Different types of tooth pain require different modes of treatment. A mild toothache may only need a simple over-the-counter pain reliever, while sharp tooth pain can be a symptom of something that needs immediate attention from your dentist.

Please select from the list below what best reflects your pain:

Sensitivity to Hot and/or Cold Foods

Your teeth are made up of several layers of hard and soft tissue. The outer layer is made of enamel, then comes dentin, and underneath that lies the pulp, or nerve center of the tooth. Dentin is hard but very porous, so when it loses its enamel coating, heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods can stimulate the pulp inside the tooth.

Sensitive teeth can be caused by the following dental issues:

  • Aggressive brushing that leads to worn enamel
  • Eating or drinking highly acidic foods and beverages
  • Decay, loose fillings, or fractures that expose the dentin of your tooth
  • Gum recession or periodontal disease
  • Teeth grinding at night

What to do: Try using toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth, and make sure you’re using a soft toothbrush. Avoid scrubbing from side to side; instead, brush with a gentle up and down motion.

If you have lingering pain after eating hot or cold foods, your tooth’s pulp may already be compromised. Contact our office and schedule an appointment so we can evaluate the health of your tooth and its roots.

If your sensitivity is related to a recent dental procedure, you may be experiencing temporary inflammation of your tooth pulp. It is not uncommon and should go away in a few weeks. If the pain persists or gets worse, contact our office.

Sharp Pain when Biting Down on Food

If you experience persistent, sharp pain when eating, you could have a chip, fracture, or loose filling that is causing pressure to irritate your tooth’s nerves. When the outer enamel and dentin layers of the tooth are cracked or broken, chewing can cause great irritation to the tooth’s nerves. When biting pressure is released, the crack can close quickly, resulting in a momentary, sharp pain.

What to do: Visit our office as soon as possible. If the tooth is not repaired, it will not only hurt during chewing but can also become sensitive to extreme temperatures. Cracks and fractures can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, even spreading to the bone and gum tissue that surround the tooth. In that case, a root canal will be the option to save the tooth.

Constant and Severe Pain, Pressure, Swelling, and Sensitivity

Severe and constant tooth pain is the most common symptom of an abscess. When a tooth becomes abscessed, it means that the pulp is inflamed and infected. Left untreated, an abscess can progress to a serious, life-threatening bacterial infection that can spread throughout the entire body.

Signs You May Have an Abscess

  • Continuous sharp or throbbing pain
  • Pain when chewing
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Swollen neck or jaw
  • Fever
  • Bitter taste in the mouth or bad breath

What to do: Contact our office immediately. If your tooth has an abscess, your treatment options consist of root canal therapy to clean and remove the infection, antibiotic therapy, or endodontic surgery. This will prevent the infection from spreading further into the jaw and bone tissue.

Dull Ache and Pressure in Upper Teeth and Jaw

There are several things that can cause this type of tooth pain, including sinus irritation and stress, but commonly it is due to bruxism, or teeth grinding.

Tension, stress, and anxiety experienced during the daytime can carry over to your sleep, and lead you to grind your teeth together or clench your jaws. Frequent clenching and grinding can wear down the chewing surfaces of your teeth, reduce tooth enamel, and can result in a cracked or chipped tooth, crown, or filling.

What to do: Talk to your dentist about a nightguard: a special mouthguard that is worn when you sleep to prevent damage from bruxism.

Chronic Head, Neck, or Ear Pain

Several things can account for chronic pain in your head and neck: TMJ disorders, chronic bruxism, or a bad bite due to misaligned teeth. The only way to discover the underlying cause is to visit your dentist for a full exam. With a correct diagnosis, we can create a treatment plan aimed at alleviating your symptoms and allowing you to return to a life free of pain.

Academy of General Dentistry American Dental Association American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry