Practicing good oral hygiene can prevent many types of dental pain. But when oral health problems occur, knowing some of the causes and categories of dental pain can help you talk to your dentist about treatment options, as well as strategies for preventing future dental pain. Signs of dental pain include throbbing, sharp, or aching sensations in the teeth that can be either chronic or transient. Some types of dental pain occur only while chewing. Other symptoms associated with dental pain include red or swollen gums, headaches, or drainage from an infection in the teeth or gums.
Dental Pain in the Teeth
Dental pain in the teeth can be caused by any of the following:
- Tooth Damage: Dental pain can be caused by a chipped or broken tooth, or damage to a crown, filling, or dental implant.
- Decay: Tooth decay is one of the most common causes of tooth pain, and it has several degrees of severity. Cavities are holes in the teeth that penetrate the tooth enamel and underlying dentin and which can lead to tooth pain. Abscess, which is an infection of the nerve and pulp inside the tooth, is a more severe form of tooth pain.
- Tooth Infection: A tooth infection occurs when tooth decay is left untreated and spreads to the nerves and pulp of the tooth. This dental pain may require oral surgery for relief. (1), (2)
Dental Pain in the Gums
Dental pain in the gums can be caused by any of the following:
- Gingivitis: Dental pain from gingivitis may occur when plaque buildup causes the gums to become red and swollen.
- Periodontitis: Periodontitis can occur when gingivitis is left untreated, and the inner layer of the gums pulls away from the teeth, forming pockets that collect food debris and bacteria.
- Impacted Wisdom Teeth: If wisdom teeth don’t have room to emerge correctly, they can become impacted, which causes dental pain in the gums and jaw. (2)
Dental Pain in the Jaw and Mouth
Dental pain in the jaw and inside the mouth can be caused by any of the following:
- Temporomandibular Disorders: Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) cause pain in the jaw. The causes of TMD include chronic teeth grinding or clenching, and dislocation of the temporomandibular joint.
- Mouth Cancer: Mouth cancer can cause numbness or pain in any part of the face, neck, or mouth. Other symptoms of mouth cancer include swelling, bumps, and eroded patches anywhere inside the mouth, bleeding anywhere in the mouth, and sores on the face or neck, or in the mouth that don’t heal in a week or two.
- Malocclusion: Malocclusion is the technical term for crooked teeth or an uneven bite. Severe malocclusion can cause pain in the jaw and in the muscles of the face, but most cases can be managed with braces and other orthodontic techniques. (2)
Get Help for Dental Pain
Is your dental pain bad enough to see a dentist? See a dentist if your dental pain is severe, if it lasts for more than a day or two, or if it is associated with a fever, ear pain, or pain when you open and close your mouth. Even if your pain is mild, don’t hesitate to ask a dentist for advice. Regular dental visits can prevent minor dental pain problems from becoming serious. In addition, your dentist may recommend oral care products for sensitive teeth to manage minor dental pain. (1)