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 check-ups, 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+, that 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, this 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 due to gum recession. These conditions can occur through overbrushing or trauma, for example.

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, because if your tooth has an abscess, the 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 to discuss prevention and treatment.

Suppose you feel the pain more in your jaw than in a specific tooth. In that case, temporomandibular disorders could be the cause. You could have this disorder due to 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 from your gums properly.

See Your Dental Professional to Be Sure

Even if your toothache is a dull sensation rather than a sharp pain, that doesn't mean your discomfort isn't worth 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.

Mayo Clinic notes another reason why it's essential to see your dental professional for a toothache: new research indicates that certain over-the-counter medications recommended for toothache relief may give rise to a rare but sometimes deadly disease called methemoglobinemia. Your dental professional can help you determine what medication 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 by a dental professional of the source of your pain can set you on track for minimising 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!