The symptoms of a toothache include sharp pain or dull pain in or around a tooth. The most common cause of a toothache is a dental cavity as a result of tooth decay. Dental cavities and toothache can be prevented by proper oral hygiene. Another common cause of a toothache is gum disease. A toothache can also be a result of an injury or an abscess of the tooth. Toothache symptoms can be caused by a problem that does not originate from a tooth or the jaw. Symptoms of a toothache can be mimicked by a sinus infection, shingles, and other diseases.
A toothache or tooth pain is caused when the nerve in the root of a tooth or surrounding a tooth is irritated. Dental (tooth) infection, decay, injury, or loss of a tooth are the most common causes of dental pain. Pain may also occur after an extraction (tooth is pulled out). Pain sometimes originates from other areas and radiates to the jaw, thus appearing to be tooth pain. The most common areas include the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ), ear pain, and even occasional heart problems.
Bacteria growing inside your mouth can contribute to gum disease and dental decay, both of which can cause pain. Oftentimes, gum disease will not result in any pain.
You can prevent the majority of dental problems by flossing, brushing with fluoride toothpaste, and having your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. The dentist may apply sealants and fluoride, which are especially important for children’s teeth.
A toothache occurs from inflammation of the central portion of the tooth called pulp. The pulp contains nerve endings that are very sensitive to pain. Inflammation to the pulp or pulpitis may be caused by dental cavities, trauma, and infection. Referred pain from the jaw may cause you to have symptoms of a toothache.
A toothache and jaw pain are common complaints. There may be a severe pain to pressure or too hot or cold stimuli. The pain may persist for longer than 15 seconds after the stimulus is removed. As the area of inflammation increases, the pain becomes more severe. It may radiate to the cheek, the ear, or the jaw. Other signs and symptoms that may lead you to seek care include the following:
- Pain with chewing
- Hot or cold sensitivity
- Bleeding or discharge from around a tooth or gums
- Swelling around a tooth or swelling of your jaw
- Injury or trauma to the area
These signs and symptoms may sometimes be associated with dental decay or gum disease (periodontal disease). Dental decay or an area of redness around the tooth’s gum line may point to the source of pain. If you tap an infected tooth, it may make the pain more intense. This sign may point to the problem tooth even if the tooth appears normal.