If you have ever suffered from a toothache, then you know just how painful it can be. Nagging tooth pain can make it difficult to concentrate at school or work, eat your favorite foods, sleep at night, and even smile. Because there are many causes of a toothache, it is important that you report any pain to your dentist. Determining the cause of your pain is the first step to treating it. Here are a few common causes of tooth pain and what you might expect from treatment.


A majority of toothaches are caused by decay. Tooth decay occurs when the bacteria in your mouth converts sugars from the foods you eat into acids. These acids destroy your tooth’s enamel, causing a hole (or cavity) to form. As the decay progresses, the cavity grows larger and deeper to expose the underlying tooth structure and nerves. Tooth pain may feel sharp and intense, especially when biting food or after consuming something hot or cold. A filling is often required to remove the decay, stop the pain and save the tooth. In advanced stages of decay, more invasive treatment such as a root canal may be recommended.

Abscessed Tooth

Dental abscesses are bacterial infections that occur beneath the skin’s surface on the tip of the tooth root or on the gums. Often an abscess is filled with pus that causes swelling and irritation. Patients usually experience extreme throbbing pain near the infection site, and it can radiate to the neck, jaw and ears. Other symptoms may include a fever, tooth sensitivity and bad breath. Because dental abscesses won’t improve on their own, it is important to see your dentist at the first sign of an infection. Draining the abscess may be successful to treat the infection in the early stages. A severe abscess, however, may require a root canal or even tooth extraction to completely remove the infected tissue.

Fractured Tooth

A chipped or cracked tooth can be very painful, especially when chewing or putting pressure on the tooth. It is common for the pain to come and go, and in some cases you may not even know that your tooth is cracked. Infections and other serious oral health issues can occur without treatment of a fractured tooth. It is important to contact your dentist immediately to locate the tooth causing discomfort and to prevent the damage from becoming worse. A crown or root canal may be used depending on the extent and location of the fracture.

Enamel Erosion

A tooth that is sensitive to hot or cold temperatures frequently signals a cavity, but it can also be a sign of erosion. Enamel erosion occurs when a tooth’s enamel wears away so much that the sensitive dentin and nerves beneath it are exposed. You can do a few things at home to ease symptoms, such as using a soft-bristled toothbrush and special toothpaste designed to decrease sensitivity and restore lost enamel. If the enamel is too thin, dental bonding, crowns or veneers can repair the erosion and alleviate the pain.

McLean DDS Can Help!

Never ignore tooth pain. It may signal a more serious health issue. Most toothaches will not resolve on their own, and the best treatment for you will largely depend on what is causing the pain. To learn more about tooth pain and your treatment options, schedule an appointment with McLean DDS today.

Take the First Step Toward a Healthy, Beautiful Smile

Make an Appointment