Regardless of how well you care for your teeth, at some point in your life, you’ll likely experience the discomfort of a toothache. In most cases, the cause is a cavity, for which the treatment will usually be a dental filling, but there are several other possible causes as well.
If you notice that you are experiencing sharp pains only when eating or drinking foods of extreme temperatures (hot or cold), it could be an indication of a cavity or a sign of sensitive teeth. This could be caused by receding gums or a thinning of the tooth enamel. While waiting for your dentist to examine your teeth and confirm the exact cause of the pain, try switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush, if one wasn’t used before, and use a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth to help relieve symptoms.
A cavity or cracked tooth will normally cause a sharp, stabbing pain when biting down on food, but if there is a throbbing, incessant pain instead, the cause may be an abscessed tooth or infection. If this is the case, it should be taken care of as soon as possible.
A less common – but still significant – cause of tooth pain is a sinus infection. This pain will affect only the upper teeth on both sides of your face. If this is what you’re experiencing, sinusitis could be the problem. It is usually accompanied (or preceded) by nasal congestion and tenderness around the sinuses. If you believe that this is the cause of your pain, you may want to make a doctor’s appointment.
If the pain is not in the teeth but the jaw, the problem could be a temporomandibular disorder. This is a problem with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) caused by a direct injury or trauma to the jaw. It could also be caused by bruxism (tooth grinding) or arthritis or cancer affecting the jaw. If you still have your wisdom teeth, impacted molars could also be the source of jaw pain.
Toothaches are not always severe; they may just seem like an inconvenience, and you might put off making an appointment with your dentist. The best thing to do, however, is to see your dentist as quickly as possible rather than allowing the pain to worsen. That way, a diagnosis can be made early on, and treatment can be more straightforward.