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Home > Dental Conditions > Toothache > When Is a Toothache Really a Toothache
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When Is a Toothache Really a Toothache?

Your toothache may not be a dental problem.

It might hurt a lot, but the pain that seems like a toothache could actually come from another part of mouth or body, say dentists.

"Sometimes a tooth may ache from non-dental sources, such as other sites in your head, your neck, or even your heart," explains Keith Suchy, D.D.S., a general dentist.

Toothache pain, he says, can be referred from one part of your body to another. "The site of the pain isn't necessarily where the pain will be felt," says Dr. Suchy.

Pain can be projected or distributed along a nerve that is the source of pain. For example, pain in the head, jaw or heart could be projected through a nerve that will translate as pain in a particular tooth. Virtually every category of headache and facial pain can cause toothaches, including sinus infections and colds.

Other non-dental sources of toothaches include tumors in the head, hiatal hernia, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone) and depression.

Angina pectoris, or heart spasm, may be one of the more serious types of referred pain to a tooth, says Dr. Suchy. As the coronary arteries narrow with angina pectoris, the blood supply diminishes to the heart, creating pain that can be felt in a tooth. Angina pectoris has been known to radiate to the neck, jaws, throat, brows, cheek and ears. One study showed that angina pectoris radiates to the jaw about 12 percent of the time.

"Dentists recognize that pain in a tooth can actually come from another part of the body," says Dr. Suchy. "That is why patients are asked all those questions on the medical history form. Many people seem confused that we ask about health problems that do not seem to related to the oral cavity, but remember, many symptoms appear first in the oral cavity and dentists are the first to detect them. They can then refer to the appropriate source for dental treatments. Dentists truly are on the frontlines of diagnosis."

Do you think you might have a problem with a toothache? Don't wait until it gets worse -call us at 1-866-970-0441 to find a great dentist today.

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