‘Why do my teeth hurt’ is a frequently arising thought in people’s minds because it is one of the major discomforts a person may experience.
Not only adults but also children these days wonder that why do my teeth hurt? The answer is simple! Bad eating habits, as we all know.
Teeth hurt or toothache is a pain and soreness in or around the teeth. Teeth are said to be hurt when pain (be it sudden or gradual) or some kind of discomfort is felt in or around them. Also, it is a protective mechanism signifying that there is some alteration in the normal functioning of teeth and the structures around them.
So, have you ever wondered that why do my teeth hurt? In this article, we shall discuss the major and minor causes and how we can treat them with or without visiting the dentist.
The Mechanism Of Pain
When you wonder that why do my teeth hurt, this is the process that is taking place.
Teeth are always thought of as choppers or as tools-as if these are built-in forks and knives. Irrespective of the fact that they can gnaw and gnash under many conditions, it is necessary for them to feel this sensation of pain. Because if teeth were not able to feel pain, we might keep using them, unaware that they are being damaged.
Teeth consist of the following layers, namely-
- The innermost layer-The Pulp
- The middle layer-The Dentin
- The outermost layer-The Enamel
Out of all these three layers, only the innermost layer, the Pulp, can feel the sensation of pain, as it contains nerves, nerve endings, and blood vessels.
The nerves in the teeth can respond only to the sensation of pain. When people complain of pain that is triggered by eating/drinking something hot or cold, it is not the sensation of temperature that is perceived by the nerves, but it is the sensation of pain, which the nerves sense.
The middle layer, Dentin, is alive but without nerves, and hence, it does not carry any sensations. Covering the Dentin is the Cementum, which binds the roots of the teeth to the gums.
The outermost layer, the tooth enamel, is the hardest, white outer part, which is not living and so does not feel anything.
The Periodontal Ligament is the ligament that attaches the tooth to the jawbone. This ligament also feels pain.
A normal adult mouth has 32 teeth (excluding the wisdom teeth) that erupt by the age of 13.
- Incisors – the middlemost teeth (total 8 in number)
- Canines – the pointed teeth, just beside the incisors ( total 4 in number)
- Molars – flat teeth present at the end of the mouth (total 8 in number)
- Premolars – the teeth present between canines and molars (8 in number)
So when a question suddenly arises in your mind that why do my teeth hurt, don’t panic! Your body is trying to protect you, so treat it wisely and immediately.
Causes Of Why Do My Teeth Hurt
‘Why do my teeth hurt’ has got a wide range of reasons. These are-
1) Tooth Decay
There is a formation of a sticky film of bacteria on the tooth enamel known as plaque. This plaque feeds on the sugars and the starches from the food particles present in the mouth.
This produces an acid that starts eating away the enamel, leaving behind holes and weakened areas. Over time, the enamel breaks down, forming cavities or dental caries.
Therefore, tooth decay is gradual destruction and cavity formation in the enamel of the tooth.
As this decay spreads towards the inner layers of the teeth, it can cause teeth hurt and sensitivity.
- Genetic causes
- Medications causing dry mouth
- Consuming sugary foods
- Poor dental hygiene
- Bad Breath
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Bleeding gums and other gum diseases
- Tooth sensitivity
2) Gum Disease or Periodontal Disease
This is one of the main causes leading you to think why do my teeth hurt?
Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease in which the gums become red, hot, and swollen.
Periodontitis is a severe or chronic form of gingivitis. In short, periodontitis occurs when gingivitis is not treated well.
Gum disease symptoms-
- Bleeding Gums- this is probably the first sign of any gum disease. If proper oral health is not maintained, bacteria build-up, forming plaque, which leads to bleeding gums. Tooth sensitivity may also occur. This bacteria may enter the bloodstream and lead to fatal conditions like a stroke or heart attack.
- Gum Recession or Receding Gums – the teeth might seem to look longer than usual. This is because the gum tissue surrounding the teeth starts receding away, exposing the root.
- Gum Pockets – as gum recession progresses, gums start forming pockets. Food and plaque get trapped in these pockets. Eventually, the pockets become so deep that brushing or flossing is no longer enough to remove the debris. Also, vigorous brushing may again lead to bleeding gums.
Hence, gum diseases are one of the major reasons causing teeth hurt.
Bruxism is a condition in which a person excessively grinds the teeth or clenches the teeth.
- Nocturnal Bruxism occurs unconsciously during sleep
- Awake Bruxism occurs when the person is awake and oriented
Bruxism is a tension-related disorder and is responsible for frequent headaches, altered sleep patterns, and disturbed sleep-wake cycles.
The symptoms of bruxism are in the form of teeth destruction.
Other symptoms include-
- Facial or mouth pain
- Mouth sores due to vigorous grinding
- An immobile or a locked jaw
- Jaw pain
- Damage to the cheeks due to continuous grinding
- Damage to dental work, if any
- Poor sleep due to the sound of grinding
There is no known cause of Bruxism, but it is believed to be caused by genetic, physical, and physiological factors.
Sleep Bruxism may be associated with other sleep disorders like snoring or sleep apnea (labored breathing during sleep).
Awake Bruxism may be elevated by emotions like stress, frustration, anxiety, anger, or tension.
4) Sensitive Teeth
Tooth sensitivity, also known as Dentin Hypersensitivity, is sharp, shooting, chronic nerve pain and discomfort in the teeth in response to a stimulus like hot or cold temperatures or brushing or flossing teeth.
5) Thinning Tooth Enamel
As we have seen above, tooth enamel is a hard, protective layer. It acts as a shield for the inner structures like nerves and blood vessels. When this enamel starts wearing out due to certain reasons, like vigorously brushing the teeth or using toothbrushes with hard bristles, the inner layers of teeth get exposed and cause tooth pain and sensitivity.
