For being such small parts of the body, tooth pain can stop you in your tracks. When you’re dealing with an aching tooth, it’s difficult to focus on anything else, and all you want is for the pain to go away.

But in order to treat tooth pain, you and your dentist must first know what’s causing it. Teeth don’t hurt for no reason, and if you’re experiencing debilitating tooth pain, here are a few possible causes and treatments to give you some much-needed relief.

Tooth Decay

In its earliest forms, tooth decay is usually painless. But over time, the acid produced by oral bacteria can start to damage the gums and break down tooth enamel and expose the dentin, which is the next layer of the tooth below the enamel. If your dentin becomes exposed, you may experience greater sensitivity to hot and cold food and beverages.

Eventually, the bacteria and acid can even affect the pulp, which is the layer underneath the dentin. At this point, not only is the affected tooth in danger of being lost, but the exposed pulp can also cause jolts of pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food or beverages. The best way to treat tooth decay that has advanced enough to cause pain is by strengthening and sealing the damaged tooth with a filling.

Cracked Tooth

Just as tooth decay can expose the sensitive inner layers of teeth like dentin and pulp, so too can cracks. Cracks can happen for a variety of reasons, including chewing or biting hard foods, accidents and injuries impacting the face and mouth, and age.

Some cracks are large and easily visible using a mirror, but others are hairline cracks that can’t be properly diagnosed without the help of a dentist and special tools, including X-rays and magnifying lenses. Two of the most popular treatments for a cracked tooth are bonding, which involves using a plastic resin to fill the crack and placing a crown on top of the cracked tooth to seal and protect it.

Damaged Crown

Crowns are highly effective at protecting damaged and sensitive teeth from further damage and pain, but these dental devices be damaged over time or under certain circumstances. Crowns are most commonly damaged when they’re exposed to extremely hot or cold food or beverages or when biting down on extremely hard food.

When a damaged crown causes tooth pain, it’s important to first check for underlying causes of pain. For example, the crown may be ill-fitting or improperly placed, or tooth decay may have started underneath the crown. After the underlying problem is addressed, the next step is to replace the damaged or broken crown with a new crown.

Dental Abscess

Like tooth decay, dental abscesses are caused by oral bacteria. Instead of causing the slow erosion of enamel and dentin, the bacteria instead cause localized pus-filled infections inside the teeth, in the gums, or in the jaw bone that holds teeth in place. A dental abscess can be extremely painful, especially when eating or putting pressure on the affected tooth.

Treatments for a dental abscess include removing the affected tooth, or performing a root canal. In severe cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to help reduce the risk of further infection, especially if the bacteria are widespread or may progress from local to systemic (throughout the body).

Pulp Infection

The pulp is the innermost tissue of the tooth, and when it becomes infected, the condition is called pulpitis. Bacteria can reach the pulp and cause infection through untreated tooth decay (cavity) and cracks. Both toothache and sensitivity are common symptoms of pulpitis, with pain being more noticeable when eating or drinking in cases that have progressed.

There are two types of pulpitis: reversible pulpitis and irreversible pulpitis. Reversible pulpitis can usually be treated by removing the decay or fixing the crack that has allowed the infection to reach the pulp. Irreversible pulpitis requires more intensive treatments, including a root canal and tooth extraction.

Call Us If You Have Sudden or Chronic Tooth Pain

Sudden or chronic tooth pain is rarely benign. It’s almost always a symptom of an oral health problem, and if you wait too long to get diagnosed and treated, you run the risk of needing much more intensive treatment—or even the loss of your tooth.

Don’t wait if you’re experiencing sudden or chronic tooth pain. The dental team at 101st Adult Dentistry can successfully treat virtually all types of tooth pain, and we want to help you with this debilitating and excruciating problem. Contact us today to request a dental appointment.