What are the Common Causes of a Toothache?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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The most common causes of a toothache typically include tooth decay, infected gums, and fractures. Sometimes a toothache is actually the result of referred pain, which means that something is wrong with some other part of the body, and the pain is referring to the teeth. People who suffer from sinus trouble might also complain of tooth pain because the sinuses around the cheekbones can swell up and put pressure on the teeth and jaws. Even though many people believe the causes of a toothache are typically related to having cavities, this is not always true. Cavities rarely cause tooth pain until they get so bad that the tooth begins to decay.

Tooth pain resulting from a problem with the teeth usually does not occur until the nerves are exposed. Cavities are typically painless until the tooth rots to the point that the nerves are visible and may come in contact with air or substances such as food. Sometimes when cavities are filled, the fillings may come out after several years, which can also cause pain. In most cases, the only thing protecting the nerves of the teeth when a cavity filling is in place is the cavity. It is typically not a big deal to get a cavity refilled if an old filling falls out.


One of the more common causes of a toothache is gum infection. There are many different things that can cause the gums to become infected, and one of the main culprits may be food getting stuck in between the teeth. Things that are hard and crunchy, like popcorn or potato chips, tend to be especially bad for getting stuck between the teeth. If something hard and sharp is stuck in the teeth, continued chewing can cause it to push down inside the pockets of the teeth and into the gums. When this happens, a person's gums will likely swell up, and he will experience extreme pain because infection usually sets in at that point.

A tooth fracture is another common cause of a toothache. Teeth become fractured for many different reasons, but fractures often occur due to accidents, such as falls or some kind of blunt force trauma to the face. When teeth break, the nerves are usually exposed, and this can cause lots of pain. Sinuses and referred pain are also frequently to blame for tooth pain, and these problems normally mean that nothing is actually wrong with the teeth. If sinuses are causing tooth pain, the pain will usually go away as soon as the sinus problem clears up. In the case of referred pain, the tooth pain tends to stop when the source of the referred pain is discovered and taken care of.


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