“My tooth hurts so much I can’t eat or sleep.” “On a scale of 1 to 10, the pain is a solid 7.” A painful tooth doesn’t have to be off the charts to interrupt your daily activities. It just hurts—and it’s natural to want to know why.
We’ve compiled a list of common reasons that a tooth hurts, but it comes with a (small) disclaimer. If the pain gets worse, doesn’t allow you to eat or drink normally, or doesn’t go away, contact a dentist or doctor to resolve the issue and ease the pain.
Cracked or chipped tooth
A tooth injury doesn’t always occur from a fall or a hit from an object, and it’s not always the most painful. However, when the nerve becomes exposed, a cracked or chipped tooth can really hurt. The pain and the tooth doesn’t get better on its own. Make an emergency appointment with the dentist to repair the damage and ease the pain.
If the tooth pain comes after eating hot or cold food, the cause could be sensitive teeth (or a cavity). A visit with your dentist can give you the exact cause.
Sensitive teeth are caused when dentin, the material that makes up the majority of the interior of your tooth, is exposed and becomes irritated or sensitive. Sensitive teeth can be caused by a damaged tooth, loss of tooth enamel, teeth grinding, or receding gums. If sensitive teeth are the cause of the pain, ask the dentist for sentivity toothpastes and fluoridated products that they recommend. Use a soft-bristled tooth brush when you brush and avoid the kind of food that causes the pain (i.e. acidic foods, extremely sweet foods, very hot or cold foods).
A cavity is a hole in your tooth; when the hole is deep enough and exposes sensitive parts of the tooth, a cavity can cause tooth pain (and sensitive teeth). (A cavity may also be present without pain.) Contact a dentist who can tell you if the source of the pain is a cavity. Pain relievers can help with the pain, but make sure that not feeling the pain doesn’t delay your visit to the professionals.
If you are already sick, the cause could be a sinus infection. The symptoms of a sinus infection include sinus pressure, congestion, fever, tiredness, coughing, and teeth pain. When the sinuses are infected, the pain can extend clear down to the teeth. Many people suffering from sinusitis (sinus infection) can find relief with over-the-counter medications to decrease the inflammation and decrease the pain. If the sinus infection worsens, contact a doctor for an exam and antibiotics to fight the infection.
Toothaches can be incredibly painful, and can occur from a number of different causes. No matter how much it hurts, DO NOT apply heat to your mouth as treatment, even if it brings temporary relief, as heat can cause swelling and make your toothache worse. Instead, apply an ice pack on the side of the mouth where the pain is most severe.
Contact a dentist to get the root cause treated and avoid anything (i.e. food, vibration, pressure to that side of your mouth, etc.) that makes the pain worse. Use over-the-counter medications to treat your toothache, but be careful to follow directions—and only use medications that won’t counteract with any medication you take on a regular basis.
Gum disease inflames the gums and causes a host of problems, including pain, bleeding, bad breath, swelling, sores in the mouth, and loss of teeth. When the gum disease causes a recession of the gums, nerves can become exposed and cause pain. If you even suspect gum disease is the cause of the pain, contact the dentist immediately. The doctor can recommend ways to treat the pain, and halt the progression of the gum disease.