What does my toothache mean?

Pain anywhere in your body can be a warning of an abnormal situation. It is not always serious. For example, the pain of overeating or abdominal gas is real pain but is not dangerous and demanding urgent treatment. Teeth can also be painful due to temperature, usually cold, or pressure. Pressure can be applied either with or without food. In fact the pressure of clenching or grinding the teeth without anything in the mouth, especially while sleeping, is the most severe.

There are a large variety of dental pains and causes. A sharp pain occurring while biting something hard, which stops when the biting pressure is released, is often the sign of a cracked tooth which goes far below the surface. The crack needs to be cut out and the area filled, or the tooth crowned so no pressure can be put on the crack.

Pain from sweet, sour or cold may mean that some nerve endings are right on the surface, just like your eyeball. This area of the tooth needs to be covered and dentists have various methods to do this, depending on the circumstances. For example if the pain is coming from the area of an old filling, it often means that the seal between the filling and tooth has broken down, and fluids are leaking down the side of the filling. In this case you need to have a new filling. When the area of the tooth right at the gum line is tender to pressure, from a fingernail etc, or tooth brushing, toothpaste for sensitive teeth will often solve the problem.

When a tooth has a hole or is broken, even if it doesn’t hurt you need to see a dentist soon. If a broken tooth hurts it means that the nerve is either inflamed because of bacterial infection or irritation from being close to the surface, and exposed to various irritants that act through the thin bit of tooth structure still over the nerve. Your dentist will know the best treatment for the broken tooth.

When the pain is strong and starts with no obvious reason, you probably have an abcess. This is a pocket of puss at the end of as the root. It is the pressure of the pus building up that causes the pain. The pain goes away when the pus is no longer contained in the bone, but can flow out. The puss goes either into your mouth through a little opening which looks like a pimple. This is a draining fistula, a fistula can drain either into your mouth or nasal sinus, or just into the flesh of your face. Needless to say this needs urgent treatment.

If pain seems to appear in teeth in different parts of your mouth, it is often caused by clenching and grinding, due to stress. When you can’t control your stress, then a bruxism guard may help, or an occlusal adjustment may relieve the pain. When your dentist does an occlusal adjustment , the biting pressure is evened out on all the contacting teeth.

Pain with swelling, inside or outside your mouth, means you need to see a dentist or doctor very soon.