Why am I having a toothache?

Tooth pain can be from many different reasons. It can come from inside the tooth, or from around it. It is important to know the basic anatomy of the teeth to better understand why you are having pain. Teeth have an outermost layer, called the enamel, an inner layer called the dentin, and a pulp chamber all the way inside – this pulp chamber is what contains nerves, blood vessels and tissue. The dentin is more sensitive than enamel, since it is closer to the nerve.

Here are the most common reasons for tooth pain and how it is treated:


1. Tooth decay

Tooth decay, or cavities, happens when the outer tooth structure (called enamel) starts to break down. A high sugar or acidic diet, poor oral hygiene, or both can cause this.

Treatment: Cavities can be fixed with dental fillings. If the cavity is very deep and reaches the nerve, it will need a root canal as well. Make sure you see the dentist as soon as possible - if you wait too long to get your teeth checked and cavities filled, the cavities grow and you would need a root canal instead of just a filling! Many cavities you can’t even feel, and you only start feeling them once they are close to the nerve.


2. Tooth infection

Teeth can become infected for many reasons, the most common being when the tooth has a very deep cavity that has gone inside the tooth – reaching the nerve. Each tooth has a nerve inside it, and when the nerve becomes exposed, you will feel anything that touches it. When the decayed area reaches the nerve, bacteria enter the inside of the tooth and cause an infection.

Treatment: Depending on the case, infected teeth need root canal treatment in order to save them. In some cases, teeth cannot be saved and need to be extracted. Please visit the dentist today in order to have it checked as soon as possible!


3. Tooth fracture

If a tooth is cracked, it can cause pain, especially when biting on something. It can also cause sensitivity if the inner layers of the tooth are exposed.

Treatment: Treatment varies on the extent of the tooth fracture, and needs immediate attention.


4. Tooth grinding

Sometimes, we grind our teeth at night without even knowing it. Repetitive motions such as tooth grinding can cause the outer layer of the teeth to wear away, exposing the inside, which is more sensitive.

Treatment: Treatment may include making a night guard, which keeps the teeth in place to prevent grinding your teeth.


5. Infected gums

Gum disease can cause pain in the gums, which can also translate into tooth sensitivity, depending on the severity.

Treatment: Treatment of infected gums starts with a full dental exam, and usually can be treated with deep cleaning. Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth movement and teeth falling out, since infected gums lead to bone loss. It is important not to delay getting a dental checkup for this reason!


6. Eruption of a tooth

When new teeth erupt, it is very common to feel pain. A common example is when you get your wisdom teeth or when baby teeth fall out and the permanent teeth come in.

Treatment: See your dentist to make sure the tooth is erupting in the right position, and to determine what treatment is needed.


If you are having tooth pain, come in to the dental office as soon as possible! Delaying it can make the condition worse.

We are a family owned and operated dental office, serving Northern Virginia for over 25 years. We serve the community in Falls Church, Arlington, Springfield, Alexandria, Manassas, Woodbridge, and more with all their dental needs. We offer a wide range of dental services from restorative dentistry, endodontics, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, oral surgery, periodontics and more.

To schedule an appointment, you may book online or call (703) 379-1900. We are happy to help you with all of your dental needs!

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