Aching teeth is caused due to some obvious reasons like tooth decay or cavity; however, there are specific surprising reasons like exercise or sinusitis. In this article, we will focus on various possible known reasons for aching teeth and how and when to decide to meet a dentist.
Before we begin, on a positive note, it is said that there is a positive side of a pain, which is, that it lets you know that you are alive.
Following are the various reasons for aching teeth:-
1 - Tooth Abscess
A tooth abscess is characterized by an inflammation in the root of the teeth, which is caused due to the death or decaying of the soft tissue in the root canal.
The death of the soft tissue is caused due to an infection in and around the tooth's soft tissue root.
The tooth enamel protects the root canal from microorganism; however, when the tooth starts decaying, the bacteria gets passage inside the root canal, and hence, it causes infection. Your body identifies the bacteria as a foreign object and therefore sends its army of cells (White Blood Cells) to fight, and as a result, pus formation occurs1Sanders, J. L. (2019, November 27) Source - Pubmed
Even though you might get temporary relief from your aching teeth; however, it is strongly advised to go and see your dentist as there are high chances of the spread of infection in the neighboring teeth.
Your dentist would empty the tooth canal followed by cleaning the pus, shaping, sealing back of the root canal, and finally would cover it with a cap.
After that, an antibiotic shall be prescribed if your dentist feels that there are still some chances of infection.
2 - Tooth Decay
Because of poor oral hygiene, a sticky layer of bacteria called plaque gets deposited on the tooth enamel. These bacteria consume sugar and starch from the food that we eat and, after that, produce lactic acid, which acts upon your tooth enamel and erodes it gradually, leading to the formation of the cavity (as shown in the image).
Cavity formation, itself is not painful however when it gradually deepens, it leads to tooth sensitivity to touch and temperature and thereby cause toothache
Tooth decay can be treated easily if diagnosed during the early stages. Your dentist may first start with an X-Ray to check the extent of damage and after that, depending upon the condition, do: -
- Root canal treatment followed by a filling or a crown
- Extract the teeth if the extent of damage is enormous. It helps in preventing the spread of bacterial infection to the neighboring teeth.
3 - Tooth Fracture
A fractured tooth is generally caused due to trauma in the mouth wherein, while doing an activity, your tooth comes in immediate contact with a hard surface and hence results in a tooth fracture2Mamoun, J. S., & Napoletano, D. (2015) Source - Pubmed
In aged individuals, sometimes, biting a crunchy fruit may also cause a tooth fracture.
The sooner you visit your dentist after having a fractured tooth, the lesser would be the agony you would suffer from. Following are the various questions that you might have while getting a treatment for fractured tooth:-
Can a fractured tooth be saved?
Yes, in the majority of the cases, the fractured tooth can be saved. If the extent of damage is till the pulp region only, then there is no need to extract your tooth. The most preferred treatment in such cases is endodontic treatment or a root canal treatment. The intent of your dentist in such cases is to prevent the stimuli from the outside forces (food, drink, contact with the hard object) reaching the pulp.
Should I keep my Broken Tooth with me?
It is always better to keep the broken part of the tooth with you and share it with your dentist as it will help him check the extent of the damage. No, he may not be able to seal back the broken tooth part with your tooth, but there are dental sealants and tooth caps that are used to give your tooth a natural look and shape.
Does a fractured tooth have to be pulled/Extracted?
If the extent of damage is quite deep and extends beyond the pulp and reaches till the gums, your dentist will then have to extract the whole tooth. The final decision, whether to extract a tooth or treat it with a root canal treatment, is done after examining the extent of damage with the help of an X-Ray.
What happens if a fractured tooth goes untreated?
Well, if the fractured tooth is kept clean by adhering to proper oral hygiene, you can live with it for quite a long time without treating it; however, practically, it is quite hard to be compliant with oral hygiene practices. No, matter how careful you might be, there is always a chance for the bacteria to ooze in through the fractured space and cause infection followed by inflammation and aching teeth.
Can a fractured tooth repair itself?
Yes, a fractured tooth can repair itself only if the damage is minimal. If the tooth has a slight crack on the outer layer of the teeth and you do not feel any pain or sensitivity, then it can repair itself. This process is known as mineralization.
However, to be very sure about the extent of damage, it is always advised to check with your dentist.
4 - Disease in the Gums
Gum disease is caused due to inflammation of the soft tissues and the bone, supporting the tooth. A bacterial infection is responsible for the inflammation. The bacteria stick around the teeth and inside the cavities present around the teeth. In response, our immune system reacts against the bacteria and cause inflammation.
There are two types of gum diseases:-
It is an early stage of the gum infection and typically goes unnoticed; however, if treated well on time, it can be treated easily. Therefore it is recommended to meet your dentist at least twice a year for a dental health checkup.3Gingivitis and periodontitis: Overview. (2020, February 27) Source - Pubmed
2. Periodontal Gum Disease
If gingivitis is not treated well on time, it results in Periodontal gum disease4Brazier, Y. (2018, January 18) Source - Medical News Today. It is the chronic inflammation of the soft tissues and bone supporting the teeth leading to a loss of the supporting bone and teeth.
