Woman suffering from tooth pain

Waking up with a sudden dull ache in a tooth can quickly send your nerves into overdrive. After all, who has the time to bring everything in their daily life to a sudden halt for an emergency dental appointment? Going without treatment or letting your toothache worsen is never the right answer, but determining the cause of the pain is the first step towards a solution.

The Most Common Cause of Toothaches

The cause of your tooth pain may become more severe and exacerbate the pain if left untreated. Here are some conditions that may be at fault for causing your toothache.

Tooth decay

When plaque forms to the tooth enamel, it feeds on the sugars and starches from foods you ingest through your mouth. The acid foods produce eat away at the enamel on your teeth, causing weak areas and holes. As decay spreads inward towards the middle layer of the tooth, referred to as dentin, it can create symptoms of sensitivity and associated discomfort.

An Abscess

A buildup of bacteria inside the pulp chamber of a tooth can become infected, creating an abscess inside the tooth. The infection attempts to drain itself out of the very tip of the tooth root, which causes a pain that can become severe with swelling if left untreated. An abscess can be seen visually on a dental X-ray.

Inflammation of the Tooth Pulp

The nerve and tooth pulp is located in the center of the tooth. If inflammation and irritation occur, pressure begins to build inside the tooth and applies pressure to the surrounding tissue. Depending on the severity of the swelling, symptoms of inflamed tooth pulp can be mild to extreme. If inflammation of the tooth pulp is the cause of your pain, the discomfort you are experiencing will only worsen with time.

Cracked Tooth

Repetitive biting and chewing on your teeth cause them to weaken over time due to pressure. The force from biting down on a hard object like ice or a popcorn kernel can sometimes cause an already weakened tooth to crack. Depending on the extent of the damage, a broken tooth may cause pain when biting or chewing, and may also be sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.

Impacted Tooth

When teeth are prevented from moving into their proper position in the mouth by other teeth, gums, or bone, they can become impacted. The most common teeth to become impacted are wisdom teeth because they are typically the last of your teeth to erupt. The impaction creates pressure, pain, and even jaw soreness when the jawbone cannot accommodate these additional teeth.

Gum Disease

An infection of the gums that surround the teeth is more commonly known as gingivitis, periodontitis, or gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease will cause bone loss, deterioration of the gums, and eventually tooth loss.


Certain people are more susceptible to sensitive teeth than others. If your teeth are sensitive to cold air, liquids, and foods, communicate your sensitivity issues with your dentist. Your dentist may recommend you begin to use a special toothpaste made for teeth sensitivity or may have other recommendations.

A Sinus Infection

There are times when tooth pain or sensitivity has nothing to do with the condition of your oral health. If you have a sinus infection or congestion, you may notice that your teeth feel more sensitive than usual, or you may even be experiencing pain or discomfort in your teeth or jawbone.

Your teeth, especially your upper teeth, are located directly under your sinus cavities. Any pressure or pain from your sinuses can affect these teeth and cause you discomfort.

When In Doubt, Call Your Dentist

Don’t delay in treating the cause of your toothache. If your tooth pain is stemming from a true dental issue, your tooth will not heal itself. Our team of professionals at Baudean DDS are here to help relieve your discomfort. Call us today to schedule an emergency dental visit if you are in pain.