What Causes a Toothache?

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Seven Common Causes of a Toothache

Ask anyone who’s had a severe toothache, and they’ll tell you that it’s one of the worst pains they’ve ever felt. Even slight tooth pain can make it hard for a person to think or concentrate on any given task. Many patients want to know how to avoid severe pain, so they ask us, “What causes a toothache?” That’s a good question. The truth is that there are several different causes of tooth pain. To help you understand and possibly prevent a severe toothache, we’ve put together seven of the most common causes:

Tooth Decay

The most common reason for a toothache is a cavity, also known as tooth decay. This is generally caused by poor dental care, such as not brushing or flossing your teeth often enough. A cavity typically needs to be somewhat severe to be painful, and such pain will often indicate that you’re in need of a root canal. This will be determined by the dentist during your visit, of course.

Abscessed Tooth

Once an infection has extended to the root tip or around the root, the tooth has become abscessed. In some cases, this happens because a cavity that hasn’t been taken care of has reached the pulp chamber, though grinding and other trauma may also be the cause. An infected tooth will often result in swollen gums and terrible pain, requiring a visit to the dentist.

Gum Disease

Gum disease occurs because there’s been a severe amount of plaque buildup. Many people don’t feel discomfort at first, especially with the mild form known as gingivitis. For those whose condition worsens and turns into periodontitis, the swelling of the gums could result in tooth pain and/or tooth loss.


It should come as no surprise to anyone that a physical injury to a tooth is likely to result in a toothache. The treatment that’s required will depend on the situation, such as whether the tooth has broken or actually fallen out. If the pain is from a tooth that’s fallen out, be sure to preserve the tooth in whole milk until you can bring it in to the dentist.

Wisdom Teeth

If your toothache is in the upper back or bottom of your mouth, then it’s likely that your wisdom teeth are causing problems. Pain is often the result of wisdom teeth that have become impacted, which means that they’re trapped between your jawbone and nearby teeth. This is typically an easy fix because all the dentist or oral surgeon needs to do is extract the teeth.

Teeth Grinding

Grinding your teeth can lead to multiple dental problems, often leading to a toothache. This is because as you grind your teeth, they’re deteriorating as well as putting extra stress on your jaw muscles. This sometimes causes a person to develop an ailment called TMJ syndrome. The reality is that many people grind their teeth at night. If this is what’s happening to you, wear a mouth guard when you go to bed and eat foods that are high in calcium.

Abnormal Bite

Having a normal bite can also lead to TMJ and pain. This often occurs when a child is young because of thumb-sucking or too much pacifier use. An abnormal bite can also be caused by impacted teeth, extra tooth loss, or ill-fitting dental appliances. There are a variety of solutions to an abnormal bite, which you should discuss with your dentist.

How to Reduce Pain from a Toothache

Dealing with a toothache can be difficult, but there are several ways to reduce the amount of pain.

Here are a few effective methods:

  • Saltwater rinse — Rinsing with 1/2 teaspoon in a glass of warm water will do wonders.
  • Hydrogen peroxide rinse — Rinse with a solution that’s half 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and half water.
  • Garlic cloves — Chew on garlic or apply clove oil to your teeth.
  • Antiseptic mouth rinses — These rinses are designed to relieve pain and promote healing.
  • Anti-inflammatories — Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen will help with the pain.
  • Topical anesthetics — Apply a product containing benzocaine for fast pain relief.
  • Eat Soft Foods — Watch what you eat very carefully until your dental treatment.

Contact Dr. Ferullo for Relief from Toothache Pain

Now that you know what causes a toothache, you may have realized that it’s time to see your dentist. Dr. Ferullo offers amazing service and experience at his St. Petersburg dentist office. If you have any questions about our dental services, such as free whitening treatments and implants, call our office at (727) 822-8101 today.

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