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Toothaches: Common Reasons Your Tooth Hurts

by Williams, Daily & Frazier on Feb 18, 2021 3:15:00 AM

Toothaches are uncomfortable; some toothaches can cause severe pain, while others can create dull, “barely there” discomfort. Whether your tooth hurts a little or a lot, it is important to have your dentist look at it – this is especially true if your toothache lasts more than a day or two, or comes with a fever. Your toothache may be a sign of a dental condition that could turn into a serious problem.

Common Causes of Toothaches

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, also known as cavities, is the most common cause of toothaches. Cavities are permanently damaged areas of teeth. Tooth decay develops as the result of a combination of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, sipping sugary or acidic drinks, and not brushing and flossing as recommended.

The severity of toothache pain intensifies as tooth decay affects the various layers of the tooth. Cavities begin by damaging tooth enamel, which is the hard shell that covers teeth. Once through the enamel, decay can continue to the next layer, known as dentin, to cause sensitivity. The pulp of the tooth lies just below the dentin – the pulp contains nerve fibers that transmit pain signals to your brain. Letting tooth decay reach the pulp will cause intense pain. Treatment for tooth decay in the enamel may require a simple filling if enough of the enamel is gone; treatment for tooth decay in the pulp may require a root canal to save the tooth.

Periodontal Gum Disease

Periodontal gum disease is a serious infection of soft tissue that surrounds your teeth to provide a seal. Also known as periodontitis, periodontal disease can even destroy the jawbone that supports your teeth. Left untreated, periodontal gum disease can loosen your teeth, and can even cause your teeth to fall out.

Periodontal gum disease can develop when plaque accumulates on teeth and below the gum line. Plaque is a sticky film consisting mostly of bacteria, which feeds on the sugars and starches in the food you eat.

Plaque can harden into hard-to-remove tartar, which keeps the bacteria in contact with your teeth. The presence of plaque can also cause inflammation in your gums, a condition known as gingivitis. Periodontal disease is different from gingivitis, as gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that only causes inflammation, while periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease that can destroy the gums and jaw bone.

Gingivitis can advance to periodontal gum disease when ongoing inflammation causes pockets to develop in the gum; these pockets can fill with bacteria to cause bone and tissue loss – and serious toothaches.

Teeth Grinding

Grinding your teeth can make them hurt. Teeth grinding, known as bruxism, can affect adults or children and occur at day or at night. Some people grind their teeth at night and not even know it. Others can have tired jaw muscles, pain or soreness of the face or jaw, headaches, and disrupted sleep. Grinding your teeth can even cause worn tooth enamel, fractured or cracked teeth, and increased tooth pain or sensitivity.


Women may experience toothaches during pregnancy. Inflammation is common during pregnancy, and inflammation may affect the gums of some women. Other women experience hormonal changes that make the gums vulnerable to plaque. Some women experience “pregnancy tumors,” which are harmless, yet uncomfortable lumps that form on inflamed gums.

Tooth Fractures

The tough enamel coating can crack to cause a tooth fracture. Diagnosing a tooth fracture can be difficult because the crack may be so small that it does not appear on an x-ray. Tooth fractures, however small, can cause serious pain – especially when they occur in the middle of the tooth. A toothache associated with tooth fractures can come and go, especially when chewing or eating certain food.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the final set of molars that most people get when they are in their late teens or early 20s. When well aligned, these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth. Wisdom teeth are often misaligned in a way that prevents them from erupting through the gum or causes them to come in at an odd angle, which causes pain. Impacted wisdom teeth often require removal.

Williams and Daily is here for every kind of toothache. Call us and schedule an appointment at (919) 846-9070.

Williams, Daily & Frazier Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist in Raleigh, NC with a dedicated team of dentists, assistants, hygienists and administrators who are enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
Contact Williams, Daily & Frazier at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.