You experience toothache when a tooth's nerves become irritated. The nerves are contained in the soft part of the tooth underneath the enamel. This part is known as the soft pulp. When the nerves become irritated they signal to your brain that you are experiencing pain with the hope that the brain will then take action to end this pain. Toothache shouldn't be ignored, as it's a sign that something is wrong and often won't resolve without treatment. When you think of toothache you likely think of tooth decay, but decay isn't the only cause of toothache. Here are three common causes of toothache aside from decay.
A dental abscess is a type of bacterial infection that develops when bacteria penetrates the tooth surface. An abscess can develop in the tooth socket or along the gum line. If it develops on the gum line you will be able to see a small pouch that contains pus. Dental abscesses are painful and the infection can spread to surrounding tissues if you don't have it treated quickly. You're at greater risk of developing an abscess if you have untreated decay, you're a smoker or you have an underlying medical condition that compromises your immune system.
Tooth fractures can be noticeable or so fine that they are only picked up during dental exams. When your protective tooth enamel has a fracture, the nerves of the tooth can be irritated by exposure to air or hot and cold foods. Pain caused by a tooth fracture can be constant or intermittent, and tooth fractures can also leave you vulnerable to bacterial infection. Biting down on something too hard or blunt trauma to your mouth can leave you with a tooth fracture.
Teeth grinding is a relatively common oral health problem, and some people who grind their teeth aren't aware they do it. Grinding typically occurs when you're sleeping, but some people also do it during the day. Stress is a common trigger for teeth grinding, and learning how to manage your stress can put an end to the grinding. It can also happen due to your upper and lower jaw not being in the correct alignment. When you grind your teeth you can damage your tooth enamel, which leaves the roots of your affected teeth vulnerable. Severe teeth grinding can also cause your teeth to chip, which affects the appearance of your smile.
If you're experiencing toothache, whether severe or mild and intermittent, don't ignore it and hope for the best. Contact your dentist for an appointment as soon as you experience any tooth pain.