Common Causes Of Toothaches

While you may think something noticeable has to happen to your teeth for you to get a toothache, tooth pain can have a number of causes, and some you may never see coming. An excess of bacteria, impacted wisdom teeth, gingivitis, cavities, or even teeth grinding (bruxism) are just a few examples. Toothaches can also present themselves in many ways, such as inflamed and irritated gums, a bad taste in the mouth due to infection, headache, fever, ache from applied pressure on the gums, and acute, pulsating, or nonstop aches in the mouth.If you’re experiencing a real pain in the tooth, and it’s disrupting your day-to-day, we’re sharing the top seven causes and how to get relief fast.

Cavity/Tooth Decay

The most common cause for toothaches is a dental cavity. Cavities are usually caused by poor oral hygiene (failure to brush or floss regularly). They create a small hole in your tooth that can grow deeper and larger as time goes on. Cavities are also formed when your saliva mixes with sugary foods that then eat away at your tooth.

Cavities are, at first, barely noticeable, making them hard to catch early and improving the chances of developing a toothache later on. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings to catch cavities before they grow. If cavities go untreated, they can infect the tooth and eventually lead to tooth loss or worse.

While you’re waiting for your dentist appointment, apply a simple salt water rinse to ease your pain. Mix a ½ teaspoon of water and 8 ounces of warm (not hot!) water, swish it around your mouth, and spit it out. Repeat until you have gone through all 8 ounces. This method can be repeated every two hours if needed. If you see no improvement at all, try pressing a cold compress wrapped in a dish towel to your cheek for a few minutes.

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth is an infection within the tooth, otherwise known as the “pulp chamber,” that has reached the root tip or around the root. This can result in:

  • An infected root
  • Swollen gums
  • Severe pain
  • Possible bone loss at the site of the infection

An abscess can occur when a cavity has reached the pulp chamber or after your tooth is hit, a dental treatment such as a crown that gets too close to the chamber, or trauma to a tooth like grinding. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you could have an abscessed tooth and should make an appointment to see your dentist right away:

  • Gum swelling
  • Redness or darkening of the gums
  • Pain when pressing on the affected tooth
  • Throbbing pain that shows no improvement after taking pain medications

When an abscessed tooth is causing you pain or discomfort, waiting for a dentist appointment can be excruciating. Fortunately, coconut oil can provide some relief before your appointment.

Coconut oil has antiseptic effects and can be used to draw the infection out and help the sore spot on your gum deflate. Coconut oil can be used topically or internally for treatment. Simply lather your toast with coconut oil for a yummy, pain-relieving snack, add it to your morning coffee or smoothie, or take it right off the spoon (only 1 tablespoon at a time).

For topical administration, gently massage the coconut oil onto the tooth and gums where you’re experiencing pain, or swish a small spoonful around in your mouth for two minutes. This technique is called oil pulling and has other benefits for your teeth as well, such as teeth whitening.

However, while coconut oil does include antimicrobial and antiseptic effects, you should still see your dentist to eliminate the risk of the infection returning.

Wisdom Teeth

If you’re experiencing pain in your upper back and bottom molar area and still have your wisdom teeth, there’s a good chance that it’s time for them to be removed.

Not removing wisdom teeth when they’re ready to come out can lead to significant pain. If your wisdom teeth are ready to come out, you’ll notice a tender and possibly red area in the back of your mouth around your molars.

This pain will only increase as your wisdom teeth continue to grow, especially if they grow misaligned or sideways. If this happens, they can press on nerves and bones as well as surrounding teeth.

Your wisdom teeth can also become impacted when trapped between neighboring teeth and your jaw bone. Over time, this will only cause more and more discomfort and uncomfortable side effects, such as foul breath, bad taste in the mouth when chewing food, redness and swelling, as well as other general health issues. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to cysts and even tumors.

Be sure to schedule an appointment with an oral surgeon for wisdom teeth removal. Then, just sit tight until the big day and soothe your pain with regular over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and home remedies. Gargling with salt water and coconut oil can help ease your wisdom toothaches. Also, try pressing a full clove on the affected area until a numbing sensation is felt in the gums. Clove oil works the same when gently brushing or massaging it over the sore spots. Cloves and clove oil are typically found in grocery stores if you don’t have any on hand.

Teeth Grinding/Bruxism

While you may think that tooth pains are only caused by poor dental hygiene and fast-growing teeth (which they usually are), they can also be caused by bad dental habits as well, such as teeth grinding. You can develop tooth pain associated with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) — the joint that hinges the lower jaw to the skull, enabling you to eat and talk.

When you clench your jaw or grind your teeth, you’re deteriorating your teeth as well as applying extra stress on your jaw muscles, leading to tooth pain and possibly TMJ or TMD disorder. If you’re affected by TMJ syndrome, your dentist can give you a dental splint to reposition the lower jaw. Additionally, eating more soft foods and applying a warm compress on your jawbone can help reduce stress.

If you grind your teeth at night, try wearing a mouthguard to bed to protect your teeth. Another option is to eat more vitamin-rich foods (green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, etc.) to reduce calcium deficiency.

Abnormal Bite

Similar to teeth grinding, an abnormal bite also causes TMJ syndrome. Your upper teeth should fit slightly over your bottom teeth. A misaligned bite, also known as malocclusion, occurs when your top and bottom teeth hit in an incorrect way.

An abnormal bite can cause difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing. Malocclusion is most likely hereditary and not the most common cause for tooth pain. However, if it does occur, it can appear at anytime during your lifetime, especially after or with the use of:

  • Thumb-sucking
  • Over-excessive pacifier use
  • Ill-fitting dental appliances
  • Extra teeth loss
  • Impacted teeth

Luckily, there are ways to address this dental issue. An abnormal bite can be fixed through surgery, removal of one or more teeth, or with braces and other appliances.


Dr. Daniel Hall is an expert when it comes to your children’s oral health, and he is eager to offer them the best services in a friendly and warm environment, at the Sunray Pediatric Dentistry clinic.

Contact us to give your child the oral care he or she deserves.

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