What Causes a Toothache?

Dark haired man in a dental chair with his hand to his cheek indicating a toothache

There are many reasons your teeth might ache. The pain can come on suddenly or develop over time. A toothache can be a sign of a problem that needs to be addressed urgently. Here are some common reasons you may have a toothache and what to do about it.


Cavities are holes that form on teeth. If they are not treated they can grow and cause the entire tooth to decay. Cavities arise because of damage done to the enamel of the tooth. The enamel is the outer layer of our teeth. It protects the inner layer, or the dentin, from being harmed. The enamel can be worn away by plaque and tartar. Plaque and tartar form on teeth when food particles mix with the bacteria in our mouths and create an acidic environment. This leads to the white-ish coating of plaque on teeth that needs to be cleaned by a dentist. If you have a cavity, it will be sensitive when you eat and chew. A cavity needs to be treated, but it isn’t an emergency. We will need to schedule an appointment to give you a filling so that the hole (cavity) doesn’t get bigger.

Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth are the result of a wearing down of the enamel of the teeth. This causes a painful sensation when teeth come into contact with cold or hot foods. Teeth may also be sensitive to extremely cold weather. Sometimes seasonal allergies cause teeth to become sensitive. This type of pain may get confused with a cavity. Bruxism, or chronic clenching of the jaw, can cause sensitive teeth. To solve this problem, we recommend getting a custom-fitted night guard at your next dental appointment to help protect your teeth. This will help reduce pain and sensitivity.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is an infection that results in a pocket of pus at the root of the tooth or along the gumline. It’s painful and needs to be treated as soon as possible. We will drain the pus to treat the infection. You may need root canal therapy. For extreme cases, you may need to have the tooth pulled. Signs and symptoms of a dental abscess are swelling of the face and mouth, trouble breathing and swallowing, fever, and pain of the gums and mouth. A dental abscess can be extremely serious and even deadly if left untreated. Call us right away if you notice a lump near your tooth or feel pain. We will schedule an emergency dental appointment for you. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, go to the nearest emergency room.

Root Canal Infection

The root canal is the inner chamber of the tooth. The pulp within the chamber can become infected and affect the root of the tooth. This causes severe pain. For root canal infections, you’ll need root canal therapy. We will clean out the infection in the chamber of the tooth and remove the affected area. This will relieve pain and prevent future infections.

Broken or Chipped Tooth

A broken or chipped tooth may hurt or cause sensitivity. It’s possible to break a tooth without realizing it. If you suspect you may have chipped a tooth, call us right away. We’ll schedule an appointment and get you seen.

If you notice a toothache, whether it’s severe or minor, we want you to call us. This could be a sign of something that needs attention immediately. Don’t let problems worsen! We reserve time on our schedule for emergencies. Let us know if you need to be seen.