Types of Tooth Pain

By Aaron Strickland, D.D.S. on September 27, 2017

By Bosc d'Anjou. Toothache. A carving in the facade of 285 Madison Avenue.

Toothaches come in many forms, and you may not know when you should to contact your dentist about the pain. So, we’ve put together a list of several types of toothache pain to help you determine how to respond to it.

Brief Sensitivity to Hot or Cold

Brief, sensitivity to hot or cold foods usually doesn’t mean there’s an underlying problem. But if the sensitivity continues to occur, it may. Minor tooth decay, minimal gum recession, and loose filling can all lead to sensitivity.

If you’re experiencing brief sensitivity to hot or cold, try using a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth, and use a soft or extra-soft toothbrush. Also try brushing up and down, not side to side. Brushing side to side can wear exposed roots.

If you experience short-term sensitivity after you’ve had dental work completed, inflamed pulp inside the tooth may be the cause. The inflammation can last between two and four weeks. Ibuprofen (Advil) can help ease the inflammation, but make sure to follow the instructions. It is unhealthy so take ibuprofen for extended periods of time, so if the condition continues, contact your dentist.

Jabbing Pain While Biting Down on Food, Opening mouth, or Clenching Teeth

Unlike sensitivity, temporary, sharp, jabbing pain in your teeth usually does point to a problem. Causes for the pain include decay, loose fillings, a crack, damaged tooth pulp, a cavity, a crack, or an abscess.

If you experience sharp pain, schedule an appointment with your dentist.

Lingering Pain After Eating Hot or Cold Foods

If you experience pain for longer than 30 seconds after eating hot or cold foods, decay or trauma may have damaged the pulp in your teeth. Schedule an appointment with your dentist. You may have to have a root canal.

Constant and Severe Pain, Pressure, Swollen Gums, Sensitivity to Touch

A severe toothache is definitely a sign that you need to see your dentist. If you’re experiencing severe and constant pain, pressure, and swollen gums, you may have an abscessed tooth, meaning your tooth is infected and the infection has spread to the tip of the root or around the root. If you’re experiencing swelling, the infection may have spread to the surrounding gum and bone.

Severe toothaches may point to other, less threatening conditions, too. Cavities and grinding can cause severe tooth pain. Nerve damage can also cause severe toothaches.

If you’re experiencing a severe toothache, you need to see a dentist or endodontist immediately. Until they can get see you, take over-the-counter medicines to help with the pain.

Dull Ache or Pressure in Upper Teeth or Jaw

Dull aches in your upper jaw usually point to two issues: grinding teeth or a sinus headache.

If you’re grinding your teeth, consult your dentist. Grinding can lead to worn and damaged teeth if ignored. For a sinus headache, take over-the-counter medication. If the headache continues, consult a physician.

Dull Ache and Minor Swelling at Gum Line

If your tooth aches and your gum is swollen at the gumline, you may simply have a piece of food stuck between your gum and tooth. Use floss to remove the food particles. The swelling should subside.

Pain in the Back of the Jaw

Pain in the back of the jaw may point to an impacted wisdom tooth. Consult your dentist if you’re experiencing this type of pain. They will need to evaluate the situation in order to determine the best solution.

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