Causes of a Toothache

Causes of a Toothache

Toothaches are the worst. First there’s the fact that pain of any kind can put a damper on your day. Then there’s the fact that toothaches are even worse than other pain because they affect your ability to chew and enjoy the things you eat. It is also much harder to ignore a toothache, and you may even find yourself constantly touching the sore tooth with your tongue. 

If you currently have a toothache, you probably want to know how to get rid of it. And fast. In order to get rid of a toothache, however, you need to first know what is causing it. Once you have identified the cause, you can take the necessary steps to alleviate your achy tooth. Here are some causes of a toothache: 

Something Lodged Between Two Teeth

Some toothaches are caused by something as simple as having a tiny piece of food stuck between two teeth. This can happen to anyone, but is more common in people who have crowded teeth. To rule this out, try flossing around the sore tooth to see if anything comes out or if it causes the pain to go away. Be sure to only use dental floss and NEVER use sharp objects to try and remove debris. If you cannot get it out, call your dentist so they can remove it. 


clenching teeth

Toothaches can also occur because of overuse. Normal eating should not cause this, however frequent gum chewing may make your teeth sore. Another thing that may cause your teeth to ache is clenching or grinding your teeth. In most cases, people grind or clench their teeth at night while they are asleep, so you may not even be aware you are doing this. However, your dentist can tell by simply evaluating the condition of your teeth. 

Tooth Decay

If tooth decay has reached the innermost layer of your tooth, then it is likely that you will experience a toothache that comes on suddenly and gets progressively worse. You may also experience tooth pain when eating or drinking things that are hot, cold, or contain lots of sugar. This is known as tooth sensitivity and it can indicate the presence of tooth decay.

Damaged Filling

Although fillings are durable, they are not meant to last forever and are susceptible to damage or wear as they age.  If your toothache is on a tooth that contains a filling or other dental restoration, it may be caused by a damaged or worn restoration. Once the restoration has been replaced, this should alleviate the toothache. 

Fractured Tooth

Another reason for a toothache is a fractured tooth. You can fracture a tooth by biting down on excessively hard foods or getting hit in the face. In some cases, metal fillings can also expand and cause the tooth to fracture. Toothaches caused by a fractured tooth are usually described as a throbbing pain. 

As you can see, there are a few different things that can cause a toothache. In most cases, it is recommended to visit your local dental office if you are experiencing a toothache to prevent it from getting worse. With the exception of having something stuck between your teeth, the other causes require dental treatment and will not resolve themselves. Only a dentist can help treat the cause so that your toothache is gone for good. 

Dr. Michael C. Shuck received his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the Medical College of Virginia, Cum Laude. He takes part in many volunteer outreach events, including Virginia’s Mission of Mercy project, Virginia Special Olympics, Give Kids a Smile, and the Jamaica Project. Dr. Shuck also is a regular volunteer at Williamsburg’s Olde Towne Medical Center. He actively participates with Virginia’s Donated Dental Service. Dr. Shuck has been a practicing dentist in the Williamsburg, Virginia area since 2007.