At one time or another, most people have experienced at least some form of tooth pain. Though this type of pain is usually located around the teeth, pain can sometimes radiate outward to include the neck and jaws. Often, pain is sharp and excruciating, but some patients may experience tooth pain as protracted and mild. A thorough examination performed by your dentist can help determine the nature and cause of your tooth pain. However, through routine check-ups, your dentist can usually identify and treat any potential causes of tooth pain before you experience any symptoms.
Dental Causes of Tooth Pain
Many factors can contribute to the cause of tooth pain, and in many cases, pain is aggravated by heat or cold or by chewing. In most cases, tooth pain is the result of exposure of the underlying tooth root and nerves due to either gum recession or damage to the tooth itself. The most significant causes of tooth pain include:
- Gum disease
- Tooth root sensitivity
- Cracked teeth
- Impacted or erupting molars
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is another dental cause of tooth pain. TMJ disorder is an inflammation at the joint connecting the lower jaw to the skull. With this disorder, pain can manifest in the teeth, jaw, or ears. Spasms in the muscles around the temporomandibular joint can also restrict opening of the mouth and cause related head and neck pain.
Non-dental Causes of Tooth Pain
Unfortunately, some types of tooth and jaw pain may be caused by non-dental factors and can be symptomatic of more serious health concerns. Ear or sinus infections may be indicated by tooth or jaw pain, while similar pain may signal an impending heart attack or an onset of angina. In rare cases, neuralgias and other nerve disorders can manifest in chronic, toothache-like pain. If your dentist rules out potential dental causes of tooth pain, then you will want to seek an evaluation by your physician to determine if the pain is actually non-dental in nature.
Relieving Tooth Pain
Your dentist can diagnose and treat most dental causes of tooth pain. In many cases, placement of a dental filling or crown can alleviate pain stemming from broken or damaged teeth. This treatment involves the removal of all traces of decay; once the damaged areas of the tooth have been sufficiently cleaned out, the dentist will "fill" the hole with a composite or amalgam material, or place a dental cap over the tooth.
More serious dental problems may require oral surgery and even tooth extraction. To avoid such treatment, routine and proper brushing and flossing combined with regular dental check-ups can prevent a majority of dental problems and ensuring lasting dental health.
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