What Causes Toothaches and What to Do About Them

A women massaged both cheeks to alleviate her tooth pain

Did you know that toothaches have many different causes? In fact, there are so many potential sources of toothache pain that it can be difficult to know where to start looking for relief. Thankfully, preventing and finding solutions for toothaches can be easy. Here’s what you should know about them.

Tooth decay

This is the most common problem that people experience. Although it is simple to avoid with regular brushing and flossing, tooth decay commonly happens when bacteria accumulates on your teeth. Plaque then hardens into tartar which will erode your enamel and result in cavities. Once your teeth get cavities, only a professional can help handle the problem.

See a dentist as soon as possible in order to keep it from worsening. Decay, if left untreated, can lead to a more severe infection. Your dentist will evaluate the decay and suggest the best route for treatment, which could include a filling, fluoride treatments, or in more extreme cases: a tooth extraction or root canal.


Bruxism is another term for teeth grinding, which mostly happens when you clench your jaws. Clenching of the jaws and grinding of teeth creates holes in your teeth’s protective enamel coating. Once the enamel is worn down, your teeth become vulnerable to tooth decay. Tooth infection as a result of bruxism can be treated the same way as tooth decay, but that does not solve the root of the problem. As such, it’s important to solve the underlying problem. The vast majority of people grind their teeth due to stress, caffeine intake, smoking, drugs or misaligned jaws.

If you find yourself grinding your teeth, you should avoid substances that lead to stress or worsen nerves, like caffeine, nicotine, and other drugs. Other causes of bruxism include misaligned jaws, which can then be solved by custom-fitted anterior mouth guards. In addition, the tooth pain caused by clenching your jaws may simply be the pain your muscles are feeling. If you have a habit of clenching your jaw, open your mouth and loosen your jaw muscles now and then to avoid grinding your teeth.

Gum Disease

Gum diseases are infections that trigger redness, swelling, sensitivity, and bleeding. These are caused by poor oral health and neglect. Gingivitis and periodontitis are the 2 most common gum issues in the world.


Gingivitis is a less severe form of gum disease that happens when plaque and bacteria accumulate on your teeth. The common symptoms are red, puffy, and bleeding gums. However, with proper oral care at home including gargling and flossing regularly, you can get rid of gingivitis and bring your gums back to good health. Use toothpaste with antibacterial properties to brush your teeth, and then mouthwash to rinse your mouth. Gargling saltwater also helps get rid of gingivitis


Periodontitis is a more severe type of gum disease. It happens when plaque and bacteria accumulate in the gums and jawbone, causing redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums. Other symptoms include bad breath, loose teeth, and receding gums. In some cases, it can be treated with root planing (deep cleaning), scaling (removal of tartar), antibiotics or surgery. But if you wait too long to see a dentist about periodontitis , tooth loss may occur.

A close-up of brown teeth with dirt building up near the gums

Cracked teeth

Cracks can be caused by biting down on hard objects or chewing on ice. If you have a crack in your tooth, it’s important to get it fixed as soon as possible. A visit to dentist is required, as the treatment options are either dental filling or bonding, similar to cavities. When an infection starts, the pain begins.

Tooth Abscess

An abscess is a small pocket of pus located at the root of your tooth that can result in serious pain. This infection occurs when cavities or gum disease are left untreated.

Although there are many ways to treat teeth infections, the best option is always seeing your dentist. While you wait for an appointment, take over-the-counter oral medicine like ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain and inflammation. Additionally, rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution to help keep the area clean and free of infection-causing bacteria.

Final Thoughts

No matter what the cause of your toothache, it’s important to get it treated as soon as possible. While some toothaches can be solved with over-the-counter painkillers and saltwater rinses, others may require a trip to the dentist. In any case, don’t try to tough it out — the pain will only get worse. If you’re experiencing toothache symptoms, see a dentist as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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