Everyone knows what pain from a toothache feels like. It can be uncomfortable enough to keep a person up at night and make it difficult for them to eat or even smile.
Most people would think a cavity in the tooth would be the creating the pain. But surprisingly, for many people who experience tooth discomfort, a cavity is not the cause.
Tooth pain can happen for several reasons besides the presence of a cavity, such as trauma to the tooth or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction, among others.
This in-depth article provides information about what might be causing the pain, and how to alleviate the pain as soon as possible.
Managing Tooth Pain
Odontogenic pain — pain associated with teeth and their supporting structures — is commonly caused by tooth decay. These dental caries are common and affect 60-90% of children worldwide. Also, it is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. But if symptoms include throbbing in one area with no injury, it’s likely just coming from swollen gums near the wisdom teeth.
Those who suffer from a toothache should see their dentist as soon as possible to determine the cause. There could be infection and long-term issues if left untreated. Either way, the dentist can diagnose any problems and plan treatment for the pain.
However, if the dentist cannot determine a cause, those suffering from a toothache may need to do a little research on their own to find relief for their tooth pain. Here are some things to avoid when managing any type of tooth pain:
- Don’t brush teeth too hard
- Try eating soft foods
- Keep mouth moist
- Take over-the-counter pain medication or an oral, topical numbing cream
5 Steps for Stopping Sensitive Tooth Pain
Toothaches are the most common oral health problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 3.5 billion people will experience oral disease at some point in their lives. The pain can be unbearable and make it difficult to sleep or eat, which is why everyone should know how to deal with it.
When people experience sharp, temporary pain in their teeth, cutting down on the activities that cause these symptoms is the first step to easing the discomfort.
Certain behaviors, like brushing too hard, can increase tooth sensitivity. Drinking hot liquids or biting into very cold substances can be particularly painful for sensitive teeth.
Those suffering tooth pain will be happy to know that by modifying behavior and taking care of their oral health, sensitivity will often go away over time. Here are some steps to take in the meantime:
1. Brush with Desensitizing Toothpaste
Sensitive teeth, or dentine hypersensitivity, can happen for many reasons, including tooth grinding and sleep deprivation. Often, home remedies such as desensitizing toothpaste can alleviate the pain associated with sensitive teeth. However, it is essential to speak with a dentist who may suggest other treatments and products that could work better.
2. Use Fluoride Regularly
Even if a patient doesn’t have a cavity, their dentist can, in many cases, relieve the symptoms of tooth pain. Fluoride treatment is one way. The dentist applies the fluoride to sensitive areas in the teeth to strengthen them and alleviate tooth pain. People can also get fluoride treatments at home, but most dental professionals recommend coming into their offices for this procedure.
3. Apply Bonding Resin
Sometimes, a root of a tooth is exposed, making it sensitive to pain. Treating this can be accomplished by installing bonding resin over the painful area. Some patients may opt to have all of their teeth bonded, whether they experience pain or not. This procedure may require a local anesthetic.
4. Surgical Gum Graft
If the tooth’s root has lost gum tissue, a small amount can be taken from somewhere else in the mouth and attached to the affected site. This method will protect exposed roots and reduce sensitivity. However, this medical procedure is contraindicated for anyone with severe cardiac issues or other health concerns that make surgery risky.
5. Ask About a Root Canal
If teeth are sensitive to such a degree that pain medications or other treatments are ineffective, dentists might recommend a root canal. Root canals are the most successful technique for treating tooth sensitivity.
What It Means to Have Radiating Tooth Pain That Comes and Goes
People with tooth pain can suffer from many dental problems which cause radiating pain that comes and goes. Approximately 50% of the population of the world suffers from gum disease, the leading cause of radiating mouth pain.
In addition to abscesses, ruptured internal membranes in the mouth can cause constant shrinking and swelling. Broken fillings and other trauma like tooth grinding can chip at nerves near gums, and natural gum recession may lead to sensitive teeth.
Understanding Tooth Pain
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), nearly 25% of people fear going to the dentist, mostly due to a lack of knowledge about the pain associated with dental issues.
Here are some common questions people ask about tooth pain, and answers to help them understand and manage it:
Is tooth pain always a cavity?
