Dental Pain Causes

Woman with dental pain looks at her teeth in a mirror

Causes of dental pain

Dental pain can be caused by pathological conditions, underlying disease processes, and/or their treatment.1 These can range from dental procedures to dental caries.

Understanding the cause of dental pain can help you accurately treat your patients’ symptoms. Ongoing dental pain should be identified as soon as possible as it can lead to more serious dental problems in the future. You will likely be able to diagnose the exact cause based on medical history, a dental exam, and if needed, an X-ray.

Help your patients take charge of dental pain. Learn more about dental pain signs and symptoms and management

What causes dental pain?

  • Dental procedures icon

    Postoperative dental pain can range from mild to severe. Some of the most common procedures are tooth extraction, dental bone grafts, dental implants, and periodontal surgery.2

  • Dental cleanings Icon

    Pain and sensitivity can occur when dental cleaning is performed on teeth with exposed dentin or tooth roots. Before a deep cleaning session, the gums may be inflamed and swollen or have deep pockets infected with bacteria. Deep cleaning, such as periodontal scaling or root planing, can cause pain and sensitivity that lasts up to a week after the cleaning.3

  • Dentin hypersensitivity icon

    Dentin hypersensitivity is a common dental problem that may worsen over time. It’s often prevalent in patients 20 to 50 years old.4 When tubules found within dentin become exposed, stimuli such as hot or cold beverages can induce the movement of fluid within the tubules, triggering nerves in the pulp. The short, sharp pain that patients feel when eating or drinking may be caused by these triggers if patients have dentin hypersensitivity.

    Exposed dental tubules often occur due to gingival recession caused by periodontal diseases or dental wear like enamel erosion, abrasion, attrition, or abfraction.

  • Dental caries icon

    Dental caries (cavities) are the primary cause of dental pain in both children and adults, and more than 1 in 4 adults have some form of untreated tooth decay.5 Dental caries can cause continuous pain or occasional sharp pain. They can also cause dentin hypersensitivity when eating or drinking something hot or cold. If left untreated, they can get larger and affect deeper layers of the tooth, leading to severe toothache, infection, and tooth loss.5

  • There are many potential causes of dental pain, including:

    • Bruxism is the involuntary, unconscious, and excessive grinding of teeth.Patients who experience bruxism will feel a dull ache and pressure in their upper teeth and jaw6
    • Periodontal disease, or gingivitis, is characterized by inflamed, red, and swollen gums
    • Pulpitis occurs when tooth decay progresses into the pulp of the tooth. Pain and sensitivity that stop within a couple of seconds of being exposed to triggering stimuli indicate reversible pulpitis. If your patient has irreversible pulpitis, the pain may linger for several minutes after exposure to stimuli7
    • A dental abscess is caused by a buildup of bacteria inside the pulp chamber, usually as a result of an untreated cavity or pulpitis. A dental abscess often causes intense, throbbing pain that may come on suddenly and gradually worsen
    • A fractured or cracked tooth can occur due to age, bruxism (tooth grinding), trauma, and other factors. It can cause pain, sensitivity, swelling, sharp pain when biting or chewing. A patient with a cracked tooth may also experience sensitivity to cold temperatures

    If you suspect one of these causes, further dental evaluation and professional treatment is recommended.

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Advil Dual Action MOA

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Patient Resources

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Dental pain

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