So, your teeth are really hurting, r-i-i-i-ight there, and a thousand thoughts go through your head: Is that my wisdom tooth? Wait, didn’t I have all those out? Is it that only one tooth, or maybe two that are hurting? Should I see the dentist, or will it just go away? Didn’t I JUST get a filling up there? Hmmm, when WAS my last check up? It’s hard to know for sure what’s causing your toothache, but knowing what the likely culprits can be will help you determine just how serious the situation may (or may not) be.
A Fractured Tooth
Whether your tooth cracks because of an injury or everyday wear and tear, the pain can be intense. Symptoms range from sharp pain when you chew your food, to sudden pain when the chipped tooth is exposed to hot or cold temperatures. And because it may not hurt all the time, it can be tough for the dentist to locate the exact tooth causing the discomfort. Nonetheless, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible if you think your tooth is cracked, because the situation could get worse, and without treatment, may even result in the loss of the tooth.
A dental abscess occurs when a bacterial infection causes pus to form inside the teeth, gums or the bone that holds the teeth in place. There are two main types of a dental abscess: periapical, which occurs at the end of a tooth, and periodontal, which is in the gum. Abscesses are a natural defense mechanism, designed to stop infections from spreading. However, the resulting build-up of pus can be extremely painful. What’s worse, is that abscesses can really put your whole mouth at risk as they can also affect your teeth, gums and even jawbone. So, while oral abscesses can be treated at home in the early stages, you really should still visit a dentist to ensure that the infection doesn’t spread.
If you have sore teeth, it may not be a problem with your teeth at all, but with your gums instead. For instance, sensitivity can be caused by shrunken (receded) gums, which can become painful depending on the severity of the recession. As the gum tissue surrounding the teeth wears away or pulls back, more of the teeth -- sometimes even the roots -- are exposed. Then gaps (called pockets) form between the teeth and the gum line, allowing bacteria to build up, attack and cause pain. If the gum recession goes too far, you’ll definitely have to visit the dentist, and gum surgery may even be required. Fortunately, receding gums can be fixed early with a few basic adjustments to oral hygiene.
One possible reason for sore teeth could be because you're not feeling well. The roots of certain teeth sit right by the sinuses, so it's no wonder the pressure from a sinus infection mirrors tooth pain. Headaches and other stress symptoms can also cause teeth to hurt, which is usually nothing to be too concerned about. However, untreated ear infections can also cause sore teeth, and some tooth pains may even indicate that you’re at risk of heart disease.
Too Much Exercise
One often overlooked cause of tooth pain is too much exercise, which has some surprising side effects. People who exercise regularly are more likely to have a dry mouth and more rapid tooth decay. Also, consistently long workouts can increase alkaline levels in saliva — with alkalinity linked to the development of plaque and other oral problems. These are all good reasons to maintain a strict dental care regimen to balance any negative effects caused by prolonged endurance training.
When to See a Dentist
Pain in your teeth is very different to other pain because it's so distracting, affecting everything you do, including eating, sleeping and working. Be sure to seek immediate assistance if any of the following tooth pain symptoms apply to you:
- You have a toothache that’s been there for more than two days
- Over-the-counter pain relief isn’t helping
- You have a high temperature
- It hurts when you bite or chew
- Your gums are red
- You have a bad taste in your mouth
- Your cheek or jaw are swollen
Of course, you’re probably already guessing the pattern here: tooth ache is, more often than not, a reason to see your dentist. While it doesn’t always mean something dire, it is your body’s way of telling you that your teeth, your mouth or even your overall health needs your attention.