What Causes a Toothache?

When you have a toothache, every movement, thought, or sound is overshadowed by throbbing pain of a toothache. Here are some common causes of a toothache:

Tooth Decay
Untreated tooth decay is a gateway to a host of serious dental problems that may result in a toothache. While a cavity may not cause significant tooth pain, the consequences of untreated tooth decay leads to potentially painful bouts of tooth pain.
Small cavities that only involve the enamel are usually painless, and generally go undetected. Once the decay penetrates through the enamel, it invades the dentin layer of the tooth. At this point the cavity is likely just sensitive to cold and sweet. As the decay progresses deeper into the tooth, the pain intensifies. Pain from a toothache caused by a cavity is best described as sharp and intermittent.

Tooth Abscess

An abscess forms when an infection develops just below the root of the tooth, when the pulp of the tooth has become infected. An abscess is comprised of pus, which is essentially white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria. This pocket of infection causes a very painful type of toothache, often described as throbbing and pulsating, with intermittent sharp pains. Many people with an abscessed tooth have a difficult time identifying the exact tooth that is causing the pain. Untreated tooth decay and advanced gum disease are common causes of tooth abscess.

Wisdom Teeth

A toothache caused by the wisdom teeth is very common. In fact, the development of a toothache in the area of the wisdom teeth generally indicates the need to have your wisdom teeth extracted.
An impacted wisdom tooth may cause a toothache that is described as throbbing, with bouts of sharp pain. The pain is generally because the tooth is trying to erupt into the mouth, but it is unable to because there isn't enough room, or because it's in an undesirable position.

Cracked or Broken Tooth

A cracked or broken tooth is often responsible for a severe toothache. How the tooth is cracked or broken also affects the type of toothache you may develop.
When there is a small crack or break in either the natural tooth or a filling, bacteria is able to enter the tooth and cause decay to form. When a tooth has a substantial break, it is possible that the nerve of the tooth has become exposed. A dull, persistent pain is often the outcome.

TMJ and Teeth Grinding

Grinding the teeth wears away the enamel surface of the tooth, exposing the dentin layer, which causes pain from sensitivity to temperature. Grinding and clenching the teeth may also cause teeth to fracture, which may result in the loss of natural tooth structures, or cause restorations to break. Clenching and grinding aches may be felt more during the night or you wake up, and tend to get worse during stressful periods in your life.

Sinus Cold or Infection

Sinus colds and infections, known as sinusitis, are notorious for causing a toothache on a otherwise healthy tooth. Your sinus cavity sits just above your upper jaw. The roots of your maxillary teeth come within millimeters of your sinuses. When you have a sinus cold or sinus infection, the pressure from your sinuses is often referred to one or more upper teeth. A dull aching pain that may be sensitive to pressure often occurs. Keep in mind that once your sinus infection subsides, the toothache will go away as well, and there will not be any permanent damage to the tooth or teeth in question. Sinus infections that mimic toothaches should clear up within 48 hours of taking antibiotics. If the tooth remains painful, see your dentist.