It can happen suddenly: One minute you feel fine and the next minute you suffer from a toothache that is causing you agony. Your tooth may be sensitive to hot or cold foods, the area around the tooth may be swollen, and the pain could range from a dull throbbing to sharp, unbearable pain.
There are several reasons why your teeth may hurt, including trauma to the mouth. Dr. Scott Horovitz, a dentist at the Coast Dental office in Port Richey, FL, had a toothache himself just last week. "I hit my front tooth a while back while I was playing with my kids, but the pain quickly went away. Then one day last week, I woke up and it felt like there was a lot of pressure on the root of the tooth. Also, when I ate something cold, the pain flared up," said Dr. Horovitz. "The trauma I suffered from the accident caused the nerve in my tooth to die. Sometimes it can take a long time to die, and the dying nerve might become abscessed."
When you call your dental office, the receptionist may ask several questions to help pinpoint the possible cause of your tooth pain. "If you're swollen, we get you in right away because it may mean you have a dead nerve inside the tooth," Dr. Horovitz said. "We'll ask if you've had any trauma to the mouth and if you have any sensitivity to hot or cold food, because that may indicate the tooth is chipped or broken and the inner part of the tooth is exposed."
A cavity near the nerve could also cause your tooth to hurt. Another common problem: Receding gums, which leaves the roots of the teeth exposed. The roots are supposed to be covered by the gums and the bone, which is one reason it's very important to treat gum disease before it progresses.
Getting your wisdom teeth could also cause tooth pain, since the erupting wisdom teeth can put pressure on the roots of your other teeth. Wisdom teeth can also trap food and bacteria, which could cause swelling, infection and pain.
Sometimes tooth pain isn't related to a problem in your mouth at all. It can be a sign of a sinus issue. Some people have the roots of their upper back teeth close to the sinus cavity, and if the sinus cavity swells with fluid or bacteria, then that swelling can apply pressure on the tooth roots, causing a toothache. Once you arrive for your emergency visit, the dentist will examine the area and take necessary x-rays. "We won't know how to effectively treat the tooth pain until we see the cause of the pain," Dr. Horovitz explained.
If you're suffering from a toothache, don't try to treat it with over-the-counter medications and just hope for the best. See an expert to find out what's causing the pain and have it cured.
Scott Horovitz, DMD, has been a practicing dentist since 1999. He provides general dentistry services to patients, including children starting at age 8. His services include bone grafting, dental implants and restorations, endodontic surgery, extractions, periodontal disease management, root canal therapy and retreatment, veneers and Lumineers. Dr. Horovitz practices at the Coast Dental office at 10083 U.S. Highway 19 South in Port Richey, FL, and is also the dental director of the Good Samaritan Health Clinic in New Port Richey, FL, where he provides free dental services to low-income families.
Written by: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed by: Scott Horovitz, DMD
Reviewed by: Charbel Klaib, DMD
Reviewed by: Cindy Roark, DMD