5 Things That Can Cause a Toothache (Other Than a Cavity)

Every dentist has heard “I have a toothache,” but there are a wide variety of problems that can cause discomfort in the mouth. Pain may originate in the gums, connective tissue, or the nerves of the tooth. Sometimes a deep cavity is the obvious culprit, but patients often complain of toothaches in the absence of decay and infection.

Visit Docklands Dental Studio to find out what’s causing your dental pain. If you live in South Melbourne, we are only 5-10 minutes away by car or taxi. Just take Montague Street towards the city and then Wurundjeri Way. Call us at (03) 9021 9487 to make an appointment.

young woman with toothache

Gum Recession

If one or more teeth feels sore at the gum line, is sensitive to extreme temperatures, and has developed a faint line of staining at the base of the tooth—gum recession may be the culprit.

Gums that look like they are pulling away from the teeth are usually caused by gum disease, but can also be caused by improper or overzealous tooth brushing. Patients who brush and floss their teeth too vigorously can unwittingly damage the gum tissue and cause the gums to recede. A toothbrush with hard bristles can also damage the gums, as well as your enamel.

More commonly, gum recession is the result of gum disease (periodontitis). Gum disease is an incurable infection of the gum tissue. It is caused by mouth bacteria that colonize the pockets of tissue surrounding the roots of the teeth. Once bacteria make their way into the gums, they cause inflammation, bleeding, bad breath, and many other symptoms. Without periodontal treatments, the gingival tissue may become damaged or destroyed, which can destabilize the teeth and lead to tooth loss. The best way to prevent gum disease is to have good oral hygiene, which includes flossing your teeth properly every single day. Seeing your dentist regularly can also prevent gum disease, since it can be caught and reversed in its precursor form of gingivitis.

If you have receding gums, a periodontist can help you identify and change the habits that have led to the problem and learn to be gentler on your gums. If your gum recession is caused by gum disease, you may need a series of deep cleaning periodontal treatments. There are also surgical ways to replace gum tissue, such as gingivoplasty.

Failing Dental Work

Dental fillings cover and protect deep pits, grooves, and fractures in the teeth, but they are not meant to last forever. The usual lifespan of a filling is somewhere between 8-12 years before it begins to show signs of failure. If a filling has begun to shrink or leak from the tooth, the vulnerable parts of the inside of the tooth may now be exposed to extreme temperatures, bacteria, or food particles. This may be experienced as a sharp pain or a dull ache.

If the cause of your pain is failing dental work, we can usually replace the filling with a new one. Wait too long, however, and we may find secondary decay. Sometimes the decay is too pervasive to save the tooth, so it’s in your best interests to see a dentist promptly!

Tooth Fracture

Breaks and cracks can happen at any age, but become more common as we get older and tooth enamel becomes more brittle. Fractures can result from your teeth cracking together during sports or an accidental fall, or from biting down on an unexpectedly hard bit of food. If you are feeling pain in a broken or fractured tooth, this means the crack has extended down into the inside of the tooth, where the nerve endings and blood vessels reside. This can quickly lead to an infection, so always make an appointment to see your dentist if you suspect a tooth has fractured. If you can feel that a tooth feels different, but is not yet causing you any discomfort, you should still make an appointment. Small cracks may not hurt at first, but may worsen with time if not restored. It’s always easier to repair a small crack, versus a deep one.

Enamel Erosion

Chronic or widespread tooth sensitivity, such as with hot and cold foods, is often caused by eroded enamel. This means that your tooth enamel has worn down and your tooth’s dentin (the layer where the tooth’s nerves lie) is exposed. Temperature sensitivity may also be caused by a recent whitening treatment, but it should not last long.

If you suffer from eroded enamel, you may find relief in a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Depending on your case, we may recommend a restorative treatment, such as a dental crowns or bonding. If your enamel has eroded due to a medical or dental condition, such as acid reflux or bruxism, you should try to treat the cause of the erosion, so the problem doesn’t worsen.

Enamel erosion may also result from tooth loss. If you lose a tooth and don’t have it replaced, it can change the position of your remaining teeth, as they drift inward toward the gap. Over time, improper alignment can cause enamel to wear down as teeth experience more and more friction. Losing a molar can also cause you to favor the opposite side of the mouth when you chew, and this can also lead to excess wear and tear on the enamel.

Misaligned and Impacted Teeth

While many people opt to have their wisdom teeth removed, there are plenty of people who let them grow in. The problem with wisdom teeth is that even when it seems you have plenty of room in your jaw, the teeth may become impacted and push painfully against other teeth below the gum line. In cases that involve wisdom teeth, we usually recommend extraction, since wisdom teeth are not essential for proper dentition with our modern diet.

If your teeth are misaligned, in general, they may be rubbing against other teeth and causing them to push out of line. This can cause various aches and pains, but there are many orthodontic options for both children and adults. In fact,  Invisalign treatment for adults and older teens can correct mild-to-moderate misalignment in as little as 12-18 months.

Any Toothache Should Warrant a Dental Appointment

Most people immediately think “cavity” when they experience dental pain, but the truth us that there are many sources of sensitivity when it comes to your oral health. No matter what the cause or severity, any amount of discomfort should give you pause and encourage you to make an appointment with Docklands Dental Studio. It may be a cavity, but there are many other causes of toothache, most of which are treatable. For most issues, the longer you wait to seek help, the worse the damage will be, and a greater restoration will be needed.

Visit Docklands Dental Studio to find out what’s causing your toothache. If you live in South Melbourne, we are only 5-10 minutes away by car or taxi. Just take Montague Street towards the city and then Wurundjeri Way. Call us at (03) 9021 9487 to make an appointment.


Also published on Medium.

By |January 17th, 2018|General Dentistry, Oral Health|Comments Off on 5 Things That Can Cause a Toothache (Other Than a Cavity)

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