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Does your tooth hurt? It’s easy to forget about short, fleeting pangs, but not all bursts of pain subside quickly. Often, many people only consider calling their dentist when a toothache persists and interrupts their normal routine. But why does your tooth hurt — in some cases, a lot more than others?
Toothaches can be caused by many reasons ranging from all-too-common sensitivity and cavities to worse problems like an injury or a growing abscess. Knowing why your tooth hurts is the first step in diagnosis and treatment, as well as in future prevention. This also tells your dentist not only what they are dealing with but how they can prevent the condition from worsening, ultimately saving your tooth.
Here are the most common causes of a toothache — and every reason why it’s good to know a reliable emergency dentist you can call.
1. Cavities and tooth decay
Cavities are highly preventable with regular brushing and flossing. But for a lot of people, it takes a cavity to start taking oral hygiene and dental care seriously; at worst, it takes the onset of tooth decay.
What starts out as a cavity that affects a tooth’s enamel, then goes deeper to damage the dentine, causing pain and sensitivity. Severe tooth decay occurs when it reaches the pulp — or the innermost layer of the tooth — and causes a sharp toothache that requires emergency dental care.
2. Gum problems
Emergency dentists identify and treat the most common signs of gum problems, such as inflammation, redness and bleeding, often accompanied by toothaches. Prolonging treatment can cause severe damage to the gums, eventually reaching the jawbone. Get your gums checked right away to clean out harmful bacteria, and prevent further damage.
3. Cracked and chipped teeth
There’s no doubt that injuries to the mouth and fractured teeth hurt. These injuries commonly occur due to accidents, playing sports and biting down on tough-to-chew foods and even inedible objects. All of these require emergency dental care especially when the fracture extends to the middle of the tooth where the nerve endings are located.
Just because you don’t experience a toothache, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a fracture. Regular visits to your dentist will allow them to detect and treat small cracks before they progress.
4. Damaged dental fillings
These restorative treatments are designed to protect sensitive parts of your teeth. When they are damaged, you risk exposure to food particles, pressure and bacteria. Tell your dentist if you have dental fillings and experience pain and sensitivity while chewing as these are common signs of damage that need to be treated right away.
5. Teeth grinding
Grinding your teeth can cause toothache and pain in the jaw, neck and other muscles. But often, people who grind their teeth are not aware of it because it occurs in their sleep. If you were recently told that you grind your teeth in your sleep, talk to your dentist about fitting for a custom mouth guard to prevent grinding, toothaches and potential damage to your teeth.
6. Poor brushing and flossing technique
How do you brush your teeth? Dentists recommend gentle, circular motions to get rid of food particles and plaque build-up. More aggressive action than that doesn’t guarantee a more thorough clean but will sure cause bleeding in the gums. Over time, this excess pressure can cause the gums to shrink and damage the teeth.
7. Tooth sensitivity
Do you feel a sharp pain in your teeth when consuming hot or cold food and drinks? This indicates tooth sensitivity, particularly to extreme temperatures. If this problem is left untreated while you continue to consume extremely hot and cold items too much and too quickly, it can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth, and expose the dentine. As a result, the nerve endings in your teeth will become even more sensitive as they come in contact with virtually anything.
8. Inflamed sinuses
It’s fascinating to learn how the different parts of the body are so intricately connected. Did you know that sinus inflammation due to the common cold or flu can also cause a toothache? It’s not uncommon for your symptoms to include sensitivity, pressure and pain in the upper teeth. The good news is that these tend to subside along with your cold or flu.
9. Erupted wisdom teeth
There’s no dental problem that concerns adults more than the eruption of wisdom teeth. While some people don’t experience any pain and don’t even notice their wisdom teeth growing in, others aren’t so lucky. This is due to the alignment of wisdom teeth which varies among everyone.
When wisdom teeth don’t have space to erupt through the gum line, they push against permanent teeth already in position, causing severe pain and inflammation below the gums. Call an emergency dentist if it becomes severe so they can extract misaligned wisdom teeth and prevent overcrowding and shifting of the rest of your permanent teeth.
10. Dental abscess
This is what happens when you ignore minor dental concerns. Eventually, severe cavities, tooth decay and gum problems can cause a dental abscess. An abscess is a pus build-up inside a damaged tooth or along the gums.
It starts with an untreated bacterial infection that accumulates in the tooth’s soft pulp and requires a root canal or worse, a tooth extraction to treat and prevent damage to surrounding teeth. Don’t ignore common symptoms, such as excessive pain and swelling — call an emergency dentist right away for treatment.