Acute tooth pain can be caused by a number of different conditions. Sometimes it comes on suddenly, whereas other times it creeps up on you. Sometimes it is related to an injury, and other times it’s related to disease.
Whatever the case, if you’re experiencing acute tooth pain, you should book an appointment with a dentist. A dentist is the only one with the tools to examine and diagnose the cause. The sooner you book, the better your potential outcome.
Type of Pain
The type of pain makes a big difference. Does it feel like your mouth is throbbing? Is the pain centered on one tooth, or a larger part of your gums? Did your acute tooth pain come on suddenly? Do you feel any cracking or grinding around the tooth?
All of these details offer clues as to what is causing the pain.
Sometimes a toothache is nothing serious. It can be related to temporary inflammation of the gums, or to an interior injury that will heal. But other times, acute tooth pain can be related to serious infections that require surgery.
Potential Causes of Acute Tooth Pain
These don’t cover the entire spectrum of possible causes. However, they do make up some of the most common reasons for a toothache.
Even if you brush and floss every day, your teeth may still experience decay. Some people are more genetically predisposed to cavities than others. And if you have one cavity, others will follow because of the imbalanced acid in your mouth.
Cavities occur when bacteria chew away the enamel exterior of your tooth. These bacteria also create plaque that sticks to and degrades the teeth.
If you have a cavity, you might be able to see a small hole in your tooth. Other times, the opening isn’t visible.
Your dentist will clean your teeth and fill the cavity. If you have an infection, you might need antibiotics.
An abscess occurs when the pulp inside your tooth partially or fully dies. This creates an internal pocket of infection. Common causes of abscesses include infections and inflammation.
An abscess can cause extreme acute tooth pain, especially if the gums are swollen. The infection and pus cause pressure and pain against the nerve.
The treatment will involve cleaning and draining the infection, along with antibiotics. If the abscess is the result of gum disease, your gums will be treated. If the abscess is the result of a damaged tooth, a root canal will be necessary.
Despite being built to chew on tough materials, your teeth can crack. Most commonly, cracks occur when you try to bite down on something extremely hard. These cracks can also be the result of injury, like if you get hit in the face playing contact sports.
Tooth fractures often cause throbbing pain. Particles of food, plaque, and bacteria can slip through the crack and irritate the nerves. The root of the tooth is no longer protected, causing extreme sensitivity.
Treatment for this will depend on the circumstances. You might need a filling or a crown. If the interior of the tooth is infected, you might also need a root canal.
4. Broken Filling
A filling can be broken the same way a tooth can crack. You might also cause damage to a filling with tooth grinding or with normal chewing over time. Fillings are prone to wearing down, cracking, chipping, crumbling, and popping.
In this case, your dentist will need to replace the filling. If the tooth decay has progressed much further, they may need to put a crown on instead.
5. Gum Infection
Sometimes the pain isn’t related to your tooth at all. Your gums can become inflamed and infected, a condition known as gingivitis. The longer this condition goes without treatment, the worse it gets. It can progress to much more severe forms of gum disease.
Gum disease is the main reason that adults loose their teeth. It can be caused by poor brushing habits, a poor diet, some medications, certain health conditions, genetics, and smoking. Even hormonal changes can have an effect.
Oftentimes, acute tooth pain from a gum infection happens because the bacteria builds up around the roots of your teeth. You’re also more likely to develop cavities and loose teeth with gum disease.
Infections are typically treated with a course of antibiotics. Your dentist will also give your teeth a thorough cleaning and map out a treatment plan to save your teeth.
If you grind your teeth in your sleep, you might wake up with a sore jaw. This can also cause you to crack a tooth without knowing it.
Similarly, clenching your jaw can cause aching. Your teeth aren’t supposed to touch when you’re not eating or speaking. If they do, your jaw is too tense.
Over time, grinding can erode the teeth, leading to damage and potential infection. Prior to developing pain, the most common sign of tooth erosion is a sudden sensitivity to cold and hot drinks.
Relaxing your jaw can help release tension, and wearing a mouth guard to sleep might help with your jaw pain.