The causes of toothache

by | Dec 12, 2016 | blog

The causes of a toothache are manifold. The main culprit of tooth loss is, of course, tooth decay. Tooth decay happens when bacteria builds up around the teeth to form a thin layer and adherent, called “plaque”. In the plaque, the bacteria transform food carbohydrates (sugars) into an acid that corrodes and spoils the tooth enamel. When the enamel is damaged bacteria penetrate into the dentin, a fabric composed of nerves that cover the pulp at the center of the tooth; this is called a cavity, and the pains are particularly intense.

Gum infections are also a common cause of a toothache. Plaque irritates the gums and can cause the gums to become inflamed and retract, exposing the cementum of the tooth, the one layer of fabric placed under the gum which holds the root of the teeth. Periodontal disease is the chronic inflammation of mouth tissues that cause the ligament that connects the tooth to the bone to disintegrate when left untreated.

There are also other causes of a toothache: teeth grinding promotes the wear of the teeth, gums, bone and jaw joints; nerve irritation caused by surgery – tooth extraction or pressure exerted by a new surgical implant.

Who is more prone to a toothache?

Anyone can suffer from a dental disease or have an operation that causes a toothache or pain in the gums. However, some people are more vulnerable :

  • The elderly, children, people who eat a lot of sugary foods are more prone to plaque buildup.
  • Smokers, who have a higher risk of loss of bone and gum tissue, even in the absence of periodontal disease.

Cigarette smoking causes an overactive immune reaction that promotes inflammation of the gums.

  • People with diabetes, Down syndrome, heart, or blood disorders, and AIDS are more susceptible to inflammation of the gums
  • Periodontal disease can be attributable to genetic factors, in fact, members of the same family have often stated sensitivity to gum disease.
  • Because of the unique character of their hormonal cycle, women are more susceptible to periodontal diseases. The hormonal fluctuations associated with puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause can result in, bleeding or swollen gums in some women.
  • People treated with steroids or nifedipine are more vulnerable to gum disease.
  • Persons who have misaligned teeth or taking certain types of antidepressants are more likely to grind their teeth (bruxism)
  • Patients undergoing dental work, dental surgery or orthodontic treatment may temporarily experience a toothache.


Tooth decay
  • Hypersensitivity to heat, cold and fresh air
  • Black spots on teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth sensitivity to touch
Periodontal disease
  • Bleeding gums when you switch the toothbrush
  • Mouth ulceration
  • Redness, swelling and sensitivity of the gums
  • Shrinking of gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Presence of pus between teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Mild headache
  • Earache
  • Jaw sensitivity or chronic facial pain
  • Aching teeth
  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Wear of tooth enamel
Abrasion of the teeth and gums
  • Hypersensitivity to hot, cold or sugary foods
  • Erosion of tooth enamel and gums

Toothache caused by Periodontal disease / Gingivitis

There are basically two types of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the most common gum disease and is characterized by inflammation of the gums. When plaque forms on the teeth, the gums swell and turn red.

Types of gingivitis and symptoms thereof:

Gingivitis Swelling and redness of the gums, easy bleeding, bad breath. Left untreated, could develop into a more severe disease.
Acute gingivitis Acute infection characterized by tissue death (necrosis), spontaneous bleeding, the rapid occurrence of pain and unpleasant odor.
Desquamative gingivitis This kind of gingivitis is almost always related to an allergic reaction, or a skin condition such as:

  • Lichen planus
  • Ocular cicatricial pemphigoid (OCP)
  • Bullous pemphigoid
  • Pemphigus Vulgaris (PV).

The gums detach from the tooth, gingival surface is red and sore

Drug-induced gingivitis Side effect attributable to several medicinal products.

People with periodontal disease have loose connective tissue and can experience bone disintegration. There are four types of periodontitis :

  • Elderly periodontitis, a progressively evolving periodontitis
  • Early periodontitis – occurs in young people (It can be attributed to an immune deficiency or genetic factors)
    • Before puberty (prepubertal periodontitis)
    • During puberty (pubertal periodontitis)
    • After puberty (postpubertal periodontitis)
  • Periodontitis can be linked to a disease is associated with diseases that attack the whole body such as:
    • Diabetes
    • Down’s syndrome
    • HIV/AIDS
  • Refractory periodontitis is resistant to treatment. The reasons for the resistance are not clear

If you find yourself with a toothache, come over to Harrison Dental so we can figure out the problem and help fix it.

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