7 Most Common Causes of Tooth Pain

Toothache? It could be a cavity — the most common cause of tooth pain. But there are many reasons why your tooth might hurt, and determining the source of your pain is the key to finding lasting relief. 

Same-day emergency dental care is available here at Zhao Dental in Pleasanton and Tracy, California.

Below, Dr. Shirley Zhao and Dr. Mark Armstrong explore the seven most common causes of tooth pain and tips for easing pain until your appointment.

1. Cavities 

Tooth decay, often referred to as a cavity, is the No. 1 cause of tooth pain. Sometimes small cavities don’t cause any symptoms (at first), but when a cavity grows larger or affects the nerves in your tooth, it can cause throbbing pain, as well as sensitivity when you eat or drink.

If tooth decay is driving your pain, a filling can provide the relief you need. When we fill a tooth, we remove all damaged and decayed tooth material and then fill the hole (the cavity) with a filling material. Teeth can be filled with gold, porcelain, amalgam, or composite resin.

2. A dental abscess

An abscess is an infection in which a pocket of pus causes swelling and pain. Abscesses can develop on your gums or inside your tooth, and they’re named according to their location in your mouth: gingival, periodontal, and periapical abscesses.

Abscesses require treatment and will spread if not treated promptly. Treatment may include antibiotics, draining the abscess, and/or a root canal.

3. Fractures

Fractures in your teeth, whether they’re small cracks that developed slowly or a noticeable crack after an accident, cause pain and discomfort. Treating a fracture reduces the pain, yes, but it also helps avoid an infection. Bacteria can enter your tooth through the crack and cause unwanted complications. 

Treatments for fractured teeth include dental bonding, a veneer for the fractured tooth, a filling, a crown, or a root canal.

4. A broken filling

It’s also possible for a filling to become damaged. Normal wear-and-tear as well as eating something hard can damage a filling. You might notice that a filling pops out completely or is chipped. In either case, we can repair it to provide the relief you need.

5. Gum infections

Despite the name, gum infections can affect your teeth as well. If the bacteria from the gum infection build up around your tooth roots, you have a higher risk of developing an infection in the gum tissue, which can then result in a toothache.

Left untreated, gum infections can compromise the integrity of your jawbone — which holds your teeth in place — and lead to tooth loss.

6. Bruxism

If you clench your teeth while you sleep, you could experience tooth pain, neck pain, and even morning headaches. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, increases your risk of chipping and fracturing your teeth too. 

7. A loose crown

Just like a dental filling can become loose or damaged, so can your dental crown. Crowns can become damaged:

If bacteria get under a loose crown, an infection can develop and cause pain. Treatment may require removing any decayed material and replacing the crown.

How to relieve tooth pain 

The only way to find lasting relief is to treat the underlying cause of your tooth pain. However, while you wait for your appointment, you can ease discomfort with these tips:

Over-the-counter pain relief medication can also provide relief until it’s time for your appointment.

If you’re experiencing a dental emergency, you can walk in to either of our two locations during business hours. You can also call the office or book an appointment online 24/7.

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