Understanding What Causes a Toothache

At Beadnell Family Dentistry, we want to help each patient enjoy the very best oral health possible. A lifetime of strong teeth and healthy gums remains our goal for every one of our patients, and dentist in Southwest Portland, Oregon Dr. Beadnell and her friendly staff will do everything possible to answer your oral health questions. When it comes to protecting the health of your smile, the more you know about potential problems faced by your teeth and gums, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with any oral health concerns as they may arise.

While brushing and flossing daily will help to prevent the majority of oral health concerns, occasionally problems occur even when practicing quality oral care. One of the most common problems that bring patients into Dr. Beadnell’s office is toothache.

A toothache or tooth pain occurs when the nerve located in the root of a tooth becomes irritated. A variety of factors can lead to tooth ache, including decay, infection, injury, and the loss of a tooth. Occasionally pain originates from other areas of the body that seem to radiate from the jaw, thus appearing to be tooth pain. However, this pain can be misleading, and can actually originate from ear pain, the jaw joint, or even a heart problem.

Causes of Toothache

A toothache occurs due to the inflammation of the central portion of a tooth, known as the pulp. The pulp of a tooth contains extremely sensitive nerve endings that can cause sharp, sudden stabs of pain when irritated by inflammation, which is often caused by cavities, infection, and trauma. Practicing poor oral care allows harmful bacteria that grow inside of the mouth to contribute to plaque, gum disease, and dental decay. Each of these oral health concerns can progress into serious problems that cause tooth pain.

Symptoms of Toothache

When suffering from a toothache, you may experience intense pain when pressure is applied to the aching tooth, and sensitivity to hot or cold stimuli. When triggered, tooth pain can last for several seconds to a minute once the stimulus has been removed. As the area of inflammation in your tooth’s pulp expands, the pain associated with the condition can become more severe. The pain may even seem to radiate out to surrounding areas of the ear, cheek, or jaw. Additional symptoms of a toothache may also include:

  • Pain while chewing
  • Discharge or bleeding from the gums that surround the tooth
  • Swelling of the gums around the tooth or swelling of the jaw
  • Trauma or injury to the area around the tooth

Any of these signs may potentially point to dental decay or gum disease in the tooth or surround gum tissue. An area of redness around the tooth’s gum line could indicate gum disease and may point to the source of the tooth pain. Tapping an infected tooth may make the pain more severe and could point to the source of a toothache even if the tooth appears healthy and normal.

It’s important that you differentiate tooth pain from other sources of pain that originate from the face. Ear or throat pain, sinusitis, head trauma, or an injury to the temporomandibular joint (more commonly known as TMJ) can all be confused with toothache. Referred pain can originate from another place in the body and travel through nerve endings and be felt in the tooth or jaw. You need to visit with Dr. Beadnell to determine the source of any tooth pain to ensure you receive proper treatment.

When to Seek Treatment

You need to contact Dr. Beadnell about a toothache when:

  • The pain caused by the toothache isn’t relieved by over-the-counter medication.
  • You suffer from extreme pain following the removal of a tooth. This could occur on the second or third day following a tooth extraction, and might be the result of a condition known as dry socket.
  • You have swelling of the face or gums, or if you notice discharge occurring around the tooth, which could indicate an infection.
  • You suffer a broken or knocked-out tooth as a result of an injury.

If you have any questions about tooth pain or toothaches, make sure to ask Dr. Beadnell during your next appointment.

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