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A boy in pain touching her cheeks

“Toothache” is a term that applies to various types of tooth pain. Most toothaches are caused by inflammation of the gums or the inside of the tooth, also known as the pulp. Toothaches themselves might not be serious enough to prompt you to see a doctor, but you should see one, no matter how mild it may be.

Many serious infections and diseases that cause tooth pain might go unnoticed because the pain can be mild and unnoticeable. Usually, the pain is apparent only when the affliction is very severe. The following are some causes of tooth pain.

Pulp Inflammation

This is a common cause of tooth pain that can be difficult to identify and control. The pulp can be inflamed by three common causes, ordered from most common to least common:

  • Tooth decay
  • Crack or fracture
  • Imperfect filling

In all three cases, the pain will often come when you drink hot or cold beverages. If the damage has progressed considerably, there may be spontaneous pain related to the inflammation of the pulp. Overall, it is difficult to discern whether any of these problems have caused the pulp to become inflamed unless you see a dentist.


This problem frequently presents itself in relation to the temperature of food or drink. While teeth can sometimes be sensitive to hot foods, the pain more commonly presents itself with cold liquid or air. Hypersensitivity is relatively common and manageable with specialized toothpaste.

If you experience tooth pain from different temperatures of foods, you might have hypersensitivity. However, it is best to get checked at the dentist before deciding that this is the cause. As previously explained, the symptoms of hypersensitivity have much in common with those of pulp inflammation, which may actually point to a more serious issue.

Hypersensitivity is usually managed with desensitizing toothpaste. The most serious conditions will often be resolved by a treatment that strengthens the tooth surface.

Gingivitis and Other Infections

An issue that might be misidentified as tooth pain can actually be an infection of the gums. The pain in the gums could radiate out and cause the person to feel pain in the tooth instead. Gingivitis is very common and is usually a result of not brushing or flossing enough.

In order to correct gingivitis, most people will have to start practice better oral hygiene. However, there are some other more severe infections—such as an abscess—that can cause gum pain and may be related to damage to the teeth.

These are just three causes of tooth pain. In general, it is difficult for a person to identify the precise source of a toothache. It is for this reason that you should always consult a dentist when you start to experience tooth pain, as it might point to a more serious illness.

Proper oral hygiene is paramount to healthy teeth and gums. Over time, with proper brushing and flossing, you will no longer experience sensitivity to certain foods, and you will not have pain in your mouth as you had in the past.