Dental Pain Signs & Symptoms

Woman with dental pain touches her jaw

Dental pain symptoms

Whether sharp and throbbing or dull and aching, dental pain often makes life difficult. Understanding the different types of dental pain symptoms will allow you to accurately diagnose the cause of your patient’s dental pain and develop a treatment plan.

Acute vs chronic pain

Acute dental pain is pain of short to medium duration that affects the hard tissues (including enamel, dentin, and cementum) and soft tissues of the mouth. This type of gum or dental pain is caused by disease or injury and can often be resolved, whereas dental pain lasting longer than 3 months is considered chronic.1

What are the symptoms of dental pain?

  • Dentin hypersensitivity icon

    Dentin hypersensitivity is described as a short, sharp pain when the tooth is exposed to triggering stimuli, like hot or cold beverages. Sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of dental pain and can be caused by several different dental issues. Dentin hypersensitivity generally does not signal a more serious problem unless the sensitivity occurs for an extended period of time. Most commonly, dentin hypersensitivity is caused by gingival recession or enamel wear. Other possible causes include recent dental procedures.2 Learn more about the causes and how to manage dentin hypersensitivity

    Help patients with dentin hypersensitivity enjoy their favorite hot and cold foods again. Recommend Sensodyne, a toothpaste designed for dentin hypersensitivity, and encourage consistent twice-daily use, even after pain has been reduced. Learn more about managing dentin hypersensitivity.

  • Sharp pain when biting down icon

    If your patient experiences sharp pain when biting down, they may have:

    • Tooth decay
    • A loose filling
    • Crack in the tooth
    • Undergone a dental treatment that has left the pulp temporarily inflamed
    • Pulpitis, which occurs when decay progresses into the pulp of the tooth

    Sharp pain should be immediately evaluated, as it can indicate a serious issue and may require procedures like a root canal. Depending on whether the pain lasts for only a few minutes or lingers for 30 seconds or longer can signal how severe the damage is to the tooth, and more specifically to the pulp.3

  • Woman with dental pain looks in a mirror and touches her jaw

    Sensitivity while eating hot or cold food and beverages is typically not a serious symptom of dental pain, but if your patient experiences lingering pain after eating, it may indicate irreversible pulpitis or physical trauma. Irreversible pulpitis occurs when tooth decay progresses into the pulp of the tooth, and this type of pain will continue to worsen if not addressed.3

  • Constant and severe pain and pressure icon

    Signs of an abscess include pain that is described as constant and severe pressure or throbbing pain that comes on suddenly and gradually worsens.

    An abscessed tooth can lead to infection of the nearby gum tissue and/or bone, and should be evaluated immediately. A dental abscess is a pocket of pus that’s caused by a bacterial infection.4,5

  • Woman grimacing while experiencing dental pain

    A dull ache and pressure in upper teeth and jaw may be caused by bruxism or a symptom of a sinus headache. Bruxism can be defined as the involuntary, unconscious, and excessive grinding of teeth caused by forceful contact between the biting surfaces of maxillary and mandibular teeth. Patients may experience bruxism during sleep or while awake.4,6

  • Woman with wisdom tooth pain touches jaw

    Although some people do not experience any visible symptoms of wisdom tooth pain, your patient’s dental pain may be a result of their wisdom teeth coming in. Impacted wisdom teeth, or teeth that don’t have enough room to develop normally, can also cause uncomfortable or intense pain.

    Wisdom tooth pain symptoms are unique, and patients will only feel pain at the back of their mouth behind their molars. The area may also be red, inflamed, or tender to the touch.7

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Dental pain

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Find out more about the causes of dental pain.

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