6) Cracked Teeth
A cracked tooth may be caused by trauma by intense grinding or biting something hard. This exposes the inner layers of the teeth, causing pain and sensitivity. The presenting symptom is sharp, severe pain while chewing, and temperature sensitivity.
7) Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Before we learn about TMJ disorders, let’s get familiar with the term referred pain.
Referred pain is a pain that is perceived at a site other than that of the origin.
The pain from the temporomandibular joint due to an altered pathology is radiated to the face, mouth, neck, and teeth.
TMJ disorders result in frequent bruxism, mal-aligned chewing, and altered functioning of the muscles of mastication, leading to aching pain on the side of the affected joint.
8) Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the acid in the stomach repeatedly flows back into the tube connecting the mouth and the stomach (esophagus).
When this acid flows back into the mouth, it wears out the tooth enamel leading to dental erosion, and this is why our teeth hurt when affected by this disease.
9) Sinus Infections
Sinuses are small, air-filled cavities behind the forehead and the cheekbones connected to the nasal cavity. The mucus produced by the sinuses is drained into the nose through tiny channels. During a sinus infection, these channels are swollen and get blocked.
Hence, this congestion and pressure in the sinus of the nasal passages impart pressure on the upper teeth and can cause throbbing pain.
10) Abscess Formation
A pocket of pus can occur in various parts of the teeth. An abscess can mainly be caused by a bacterial infection. Also, it can originate from periodontal disease or any cavity that has been left untreated.
Periodontal Abscess- occurs alongside a tooth near the gum tissue
Periapical Abscess- caused by decay and located at the teeth root
‘Why do my teeth hurt?’ and serious conditions like Diabetes are not related generally. But, these two also have a connection.
Constantly high blood sugar levels affect the saliva present in the mouth, increasing the plaque and bacteria. This leads to gum diseases, cavities, sudden tooth discomfort, tooth hurt, and pain.
12) Heart Diseases
If in case you think that ‘Why do my teeth hurt?’ and any serious conditions like a heart condition cannot be associated with each other, then let me remind you about referred pain.
Sometimes pain in the jaw can be mistaken for teeth hurt or a toothache or questioned as ‘Why do my teeth hurt?’ but may represent a life-threatening condition like Angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
13) Ludwig’s Angina
It is a rare infection of the soft tissue causing pain and swelling.
Angina refers to chest pain caused due to this condition.
An infection caused by Ludwig’s Angina causes tooth abscesses and pus formation leading to toothache.
When you think about ‘Why do my teeth hurt?’, remember that it might not only be related to the teeth or its surrounding but also other possible reasons, as seen above.
Treatment For Why Do My Teeth Hurt
The thought of ‘Why do my teeth hurt?’ always comes with a feeling of fear, as teeth are one of the most important parts of the body and are multi-functional.
Proper treatment in time can help us easily deal with all our dental problems.
If you keep worrying about ‘Why do my teeth hurt?’, then stop right there! Because teeth hurt consists of a wide range of treatments, depending upon the underlying cause of why do my teeth hurt.
To stay away from the thought of ‘Why do my teeth hurt?’, the following facts must be brought into action.
To begin with the basics-
- Brushing teeth properly twice a day.
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Learning the correct way to floss and floss regularly using a dental floss
- Using a mouthwash multiple times
- Avoiding chronic alcoholism
- Avoid smoking
- Maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding highly acidic foods
- Increasing the intake of water
- Including citrus fruits in the diet
- Using desensitizing toothpaste – the ones which are approved by the American Dental Association like Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste, Benco dental PRO-SYS kids fluoride tooth gel, Colgate.
- Making use of teeth bleaching gels
Other treatment procedures include-
- Medications – the health professional may recommend Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief. These are over-the-counter medicines, which do not need a prescription from a dentist and can be used if teeth hurt is intolerable.
- For severe pain- Opioids may be prescribed.
- For Abscesses, Decay, Gum Diseases- antibiotics and mouth rinses like fluoride rinses may be given.
- Oral Devices like wearing a Mouth Guard are recommended by the dentist in conditions like Bruxism, which protect the teeth from getting damaged.
- Saltwater Rinse- as Salt has natural healing properties.
- A cold compress or an ice pack can help ease dental pains.
- Dental Procedure
Various dental procedures are carried out if conservative methods of treatment don’t prove to be effective.
- If there is severe gum or Periodontal Disease, deep cleaning procedures, removal of plaques and tartar may be carried out by the dentist.
- Wisdom teeth usually get impacted and have to be removed by the dentist or the dental professional.
- When a tooth is cracked or damaged, it may require a root canal. A root canal is required when the dental pulp is injured, infected, or inflamed.
Root Canal is performed under local anesthesia. A small opening is made in the top of the mouth and the damaged pulp is exposed, and the canals in the tooth are cleaned. After the pulp has been removed, the area is coated with topical antibiotics to prevent reinfections. In the last step, the small opening is filled with a soft, temporary material.
- A small incision or a cut is made for an abscess, and the infected pocket is drained.
- Depending on the extend of damage, a tooth that cannot be filled or root canal cannot be carried out. The tooth needs to be removed or replaced.
- Bracing is done if the teeth are misaligned.
- Dentures or false teeth are fitted, which act as prostheses for missing teeth. These can be used as a last-stage treatment when any procedure cannot treat tooth infections. This improves the quality of life, making chewing and talking easier.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to avoid teeth hurt, pain, and discomfort as we’ve all seen that there is a wide range of causes for toothache. If you happen to feel any relatable symptom of toothache, you need not wonder why do my teeth hurt? Instead, you can follow the treatment advice and quickly see a doctor or a dentist.