A young woman is having a toothache indoors

Potential Causes of Toothaches: It’s Not Always a Cavity

You're someone who takes your oral health very seriously. You never skip your bi-annual dental checkups, you brush your teeth twice a day, and you watch what you eat when it comes to sweets and processed foods. Even though your oral care routine deserves an A+, it doesn't mean you'll never experience a toothache. A cavity is the most likely culprit for your pain, but there are other possible causes too. They range from grinding your teeth to having a sinus infection. Let's go over the different types of tooth pain, their potential causes beyond a cavity, and why it's crucial to seek professional dental guidance when your pain lasts longer than a day or two.

Tooth Sensitivity

If you experience sharp pains when eating or drinking foods and liquids with extreme temperatures, for example, it could mean you have a cavity. But it may also be a sign that you have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity occurs when the inner layer of your tooth, known as dentin, becomes exposed. This type of toothache occurs even when there's no cavity to find. Dentin usually becomes exposed when there's a wearing away of enamel or gum recession. These things can occur because of overbrushing, trauma, or another reason.

Some Toothaches Are More Severe

If you have sharp tooth pain when you bite down on food, the cause could be a cracked tooth. If you have throbbing, constant pain, you may have an abscessed tooth or an infection. You should see your dental professional about this issue as soon as possible. This is because if your tooth has an abscess, its infection has the potential to spread to your mouth or neck.

It Might Not Even Be Your Teeth

If there's no sign of a cavity, but tooth pain persists, there are other possible reasons that should be explored. A sinus infection, for example, is a less common but significant cause of tooth pain. If only your upper teeth on both sides of your face are in pain, sinusitis could be the culprit. This sort of toothache is usually accompanied or preceded by nasal congestion and tenderness around your sinuses. If you suspect this is the cause of your tooth pain, you may wish to see your medical professional for discussing prevention and treatment.

Suppose you feel pain more in your jaw rather than just in a specific tooth. In that case, temporomandibular disorders could be the cause. You could have this disorder because of direct injury or trauma to your jaw, tooth grinding (bruxism), or arthritis or cancer affecting your jaw. If you still have your wisdom teeth, impacted molars could also be causing you jaw pain. Your molars become impacted when there's no room in the back of your mouth for them to emerge out of your gums properly.

See Your Dental Professional to Be Sure

Even if your toothache is more a dull sensation rather than a sharp pain, it doesn't mean your discomfort isn't worth you taking the time to figure out its cause. Intermittent pain may seem like just an inconvenience and not worth an immediate call to your dental office, but waiting until the problem becomes worse is rarely the best option. Whatever the type and severity of your tooth pain, it is best to call your dental professional and make an appointment.

As noted by Mayo Clinic, there's another reason it's essential to see your dental professional for a toothache. New research indicates cause for concern for some over-the-counter drugs for toothache relief. Benzocaine, an ingredient found in many gels for tooth pain, has been linked to a rare but sometimes deadly disease called methemoglobinemia. Your dental professional can help you determine if a drug containing benzocaine is right for your situation and how much of it is safe for you to use.

The causes of toothaches are not always clear. But a conclusive diagnosis about the source of your pain from a dental professional can set you on track for minimizing and treating it. While tooth pain without a cavity probably isn't the investigative work you were hoping to do, for the sake of your oral health, it's smart to take it seriously. While you wait to see your dental professional, you can explore at-home tips for dealing with toothaches and continue with your excellent oral care routine!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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