivitis turns into periodontitis, it will require lifelong maintenance.
Your treatment plan will likely include:
- A thorough cleaning – Your dentist has tools designed for in-depth cleaning under your gum line. This cleaning will probably include scaling, or scraping, off the tartar that has built up above the gum line and below it.
Root planing may also be suggested. As it sounds, your dentist will use a special tool to smooth out the rough areas of your roots so your gums can reattach themselves. This and the scaling may require multiple visits to complete.
- Medication – If the infection goes beyond what can be removed on the surface, you may be prescribed an antibiotic gel for your gum pockets or an oral antibiotic.
- Surgery – Severe cases may require surgery to remove the infection, followed by regular maintenance visits.
When your tooth pain goes beyond any immediate causes, it’s time to call and schedule an appointment at St. Johns Smile Care. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency; get the problem taken care of while the solution may be simple!
At St. Johns Smile Care, we provide our patients with high-quality care in a friendly, supportive environment. Our services range from preventative screening and exams to restorative and surgical care. We offer the best care for your oral health and we want you satisfied!