Causes of Gum Disease 5Becker, D. E. (2007) Source - Pubmed 6Bharti, V., & Bansal, C. (2013, March) Source - Pubmed 7Patil, S. N., Kalburgi, N. B., Koregol, A. C., Warad, S. B., Patil, S., & Ugale, M. S. (2012, April) Source - Pubmed 8Da Silva, M. K., De Carvalho, A. C., Alves, E. H., Da Silva, F. R., Pessoa, L. D., & Vasconcelos, D. F. (2017) Source - Pubmed9Llambés, F., Arias-Herrera, S., & Caffesse, R. (2015, July 10) Source - Pubmed
Following are the techniques that your dentist will use for the treatment10InformedHealth.org Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006 Source - Pubmed:-
5 - Temperature Sensitivity
Episodes of discomfort, when your tooth or teeth comes in contact with food, drinks, cold or warm air, is characterized as temperature sensitivity11Miglani, S., Aggarwal, V., & Ahuja, B. (2010, October) Source - Pubmed. It is also known as Dentin Hypersensitivity. It causes extreme pain in the tooth and may lead to headaches12Renton, T., & Wilson, N. H. (2016, May) Source - Pubmed. It is caused due to the erosion of the enamel leading to the exposure of dential tubules to food, drinks, cold or warm air13Davari, A., Ataei, E., & Assarzadeh, H. (2013, September) Source - Pubmed
- 1Warm/Cold air
- 2Mouthwash containing alcohol
- 3Hot/cold food
- 4Hot/cold drinks
- 5Sweet/acidic foods
Can I follow Home Remedies to Treat Temperature Sensitivity?
The answer is conditional yes. Home remedies for dental pain can help you temporarily however for a permanent relief/treatment it is strongly advised to visit your dentist.
Does tooth sensitivity to cold mean root canal always?
Tooth sensitivity always does not mean that the treatment shall involve root canal treatment. If the tooth sensitivity is mild, your dentist can recommend: -
Dental Treatment if Tooth Sensitivity is Chronic
If the tooth sensitivity is not mild, your dentist, depending upon the reason of the teeth sensitivity may use:-
6 - Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Teeth grinding or bruxism is defined as the attrition and flattening of the teeth. It is caused due to clutching of the teeth and tightening of the jaw together. In the majority of cases, the patients happen to grip their teeth while they are asleep.18Sutin, A. R., Terracciano, A., Ferrucci, L., & Costa, P. T. (2010, June) Source - Pubmed
Teeth grinding or bruxism is a sign of stress, anxiety, anger, and concentration. Whenever either of these emotions is expressed, patients tend to clench their teeth and jaw.
Can bruxism be cured?
There is no direct cure for teeth grinding, dentist, however, recommend the use of teeth guard, also called as occlusal splints. Its use will avoid the contact of the upper teeth with the lower and thereby prevent the attrition of teeth
How do I stop20Yap, A. U., & Chua, A. P. (2016) Source - Pubmed grinding my teeth in my sleep?
7 - Damage in Dental Filling
Dental fillings are used by the dentists to seal the exposed inner cavity/pulp. With time, the dental filling may get damaged, leading to the exposure of the internal cavity to bacteria, food, and temperature, and as a result of which you may experience aching teeth.
Yes, dental filings can get damaged due to a sudden force. Biting a hard/crunchy food item, teeth grinding, or trauma can cause your dental filling to wear and tear.
If your dental filling is in the initial stage of wear and tear, typically, it might be difficult for you to judge; however, your dentist can quickly find it out. This is the reason it is advised to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a dental health checkup.
On the contrary, If the dental filling has progressed to stage two of wear and tear, you will start feeling shooting pain in the tooth. Further, you shall notice a change in the surface of the tooth.
In case if you experience the symptoms, as discussed, please schedule a visit with your dentist as soon as possible as an open cavity is vulnerable to bacterial infection and tooth decay.
Your dentist will, first of all, take an X-Ray to check the extent of the damage. After that, the procedure to seal the open cavity would start.
However, if the dentist feels that the cavity might have got exposed to bacteria, then he might consider cleaning up the hole and then seal it back. Further, a 5-day antibiotic course shall be prescribed to subside the bacterial infection.
8 - Wisdom Tooth Pain
Wisdom tooth is the last permanent tooth to erupt after the age of 17. These are four in number. Since wisdom teeth are located in the farthest back; therefore, it becomes quite challenging to brush or floss, and thus it becomes a vulnerable place for bacteria to grow.
Can wisdom teeth cause tooth pain?
If a wisdom tooth tries to come to light in an oblique angle or tries to emerge in through a very tight space, it causes a severe toothache. As highlighted in the image above, the pain is felt on the backside (to be very specific – 3rd molar region)22Renton, T., & Wilson, N. H. (2016, August) Source-Pubmed
If by any chance, the wisdom tooth comes out, having the condition as specified, it will cause inflammation and colossal discomfort.
When the gums and the tissues around the emerging wisdom tooth become inflamed and infected, the condition is called pericoronitis. If the infection is not stopped, it can lead to the death of the patient.
If your pain is severe and is accompanied by the following clinical conditions, your dentist might decide to extract the developing wisdom tooth:-
An X-Ray is taken before starting the procedure followed by anesthesia.
How long does wisdom teeth pain last?
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