10 Possible Causes Of A Sudden Toothache

Many of us are familiar with the sensation of a flash of pain in our tooth. Whether you’re drinking something cold or doing just about anything, a sudden toothache is hard to ignore. A survey by the American Family Physician showed that 22 percent of adults have felt pain in their gums, jaw, or teeth within the past six months. 

Infected or cracked teeth or sensitivity are the most likely explanations. Fortunately, your dentist can help treat the pain and rule out any serious causes. Here are 10 possible reasons you’re experiencing tooth pain and when to see a doctor.

1. Exposure to extreme cold or heat

Tooth sensitivity involves discomfort or pain in teeth when encountering certain temperatures and substances. It is a common dental problem caused by exposed nerves or worn tooth enamel. It affects at least 40 million adults in the United States, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. The pain is usually temporary, but it can be sharp and sudden. 

People often experience this when eating or drinking something with an extremely low or high temperature. Sensitive teeth may never completely disappear, but your dentist can help lessen its symptoms. Get a proper diagnosis first so you can choose the right treatment.


2. Tooth Decay Or Cavity

Plaque bacteria feed on the sugar in your mouth. When they build up, they start breaking down the minerals in the tooth enamel, leaving a hole or cavity in the tooth. Without treatment, these holes can grow larger over time and even destroy the entire tooth. Once the decay begins to progress toward an infection, you may start feeling pain in your tooth. 

3. Gum Recession

Gums are the layer of pink tissue that protects the root of your teeth. They recede gradually as you age, but aggressive brushing and other changes can also lead to this problem. Receded gums leave the nerves of your teeth exposed, causing pain. You can also become more vulnerable to periodontal disease and tooth infections. Deep cleaning and antibiotics may help treat mild gum recession. If there is excess loss of bone and deep pockets in your gums, surgery may be required.

4. Enamel (Dentin) Erosion

A study reveals that around 12 percent of people have some form of “dentin hypersensitivity.” This condition causes intermittent, low-level pain. It is prevalent among those who are 18 to 44 years of age, but more likely to affect young women. It can also be the result of a highly acidic diet, teeth whitening treatments, or brushing your teeth too harshly. Your dentist needs to investigate all other possible sources of pain before diagnosing dentin sensitivity. 

5. Sinus Flare-up

Apart from headache and facial tenderness, a sinus infection can also put pressure around your teeth and jaw. Affected people typically experience tooth pain in the upper rear teeth, which are close to the sinuses. If you have a persistent toothache, visit your dentist’s office for a checkup. If your dentist rules out potential dental causes, consult your doctor. There you will find if it’s a sinus infection or another underlying problem that’s causing the pain.

6. Teeth Grinding 

Most nighttime grinders don’t even realize they’re doing it. Teeth grinding could cause you to feel a lightning bolt of pain when you suddenly bite down. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is also associated with symptoms like stiff jaw, headaches, and pain in the facial muscles. Grinding can break your teeth. Wearing a nightguard may help, but it’s not always effective. A botox from your dentist may be a better option to stop the muscle that pressures your jaw to clench.

7. Gum Infection 

Infected gums don’t exactly cause pain inside a tooth, but the brain has difficulty differentiating gum pain from tooth pain. In a mild case of gingivitis, the pink tissue can become red and swollen, creating some discomfort. Left untreated, this problem can advance to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease that produces pockets of space in the tissue to spread the infection. 

Taking anti-inflammatory pain medication can help with gum swelling for the short-term. Use anything that you normally take for a headache. To prevent the damage from worsening, visit your dentist to see if you need antibiotics or additional treatment.

8. Fractured Tooth

A crack or break in the tooth may be the culprit for your sudden toothache. Remember that hitting your tooth or biting on something hard can cause the break. If the tooth is still moving and not completely separated, that will create pain. You might need a crown or an implant to fix the damaged tooth.

9. Teeth Bleaching Products

Using bleaching gels, whitening strips, or having an in-office teeth-whitening procedure can make your teeth more sensitive. These whitening products contain harsh chemicals that remove stains, but they can also wear down the enamel. Several studies have looked into ways to lessen pain after in-office bleaching treatments. 

A 2017 study published in Clinical Oral Investigations revealed that reducing the acidity in bleaching gels led to significantly less pain with the same desirable results. In another paper published in 2018, scientists discovered that patients taking codeine/acetomeniphin before treatment did not reduce discomfort, so more dramatic measures are likely needed. When it comes to these teeth whitening products, the pain is often temporary and will generally subside once you stop using them.

10. Dental Procedures

Recent tooth work or fillings that involve drilling can make the nerve endings of your teeth more sensitive. If you just had a filling procedure, the tooth sensitivity can last up to two weeks. Be careful when eating cold or hot foods and drinks to avoid a bolt of pain in the area. Your dentist may prescribe a pain reliever in case the toothache becomes unbearable. 

There are myriad reasons you suddenly have an aching tooth. Most of them are related to the erosion of your tooth enamel and gums. Your dentist will help treat the pain and see if there are more serious causes you need to be aware of.