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What Are the Most Common Causes of Tooth Nerve Pain?

Leftover tooth decay is one cause of tooth pain following a filling.
A cross section of a tooth.
Decay or injury can cause pain from a tooth's nerve.
A dental examination may help diagnose the cause of tooth nerve pain.
Article Details
  • Written By: L.R. Ferguson
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
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Tooth nerve pain — also known as a toothache — is a dental issue that often occurs when the root of a tooth is exposed or comes in contact with something that triggers pain. This usually is a result of decay disease, or injury to the tooth. More specifically, some of the most common reasons that people suffer from tooth nerve pain are from cavities, periodontal disease or damaged teeth.

Dental cavities are a common cause of toothaches. Cavities, quite literally, are holes that have formed in the teeth because of plaque buildup. Plaque forms on the teeth after they are exposed to the sugar and acids that are found in foods and drinks. If the teeth aren’t properly cleaned, the plaque turns to tartar, and the wear from sugar and acid eventually erodes the enamel of the tooth. Generally, pain occurs after the cavity has reached the nerve endings deep inside the tooth.

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Another common source of toothaches is periodontal disease, which is also known as gum disease or, in its milder form, gingivitis. Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria in the mouth collect along the gum line over an extended period of time without proper cleaning. The gums eventually begin to deteriorate and become red, swollen and inflamed. Additionally, bleeding might occur with flossing or brushing, a telltale sign of gum disease. Another telling mark of periodontal disease is receding gums, which, in addition to giving the appearance of elongated teeth, leave the roots of the teeth exposed to sensitivity and tooth nerve pain.

Teeth that are damaged from grinding or that have been chipped or damaged are another typical cause of toothaches. Teeth-grinding — or bruxism — is a habit that some people form that usually worsens during sleep, when the grinding and clenching of the jaw cannot be controlled. Over time, bruxism can lead not only to sore jaws but also to teeth that are flattened and chipped from the intense force of the grinding. This results in sensitivity of the tooth nerves, because the enamel of the tooth is eventually damaged and worn down.

Tooth nerve pain can be tolerable, but as time progresses and the afflicted tooth goes without treatment, discomfort can become severe. The range of pain usually depends on the severity of the problem and the contact that the exposed tooth nerve encounters. For example, a typical complaint that toothache-sufferers have is the intense pain that comes from contact with foods and beverages that are too hot or too cold. Another example of nerve pain is a dull ache that intensifies with chewing or when pressure is put on the teeth.

A common fix for toothaches is the use of topical oral treatments that temporarily numb the painful area when applied. Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also provide temporary relief from pain. A thorough dental examination from a dentist or oral health specialist will successfully determine the exact cause of tooth nerve pain, which might be because of any of these common examples. A dental professional will also be able to determine an appropriate and effective treatment for the pain.

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