Why Does My Tooth Hurt?

Closures for COVID-19 had a lot of people worried about what might happen if they experience tooth pain. When asked by the New York Times what he fears most during this time, Larry David famously responded, “Anarchy and a potential dental emergency – and not necessarily in that order.” We know dental emergencies can be painful and scary! Fortunately, throughout the pandemic, and if we may be forced to close again, we are always open to treat emergencies.

Ultimately, whenever you’re experiencing tooth pain, we recommend that you see your dentist. An evaluation, often including dental x-rays, will be required to determine the cause of the pain and the recommended treatment. Certain causes of pain, like infection resulting in swelling, can be dangerous, and you should contact your dentist or doctor immediately. 

Tooth pain is caused by irritation of the nerves inside the tooth or disruption the fluid flow within the dentin of the tooth. Other causes of pain may be due to irritation of the fibers between the tooth and the surrounding bone. 

If you’re concerned or surprised by your toothache, here’s a brief guide on what your tooth pain might be. 

  • Cavity: When you have a cavity, the bacteria that damage your tooth may irritate the nerve. This may feel like extreme cold sensitivity, or sometimes sensitivity to heat. If the nerve irritation is still reversible, then the pain is often short lived after exposure to cold food or drink. If the nerve is irreversibly damaged, the pain can often linger up to several minutes.
  • Abscess: People with abscesses often report pressure-like pain and pain when biting. Abscesses are typically caused by very severe cavities, so you may experience some of the above described pain as well. If you are experiencing swelling your abscess may be life-threatening and you should contact dentist/doctor right away. 
  • Cracked tooth: A fracture in a tooth can be incredibly painful. Cracked teeth often hurt when biting or chewing, which causes separation of the two pieces of tooth resulting in disrupted fluid flow within the dentin in the tooth.
  • Damaged filling: A damaged filling can be painful due to small gaps in the material causing movement of the fluid throughout dentin of the tooth. 
  • Receding gums: When people have recession, they lose the protection of the gums around the root of the tooth. The root tends to be more sensitive than the crown portion of your tooth since it does not have the protective coating of enamel. This can cause a mild to moderate cold sensitivity. 
  • Sinus infection: Sometimes tooth pain isn’t from your teeth at all! People with sinusitis can often feel a pressure-like tooth pain in their upper molars.

If you think one of these might apply to you- give us a call! We offer in-person or virtual consults. No matter what may be causing your dental pain, we’re here and ready to help you feel better!

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