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

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No matter how conscientious you are about your oral care routine, at some point in your life you will probably experience the discomfort of toothache. Though a cavity is the most likely culprit, it is only one of several possible causes of toothaches.

Tooth Sensitivity

If you are experiencing sharp pains when eating or drinking hot or cold foods, it could mean you have a cavity. It may also be a sign that you may have sensitive teeth, either from receding gums or from a thinning of your tooth enamel. While you are waiting for a dental appointment to confirm the cause of your sensitive teeth, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth may help ease the symptoms.

Some Toothaches Are More Severe

If the pain you are experiencing is a sharp, stabbing pain when you bite down on your food, the cause of your toothache could be a cavity or a cracked tooth. If it's a throbbing, incessant pain, on the other hand, you may have an abscessed tooth or an infection that should be taken care of as quickly as possible.

It Might Not Even Be Your Teeth

One less common, but significant cause of tooth pain is a sinus infection. 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 doctor.

If your pain is more identifiable as jaw pain, it may be caused by temporomandibular disorders caused by a direct injury or trauma to the jaw, from tooth grinding (bruxism), or from arthritis or cancer affecting the jaw. If your wisdom teeth have not been removed, impacted molars could also be causing you jaw pain.

See Your Dentist to Be Sure

Toothaches are not always severe. Intermittent pain may seem like just an inconvenience and not worth an immediate call to the dental office, but waiting until the pain becomes worse is rarely the best option. Whatever the type and severity of your tooth pain, it is best to call your dentist and make an appointment. The causes of toothaches are not always clear, and a conclusive diagnosis as to the source of the pain and subsequent professional treatment is always the best course of action.

Find tips about dealing with toothaches on the South African Dental Association website.

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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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and germs can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.

Keep your teeth clean with an oral health routine.

Establishing an oral health routine is important for a healthy mouth. Try one of our oral health products to help you establish a schedule.