Name That Pain: 9 Causes of Tooth Pain
Dental Emergencies

Name That Pain: 9 Causes of Tooth Pain

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Teeth can ache for many different reasons, and the reason isn't always obvious. Sometimes pain is temporary and goes away on its own, but other times it can be a symptom of an underlying problem.

3 minute read

There are also different types of tooth pain. It may be mild or severe, continuous or intermittent, or start suddenly or get worse over time. You may also have other symptoms, such as swelling or bleeding.

Tooth pain is the most common symptom of dental problems, so it's important to see a dentist if a toothache lasts longer than a few days or is causing you severe discomfort.

Your dentist will aim to identify the cause of the pain so they can recommend suitable treatments. Here are some of the most common reasons for tooth pain and how a dentist can help.


1. Tooth decay

 Tooth decay is the most common reason for tooth pain. This is caused by plaque, a sticky layer of bacteria that clings to teeth. When these bacteria feed on sugar and carbohydrates, they release acids that can soften and dissolve tooth enamel.

As the protective enamel breaks down, the more sensitive layers of the tooth are exposed. This can eventually lead to cavities and can make the tooth feel painful and sensitive to temperature.

  • Tooth decay can usually be prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene and limiting sugar in your diet.
  • Your dentist or hygienist can remove plaque and tartar from your teeth during your regular check-up and clean
  • Cavities in teeth may be sealed by placing a fillingfilling, inlay or onlay


2. Chipped or cracked tooth

Teeth are the strongest part of the body, but they’re still at risk of damage from  biting down on something hard or from sudden impacts or injuries during sports, falls or motor vehicle accidents.

A chipped or cracked tooth is often accompanied by throbbing pain. Even if you don't feel pain, a damaged tooth should still be treated by a dentist to prevent bacterial infections.

  • Dentists may repair minor cracks or damage with composite bonding.
  • For larger chips, cracks or fractures, a crown may be fitted over the tooth.
  • Sports injuries may be prevented by wearing a custom mouthguard.


3. Tooth pulp infection

Severe tooth pain and sensitivity to temperature may be signs of an infected tooth. This can happen if a tooth is damaged and bacteria enter the soft tissue (the pulp) inside the tooth, which contains the nerves.

  • An infected tooth may be treated with root canal therapy. This involves removing the infected tissue, cleaning the tooth and placing a sterile filling inside. The tooth is then sealed with a crown .
  • If a tooth is too badly infected or damaged to save, it will need to be removed.


4. Gum disease

Tooth pain can sometimes be a symptom of gum problems. Gum disease is an infection of the gums by bacteria that can happen if plaque on teeth reaches the gum line.

In its early stage (gingivitis), your gums may feel sensitive or bleed when you brush your teeth. If this isn't treated, it can develop into an advanced stage of gum disease known as periodontitis. This can cause the gums to recede and expose the sensitive tooth roots, or even result in tooth loss.


  • Gingivitis can often be treated simply by improving your oral hygiene at home along with attending professional clean appointments at the dentist.
  • Periodontitis may require deep scaling and root planing treatments or in more complex cases, gum surgery to remove bacteria.


5. Impacted tooth

A growing tooth is usually painful. If a tooth doesn't come through the gum (erupt) normally, it may be stuck inside the gum (impacted), which can extend the pain and risk infection.

This can happen with wisdom teeth if there isn't enough space in your jaw for an extra tooth. Sometimes, a baby tooth may remain in place and block a permanent tooth from erupting.

Depending on your situation, treatment for an impacted tooth may involve:

  • Pain relief medication or a numbing gel until the tooth comes through
  • Removing gum tissue to enable the tooth to erupt
  • Extracting an old tooth to make way for the new tooth
  • Extracting the impacted wisdom tooth


6. Dental abscess

An infection of the tooth or gums that isn't treated may lead to an abscess forming under the tooth root. This is a pocket of bacteria and pus that can be very painful and may expose the mouth to further infections.


  • A tooth abscess is considered a dental emergency and needs urgent treatment. This involves opening the gum to drain the abscess and antibiotics to help clear the infection and stop it from spreading into the body and causing serious harm.
  • If the tooth above an abscess is too badly damaged to save, it may need to be extracted and replaced.


7. Loose filling or crown

If a dental restoration such as a filling or crown breaks or comes loose, this may damage the surrounding tooth or expose it to air and bacteria, causing pain.

  • Lost or damaged dental work needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
  • Dental restorations should be replaced after a number of years due to wear and tear.


8. Teeth grinding

Grinding or clenching your teeth when you're sleeping or during the day is known as bruxism. This can put stress on your teeth and cause pain, wear or even damage if the condition isn't treated.

Bruxism treatment involves addressing the cause as well as the symptoms. Your dentist may recommend:

  • Wearing a night guard to prevent grinding in your sleep
  • Dental or orthodontic treatment to correct a misaligned bite
  • Trying to avoid stress or anxiety or talking to a mental health professional if these may be the cause of bruxism


9. Sinus infection

Tooth pain may not always be caused by dental issues. An infection of the sinus cavity can sometimes cause toothache in the upper jaw. This pain usually affects the molars at the back of the mouth.


  • Sinus infections may be treated with decongestant spray or medication.
  • Steam inhalation may also help to open the nasal passages and relieve a sinus infection.


Don't suffer with tooth pain – talk to a dentist in East Victoria Park

Toothache can be a sign of many different problems, so you should see a dentist if you're concerned. To make an appointment with our dentists in South Perth, call EVP Dental today on (08) 9470 3944 or book an appointment online.