Toothaches can be uncomfortable because they cause pain in the jaw and other parts of the mouth. In some instances, the pain can become unbearable when lying down.
Many factors cause toothaches. For example, a common cause is a cavity or hole on the enamel — the tooth’s surface. A cavity can extend deeper into the tooth’s structure and even to the pulp or nerve if left untreated.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can also cause severe toothaches. In the United States, 47% of people 30 years and older suffer from gum disease. According to figures from the CDC, the prevalence of gum disease increases with people 65 years and above, as 70% have gum disease.
Bacteria that stay a long time in the mouth can cause gum disease. Worse, when bacteria is not removed by brushing, it forms a film around the gum and teeth called plaque. As plaque hardens, it forms dental calculus (more commonly known as tartar) and eventually makes it harder to clean your teeth properly. Once gum disease develops, a person may start experiencing red or swollen gums, bad breath that won’t go away, tooth loss, and painful chewing.
While improper dental care is a common cause for toothaches, not all toothaches originate in the mouth – some toothaches are of non-dental origin.
A person may have healthy teeth and still experience a toothache. Dentists call this a referred toothache. A toothache of non-dental origin can be very difficult to diagnose because it feels like a toothache. Pain from a toothache can range from a slight throbbing pain to sharp and excruciating.
A referred toothache can move from one side of the mouth to another and migrate from tooth to tooth.
What’s Traveling Tooth Pain?
Migrating tooth pain is a toothache that moves from one part of the mouth to another, for instance, from the upper jaw to the lower jaw. Several factors can cause migrating tooth pain. The most common are cavity, tooth abscess, and non-dental factors such as muscle pain and headaches.
Cavities and Traveling Tooth Pain
When a person eats and fails to clean their teeth, especially foods high in sugar, it provides the perfect breading ground for bacteria. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods and turn them into acids. The bacteria, acid, saliva, and food particles combine to form a sticky film known as plaque, which stays on the teeth. Plaque attacks your tooth’s enamel, breaking it down and creating holes called cavities. Regular brushing and flossing remove plaque, but once plaque forms into tartar, you need a dentist to remove it.
A person may not experience pain from cavities until the bacteria get deep into the tooth and affect the nerve below.
The bacteria causing cavities can get into the gum or the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Once bacteria penetrates the pulp, it causes the pulp to swell, and where there’s no more space inside the tooth to contain the swelling, it can extend discomfort from the root of the tooth to the bone, resulting in severe pain that radiates to other parts of the mouth.
It is essential to consult a dentist when feeling sharp pains. When cavities are left untreated, they grow large and affect the deeper structures of the tooth. This can, consequently, make the person experience pain in other teeth or even in the jaw.
Tooth Abscess and Migrating Tooth Pain
The bacterial infection known as tooth abscess happens when pus secretes at a part of the tooth, and this can cause migrating tooth pain. A tooth abscess results from an untreated cavity, an injury, or shoddy dental work.
When a tooth abscess is on the upper tooth, the pain can radiate to the lower jaw, making the person feel pain in someplace other than the origin of the infection.
Can a Toothache Move to Other Teeth?
When a person experiences a cavity, it can extend into the structure of the tooth, such as the pulp or nerve, if left untreated. While it is often that tooth experiencing the pain, it can radiate to surrounding teeth as well.
Can an Infection Move from One Tooth to Another?
Bacteria are always looking for the right conditions to thrive. So, if one tooth suffers from decay, it may spread to the surrounding teeth if they have cavities.
Eating too many sugary foods and a lack of proper dental care creates an environment for bacterial growth. Thus, a tooth infection can easily move from one tooth to another.
What are the Symptoms of a Spreading Tooth Infection?
A tooth infection can spread to other parts of the body, including the jaw, face, nose, and neck. Some of the symptoms are:
- Pain in other teeth
- The person may experience pain in the tongue or mouth. When this happens, it means the infection has spread to other parts of the mouth.
- Because bacteria caused the decay, the face, neck, and cheeks may start to swell when the infection spreads.
- The infection can also cause nausea, vomiting, and fever.
- According to Medical News Today, the infection can cause double vision or loss of vision, drooping eyelids, severe headaches, and breathing difficulties.
Consulting a dentist as early as possible, before the infection starts spreading and weakening the immune system, is the best course of action. A dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics to the patient to stop the infection from spreading. If the infection worsens, the patient may need a hospital stay and administration of IV antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading.
Top and Bottom Teeth Hurting on the Right Side
When the top and bottom teeth hurt on one side, there is a tendency to think that a single factor caused the pain. However, tooth infections don’t spread easily. If left untreated, bacteria enter through the cavity or crack in the tooth and eventually down to the root.
Experiencing pain in the top and bottom teeth could mean several cavities in the top and lower teeth. Consulting a dentist might be necessary, especially if the swelling accompanies the pain.
Upper Tooth Pain Radiating to Lower Jaw
Upper toothache pain can radiate to the lower jaw. Additionally, as the Mayo Clinic notes, a person with tooth abscess can experience pain in the lower jaw, neck, or radiating out to the ears.
To treat a tooth abscess, the dentist drains the pus and administers antibiotics. A dentist uses a drill to bore a hole into the dead tooth to get out the pus. A root filling then needs to be inserted to prevent subsequent infections. This procedure, also known as a root canal, can be extensive.
If left untreated, a tooth abscess can lead to complications that can be life-threatening.
It cannot be stressed enough. Poor dental hygiene and the consumption of food rich in sugar lead to a risk of abscessed teeth.
All the Teeth Hurt on One Side
When a person experiences pain on all their teeth on one side, it could be because the gums have been affected. When gums become swollen, it will cause pain in the surrounding teeth. This will make all the teeth on that side painful.
A cracked tooth could be the problem. When a tooth (or teeth) cracks, the gums can become swollen, making it painful and sensitive. The swelling affects the surrounding teeth and can cause pain on that side of the mouth.
Medical News Today notes, physical injury can cause a cracked tooth. For example, when a person suffers a blow to the mouth, whether through an accident, a fight, sporting injury, or even a fall.
According to Healthline, most teeth cracks occur in people 50 years and older. Consequently, it is advisable for people in this category to avoid chewing or biting hard food such as nuts, ice, or hard candy.
A large existing filling can also cause a cracked tooth. This is because the filling weakens the tooth structure.
Summing it Up
Several factors can cause radiating toothache pain and even make it seem like more than one toothache. The pain could have originated in the tooth or could have been of a non-dental origin. Toothaches with non-dental sources do sometimes mimic real toothaches.
Tooth pain that originates in the mouth is easier to diagnose than those of non-dental origin. They are most likely to migrate from one side of the mouth to another. So, a person needs to consult a dentist for an oral examination before concluding that a toothache results from a tooth infection or cavities.