The Meaning of Toothaches

girl in bed with a toothacheMost people experience a toothache at least once in their lives, and the discomfort can range from mild to debilitating. Toothaches are common enough that many over-the-counter pharmaceutical products offer tooth pain relief, usually through topical application. However, a toothache isn’t an issue unto itself, and topical analgesics only treat the symptom of what may be a serious underlying condition. Learn about some of the more common toothache causes, and what the pain may be telling you about your oral health.

Most Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Accidental trauma

When a tooth cracks or breaks, it often hurts. If the damage is caused by a forceful impact, such as during a contact sport or a physical altercation, then the toothache isn’t likely a mystery. When a tooth’s main structure is compromised, the sensitive nerves and blood vessels house in the tooth’s center (pulp) are exposed to irritants like hot and cold temperatures, pressure, and bacterial infection.

Tooth decay

Although more subtle than a traumatic injury, progressive tooth decay can also expose a tooth’s pulp by slowly eating away the tooth’s structure. The main body of a tooth, called the dentin, contains small tubules that feed sensory information to the nerves in the pulp. When tooth decay settles into the dentin, the discomfort is sensed by the tooth’s nerves and can generate varying levels of tooth sensitivity.

Gum disease

Gum disease doesn’t affect a tooth’s structure, and yet the infection is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States. What starts as a bacterial infection along the gum line, known as gingivitis, progresses as gum tissue becomes inflamed and separates from teeth roots, which the gums are meant to support and protect. As gums become infected and recede, teeth roots are slowly exposed to irritation and infection. Left untreated, gum disease can destroy a tooth’s supporting gums and jawbone, leading to tooth loss.

About Your Columbia Dentist:

If your tooth hurts, don’t ignore it, or try to brave it out. Instead, visit Dr. Foster as soon as possible to determine what’s wrong. David Foster, DDS is a Columbia, TN native who’s served the dental needs of patients and their families in our community since 1985. If you live in Columbia, Lewisburg, Lawrenceburg, Hohenwald, Centerville, Pulaski, or any of the surrounding communities, call us today at (931) 388 – 3384 to schedule an appointment.