No. Tooth pain is not always associated with a cavity. There are multiple reasons a person might suffer from tooth pain. A dental professional with be able to diagnose most causes of toothaches.
Can a tooth hurt for no reason?
Tooth pain is generally associated with some form of decay, trauma, or deterioration of the tooth and surrounding tissue. If a person is experiencing tooth pain and their dentist has not determined the cause, it may be time to get a second opinion.
Why would a tooth hurt when biting down?
This is a symptom people may experience for more than one reason. The dental issues that occur when a person is biting down can range from tooth problems to issues with muscles or nerves in the head, neck, and face.
Can you have a sensitive tooth without a cavity?
Tooth sensitivity has many causes. Exposed nerves from decay are the most common reasons people experience sensitivity. However, receding gums, brushing too hard, and even flossing incorrectly can lead to tooth sensitivity.
What can mimic a toothache?
There are many possible reasons people will confuse pain in their mouth with a toothache. Things that can mimic a toothache include muscle damage, TMJ disorders, dental nerve damage, and injury to areas around the tooth.
Can cavity pain come and go?
Yes, cavity pain can come and go. It depends on the severity of the tooth decay and a patient’s level of pain tolerance. The pain may feel like it is coming and going when it is just a fluctuation in intensity. There may not actually be relief from the pain. It may just be that the nerves surrounding the area become “deadened” to the feeling of pain.
Is the tooth just sensitive, or does it have a cavity?
The best way to for a person to determine whether they have a cavity or are just experiencing sensitivity is to see a dentist. A dentist can take x-rays to see if a patient has any decay or other dental health concerns and can diagnose periodontal disease and any damage to the teeth. The dentist can also recommend ways to manage the pain.
Does throbbing tooth pain mean infection?
A throbbing pain most likely means that there is an infection, but there can be other causes. Patients with this throbbing pain will often describe the sensation of feeling their heart beating in the area where they are hurting. This is due to increased blood flow in the infected area.
Underlying Issues That Can Cause Throbbing Pain
When a person is experiencing throbbing pain without any evidence of infection, there may still be an underlying issue that needs treatment. Here are some of the possible causes:
- Deterioration of a filling
- Fluorosis (over-consumption of fluoridated water)
- Oral thrush (yeast infection of the oral mucus membrane)
- Oral cysts, or other gum issues
- Periodontal disease (gum disease)
When any of these are suspected, a person must see a dentist right away for an examination before continuing with self-care measures like taking pain relievers or drinking fluids to relieve the pain. Leaving dental conditions untreated can lead to tooth loss. Patients may also experience deterioration of the gums and other soft tissue in the mouth.
Ways to Prevent Tooth Sensitivity
To prevent the recurrence of sensitive teeth, people should brush their teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste. Some may choose to ask their dentist for a prescription toothpaste for severe sensitivity. People who suffer from tooth pain should avoid abrasive toothpaste and avoid vigorous scrubbing in favor of gentle strokes.
If a patient is one of the 30% of the population that grinds their teeth, they need to ask their dentist for a mouth guard. A mouth guard can protect teeth from a fracture that may cause sensitivity.
If someone has tooth pain but no cavity, they must avoid eating high-acid foods and drinks such as carbonated beverages, citrus fruit juices, and wine. All of these can eat away at the enamel of a person’s teeth, weakening them.
When a person drinks acidic liquids, they need to use a straw. Doing this will limit contact with the beverage to the teeth. When eating or drinking an acidic substance, the mouth should be rinsed with water afterwards to balance the acid levels.
Things to Consider When It Comes to Tooth Pain Not Associated with a Cavity
The first step for a dentist to consider when a patient is having tooth pain that’s not associated with a cavity is to rule out any underlying conditions. Many causes of tooth pain can be a challenge to diagnose. The dentist will want to check for infected gums, an abscessed tooth, or a dry socket from a lost filling or root canal treatment, among other things.
It is also possible that the source of the patient’s problem could be outside the mouth, such as in the ear, sinuses, or throat area. This issue might be due to infection spread through saliva via droplets generated during coughing or sneezing.
If a person has other symptoms besides a toothache, like a swollen face, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, it’s best for them not to wait to go to the dentist, who may advise them to see a physician. These symptoms may indicate more severe health problems.