Do Your Teeth Hurt? Here Are Some of the Reasons Why

Having a toothache can be a pain — literally! A toothache can make it hard to eat, work, or enjoy a good night’s sleep.

As a parent, it can be stressful if your child is the one experiencing tooth pain. It can keep them from staying focused at school, or from participating in their favorite club or sports.

Whether it’s from sugary holiday snacks, poor oral hygiene, jaw clenching, and more, tooth pain is a common issue for children and adults. But sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish a tooth emergency from less-urgent (but still important) dental concerns.

Here’s a list of 5 common tooth problems, what you can do to treat and prevent them, and when you should see a dentist.

1. Cavities

Cavities form when the sticky buildup of bacteria called plaque start to destroy the outer layer of your teeth and form tiny holes.

There are many reasons why you might get a cavity. Some of the common causes include:

What to Do

  • If a cavity is left unchecked, the bacteria can damage the nerves and blood vessels of your inner tooth.
  • This damage can cause pain, and is a definite sign you should schedule a dentist appointment ASAP.

How to Prevent It

There are some steps you can take to prevent cavities or make sure they don’t get any worse:

  • Make sure to schedule a routine checkup and cleaning with your dentist every 6 months to once a year.
  • Brush and floss at least twice a day (and preferably after meals).
  • Drink more water to fight dry mouth and wash away cavity-causing bacteria.

2. Chipped or Cracked Teeth

Chipped or cracked teeth can happen when you chew on hard foods like nuts, hard candies, and ice. Teeth can also crack from the pressure of a filling that’s too big, or from jaw clenching and teeth grinding.

Under the hard outer layer of a tooth is a soft layer of sensitive tissue. When this area is exposed through a chip or crack, your tooth can become irritated from things like brushing and eating.

As a crack gets worse, the pain can increase. There’s also an increased risk of bacterial infection that can spread to the bone and gums surrounding your tooth.

What to Do

  • Schedule a dentist appointment right away if you notice a chip or crack in a tooth—especially if you’re experiencing sharp pain from eating, or from hot and cold temperatures.

How to Prevent It

  • It isn’t always possible to prevent your teeth from getting chipped or cracked, but there are some things you can do to try and keep your teeth safe.
  • Avoid hard food and items like ice, popcorn, or even pens, and opt for gum or softer foods instead.
  • If you grind your teeth when you sleep or during the day, make sure to tell your dentist and ask for treatment advice.

3. Gum Disease and Gingivitis

Gum disease is when the gums surrounding and supporting your teeth become infected by bacteria from a plaque buildup. When gum disease is left untreated it can cause gingivitis. This can cause your gums to swell and bleed easily.

Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. At this stage, you’re at a higher risk of developing bone and tissue loss, as well as losing teeth.

What to Do

  • While gum disease is sometimes caused by genetics, other common factors include poor oral hygiene, smoking or chewing tobacco products, or diseases like diabetes.
  • You can also develop gum disease from pregnancy or medications for blood pressure or cancer.

What to Do

  • By prioritizing a yearly checkup and cleaning, your dentist can help detect gum disease before it gets worse.
  • Other warning signs include red and swollen gums, persistent bad breath, or permanent teeth that start to loosen.

How to Prevent It

  • Luckily, early gum disease is reversible and symptoms can reduce by getting a deep cleaning and practicing good oral habits like brushing and flossing twice a day.
  • Gum disease is caused by bacteria in your mouth. The best way to avoid serious issues is by keeping your teeth clean.
  • Invest in products that are better at cleaning plaque that can get stuck near your gums, like an electric toothbrush or water flosser.

4. Sinus Infections

Sinus infections happen when bacteria from your nose gets inside your sinuses, causing pain and pressure in your upper teeth, eyes, and cheeks.

Sinus infections more often affect people with allergies—whether they’re seasonal or from pet hair from cats and dogs.

Healthy sinuses are usually filled with air. When they become inflamed, this can cause air blockage and a buildup of germs and bacteria.

Your nose can also get stuffed up, forcing you to breathe through your mouth and cause dryness. Saliva helps wash away bacteria that builds up on your teeth. So dry mouth can lead to plaque buildup, which often leads to cavities.

What to Do

  • Sinus infections are surprisingly common and symptoms usually go away after just a few weeks.
  • If you start feeling intense pressure and pain in your gums and teeth, you may need to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or a dentist.
  • Your dentist may recommend you start treatment with antibiotics to help fight the infection.

How to Prevent It

  • To manage and even prevent sinus infections, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Sitting in a hot bath or shower for ten minutes or using a humidifier to keep your nasal passages moist can help.
  • For pain and congestion, you can try using a nasal decongestant or saline solution to rinse out any irritating particles.

5. Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

Nighttime teeth grinding is common in children and adults. Common reasons why you or your child might grind your teeth include stress and anxiety, an abnormal bite or crooked teeth, or sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

Chronic teeth grinding can wear down your teeth and cause fractures or loss of teeth, forcing you to get crowns, root canals, or implants, which can add up in the long run.

What to Do

  • Finding out if you’re grinding your teeth at night can be hard since it usually happens when you’re sleeping.
  • Some signs you may be grinding your teeth include:
    • Waking up frequently with a sore jaw
    • Frequent headaches and toothaches
  • Massaging or placing a warm compress on your jaw muscles before bed can help reduce discomfort from jaw clenching.
  • If the pain worsens, you may need to see your dentist or orthodontist to have a mouth guard or retainer prescribed or orthodontic treatment for abnormal bite and crowded teeth.

How to Prevent It

  • To help you stop grinding your teeth, you can focus on reducing stress and anxiety through counseling or practicing mindfulness through meditation.
  • It’s also important to limit caffeine from foods and beverages like soda, chocolate, and coffee, especially right before bed.
  • Caffeine stays in your system for about 6 hours, and can promote muscle activity while you’re sleeping — causing jaw clenching.

It’s Never Too Soon for a Checkup

Preventive dental care can help protect your teeth from any of these potentially painful or expensive dental issues. Scheduling routine checkups and cleanings are sure ways to combat poor oral health.

Access Health Dental can help you make your dental care a priority in 2021. Schedule a cleaning and consultation today >