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.
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.