What Causes Toothache?


Toothaches can happen to the best of us. Even if you are scrupulous in caring for your teeth–brushing and flossing regularly, eating a healthy diet–you may find that at some point toothache sets in. This can be quite uncomfortable or even painful. The causes of a toothache can be surprisingly complex, and may not even be due to your teeth! Let’s take a closer look at what causes toothaches, and what you (and your dentist) can do about them.

Let’s start with something important: pain in your teeth or gums should not be ignored. This is especially true if this pain is accompanied by swelling, bleeding, sores, or damage to the tooth or gums. If any of these occur, seek help from a dentist as soon as possible.

With that caution out of the way, the root causes of toothache. There are a number of possibilities, so it’s easiest to list them out:

  • Cracked, broken, or damaged teeth: Physical damage to your teeth can absolutely cause toothaches. While teeth are the strongest parts of the body, they can be damaged by accidents or trauma. Cracked, chipped, or otherwise damaged teeth–including damage to the roots below the gum line–can cause toothaches that are quite painful.
  • Cavities: Also known as dental caries, cavities are the cause of many dental problems, including toothache. Cavities occur when the protective enamel outer layer of the tooth erodes, allowing bacteria to attack it and the softer layers beneath. If left untreated, cavities can result in permanent damage, tooth loss, or worse.
  • An abscessed tooth: Abscesses are pockets of pus that forms in the body, generally caused by an infection. Many abscesses are painful, and abscesses that form in the gums or around the teeth are especially so. Abscesses should be examined and treated by a medical professional as soon as possible. Abscessed teeth may be accompanied by swelling in the face or mouth, a foul odor or taste in the mouth, temperature sensitivity in the gums or teeth, fever, and of course toothache.
  • Allergies or sinus issues: not all toothaches are caused by dental issues. Allergies or other sinus issues are a prime cause of toothache, as the resultant swelling puts pressure on the teeth and gums. So if you have a toothache accompanied by sinus pressure, runny nose, or sneezing/coughing, seasonal allergies may be to blame.
  • Wisdom teeth: The bane of many a teenager’s existence, wisdom teeth can cause toothache as they attempt to break through the gums into the mouth. It’s the same pain you experienced as a little child while teething, and it can be quite uncomfortable. Wisdom teeth are most often treated via removal; your dentist will talk you through that process and what it entails.

While there are other potential causes of toothache, these are the most common and the ones most likely to encounter. Having a better understanding of toothaches, and the fact that they should be treated fairly quickly will allow you to take better care of your dental health if you experience unexpected dental pain. A toothache is generally fixable, so if you have a toothache–or are just overdue for an exam and cleaning–get in touch with us today.